Graced moments

Melanie Dooner

Melanie Dooner

Melanie is a writer and mother of two boys

At a little over 160 cm, I’m not tall but I’m also not short. And yet I find myself with two children, of which our eldest is 10 years old and now less than 8 cm from overtaking me. As I see him edging ever closer to my height, I’ve been heard to beg him in mock desperation, “Would you please stop growing?”

But he simply laughs in equally mock exasperation. “Mum, you always say that; you know I can’t stop growing!”

Funnily, when it comes to our children’s behaviour and maturity, I often find myself thinking the exact opposite. “When will they grow up? And when will they start listening to me?”

And the question my husband finds most amusing, “What if he’s still doing X, Y and Z when he’s 18?”

Wanting our boys to mature age-appropriately but staying the young boys I enjoy raising is a tension I have been walking for many years now. I remember the blessing of a newborn baby completely in love with me and so dependent on me, being overshadowed by my desperate desire to have a child who could sleep through the night.

Or the excitement of having a toddler who was eager to learn and be read to for hours on end, being dwarfed by my impatience and wanting to fast forward to the day when he could read to himself. So many moments of blessing tinged with a desire for each step to be a little easier, and to reach the next stage quicker.

However, as the boys are getting older and more independent, I am discovering that it’s often the harder, slower and more deliberate choice to accept the discomfort that has brought me the most joy. Over the past few weeks, I have had a series of ‘graced moments’ involving our boys, little encounters where God helped me to see some very ordinary moments with new sight.

At the start of a particularly cool March morning and as we walked from the car to the school office, I watched my eldest son cross the pedestrian crossing and walk the rest of the way to school by himself, as I followed with our other son. Only days earlier there had been friction over a change to the afternoon pick up routine, as he was hesitant when asked to walk himself. It turned out to be a necessary tension that helped him process and embrace this small step towards greater independence and responsibility. With my heart in my mouth and just the hint of sadness, and while willing myself to avoid reminding him for the twelfth time to look both ways before he crosses, like my son, I feel myself stretch and grow as I am given the strength to accept these small steps toward letting him mature and become his own person.

Our youngest son is a tinkerer, and since he was able to sit up and crawl, he has had a penchant for pulling things apart to explore how they work, aka break things. It is so tempting to be irritated by this character trait and on many occasions I have been dismayed as something else is broken. As he holds up the damaged item, with pleading eyes and a look of slight remorse, he can’t hide the sheer joy and pleasure at seeing the mechanics of what he’s got in his hands.

As his love of tinkering has intensified with each passing year, a recent conversation with his teacher gave me a different insight and filled me with pride and joy for his particular gift. She spoke in wonder and admiration about how he thinks and processes as she watches him tinker. The reminder to sit back and simply marvel at and appreciate what makes him tick was a welcome invitation in my day.

As I write this reflection, I am mindful of how much opportunity each day offers me as a parent to learn to love and accept love. Earlier this evening I was frustrated by a couple of small things and despite following our usual routine, I allowed myself to let one of my children go to bed knowing I was frustrated.

As the next half hour passed, I became increasingly aware of how I let the small frustrations affect how he went to bed, so I went upstairs expecting to gently kiss him good night and whisper that I love him as he slept.

As I bent over though, I heard a quiet voice say, “I see you” and I felt him turn toward me. What transpired next was a melting of hearts as we exchanged “I love you’s” and a hug. Needless to say, he soon slipped off to sleep and I left his room with my mind and heart at ease.

As the memory of these moments still linger, I am discovering that graced moments multiply the more I am open to them and reflect on them. While not always easy to experience or to examine, when seen through the eyes of faith, moments of grace bring me joy as they help me see God’s presence in my life and in the life of my family.

And for that I am thankful.

For quiet reflection

  • The treasure of our ‘graced moments’ are best uncovered during quiet reflection, often at the end of the day.
  • Can you think of an ordinary moment of encountering your children, grandchildren, or spouse in recent weeks, which turned out to be a “graced moment”?
  • When did this moment happen? Who was involved? What happened at the start? In the middle? At the end?
  • What surprised you? How was your thinking changed or challenged?
  • How did you feel at the time? How do you feel now as you think back over this moment?
  • Were there any feelings of sadness, fear, or irritation in that moment? Can you dig further and find the joy, perhaps inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you?
  • End your time of reflection by thanking God for being present to you and allowing this moment of grace.

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