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Keeping the peace

We talk about peaceful places – maybe the setting of a dream vacation. We imagine peaceful vistas when relaxing or meditating. Canadians are “peace-keepers.” Christians are told to be “peace-makers.” But if there is one thing a mom of small kids knows, if peace is external, some of us might as well be out chasing unicorns.

My aunt used to sing a hymn that I loved: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” When I was pregnant with my first baby, it played in my head continually, and I used to sing it to my bump. I vowed I would sing it to her when she was born, my peace child. Zoom ahead a bit to, say, today, a day jammed with errands and deadlines. The aforementioned peace child, now four, chatters non-stop and was particularly on fire with the questions and demands. She didn’t want to get in the car. She needed lunch. Could she take her bunny and a dinosaur with us? No, two bunnies and four dinosaurs? Could we stop at the pet store? The aquarium? MacDonald’s? Oma and Opa’s? Could we get a cat? A horse? Honestly, I could fill a novel, a Russian novel, with the monologue, and it still wouldn’t capture the full intensity of what goes on in our car when the four-year-old is tired and unimpressed. It’s not just the commentary, it’s the emotions that need to be managed. Limiting the number of dinosaurs causes tears. No pet store means I am a mean mommy. And what possible reason could a good parent have for denying a four-year-old a horse? I mean, really?

I can keep my sense of humour for a while. I can play verbal ping pong, keep the ball in the air, keep her in check without direct confrontation: distract, ask questions, backspin, chop, block. But with little warning, something sinister begins to waken, and I can feel my mouth get tight. Unbelievably, she amps up her game for a while as if desperate to know just what it will be that pushes me over the edge. In a massive effort to suppress the beast that is rousing, I establish a talking embargo; by this I mean that I tell her she may not talk. At all. For five minutes. And just when I’m cooling down a teensy bit, I glance in the back seat and she is asleep. I stretch my neck to the side. I deep breathe. I feel sanity inching back. And it is that very moment that a little grunt issues from the other side of the car, the sleeping baby’s side. Only she’s not sleeping anymore, and it has just occurred to her that she doesn’t want to be strapped in the car seat anymore either.

A deep, sustaining breath

Any mom can tell you this is not an isolated incident. And it is not one hour of the day. It is every hour of every day. In the midst of it, I sometimes catch a strain of that old hymn: “Thou wilt keep him/her in perfect peace . . .” and my insides do a double take. Oh God, peace cannot be a location or circumstance. If it was, I’d be sunk. And truly, how can I keep my mind stayed on thee when there isn’t a single quiet moment to stay it, not a second to think, to turn toward something other than snacks and laundry and dirty bums? Oh God, that your peace may rise up in me like a flood, like a balm, like a deep, sustaining breath. That my mind may be stayed on thee as a swallow is stayed on a current of air  – effortless, unconscious, gliding. That here in the maelstrom, I might find in me a peace as unlikely as it would be for a soldier in a trench, a sapling in a hurricane. And more, that I might be an instrument of that peace to these little people you’ve given me to serve.  

Author

  • Emily Cramer

    Emily Cramer grew up in the Toronto area and spent most of her twenties living nomadically. She completed her English B.A. in New Brunswick (1999), burned through some existential angst in eastern Ontario and in Scotland, and finally wrapped up a Master’s in Christianity & the Arts in British Columbia (2008). She now lives in Barrie, Ontario with her husband and daughter, where she works as a college Communications teacher and hopes to stay put, at least for awhile. She has been privileged with a number of writing opportunities over the years, such as a summer newspaper column on the natural environment and a novella for her graduating thesis, and is now feeling honoured to be able to explore the next leg of her travels - parenting and family life - with the CC.

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