Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A New School Year and a Lesson From St. Frances

The usual chaos and confusion that accompanies back-to-school week descended on our household right on schedule, this year bringing new and rather unpleasant surprises. For starters, my eight-year-old daughter, who is known to have, well, tear-duct emission issues (okay, she's a bit of a crybaby), came down with pneumonia two days before school started.

Now if there's any child in the world who needs to be there on the first day of a new school year, it's this one. How am I going to know what to do? Where to go? What side of my desk to put my pencil case in? As she asked these questions repeatedly between coughs, sneezes and wheezes, and as Day One loomed ever closer, I sensed panic coming on full bore. It hit her too, but cold medicine kept the edges dulled. Red wine helped with mine.

Well, Day One came and went. My daughter got well enough to go on Day Three, and all is well so far with her. (My teacher is so nice! I guess she was expecting Broom-Hilda.)

Switch over to the Kindergarten front. My youngest daughter couldn't get there fast enough, successfully completed Days One and Two with no problems, and then . . . Day Three. The day started well enough, but ended with one of those signals all parents hate to get. You know, when you go to pick up your child and the teacher catches your eye with laser-like intensity, followed by a slight upward turn of the chin, and frequently accompanied by a hooking finger, meaning you better get over there NOW.

"Does your daughter always go to the bathroom so often?" asked the teacher.

"Uh, well, sometimes, not really . . . gee, how many times did she go?"

"About ten."

"Uh huh." It was only a half day of school.

Now, just like my older daughter has weeping issues, my youngest has had potty issues for some time. Ever since she was trained (which was late and a nightmare unto itself), it's been her goal in life to use every single public restroom in the state. So while I was sort of surprised at the teacher's revelation, I was also not.

I assured the teacher that I would consult with our doctor, who as a matter of fact we were going to see that day for my other daughter, and that it wouldn't happen again. I was confident it was probably just a psychological thing. (Those silly six-year-olds!) I was partly right. The doctor noticed a slight irritation which was most likely giving her the frequent urge to go. Some ointment from the doctor coupled with a one dollar bribe from Mom worked wonders; she only went once the next day at school. Another fire put out.

The rest of the week consisted of the normal new school year ruckus. Buying uniforms, parent orientations, milk money, emergency forms, medical histories, discovering that I never really cleaned out my son's lunchbox from last year (ew!). Somehow we all got through it and I even managed to cook a few dinners too. So my point to all this? There is one, actually.

There's a story about St. Frances of Rome that goes something like this: One day while tending her babies, taking care of the house, and generally doing everything for everyone else but herself, and finding that all her efforts were getting her nowhere, she found herself on the brink of a breakdown.

Exasperated, she said out loud, "What do I have to give you, O Lord? Just interruptions and distractions, bits and pieces of trying to do your will. Why would God bless me when I can’t sit still long enough to pray to him?”

“Because,” her guardian angel replied, appearing to her suddenly and from out of nowhere, “you showed your love for Him by doing exactly what he wants you to do—loving and taking care of your family.” *

Point taken. When we're troubled that we don't seem to have enough time for God because of things like doctor's appointments and dirty lunchboxes, it's good to remember that the time we spend doing our duties in life as best we can is giving time to God.

I like to think of it as extreme multitasking.

(* From Around the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints, Bethlehem Books)

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