A Parent’s Perspective
I watched a short, gripping video recently presented by the priest and author, Fr Mike Schmitz. Well known for his internet presence, especially his YouTube videos, this one really grabbed my attention, with the title: ‘Why Are Some People So Annoying?’
His basic premise is that being annoyed is a choice we make and that being resentful and exasperated with the faults and idiosyncrasies of those around us is behaviour that we can decide to change. He says that it’s a liberating experience to let go of all the daily irritating behaviours of others that steal our peace, quoting St Josemaría Escrivá, suggesting that we should say: “That person sanctifies me.” Instead of: “That person gets on my nerves.”
If our default mood is one of anger or irritability, it’s time to focus more on what’s really going on. A bad-tempered mother or father sets the tone for the whole family, having a major influence on the quality of interactions in the home. Children are quick to respond to a parent’s bad mood too, with the inevitable ripple effect threatening the tranquillity of the household. What should we do to get things back onto an even keel when our bad temper and negativity threaten to overwhelm us?
How we begin our day has a big influence on how the rest of the day progresses. Even during the busiest of times, there are always a few spare minutes to raise one’s heart to God and to offer him our day. The Morning Offering is a beautiful way to start each day before the, sometimes chaotic, activity begins. Pope St John Paul ll praised the practice of praying at the start of every day as being “of fundamental importance in the life of each and every one of the faithful”. A good start is half the battle; instead of getting bogged down in the difficulties and annoying pinpricks of each day, we can see the supernatural value of controlling our tetchiness and working on the virtue of patience.
Even the most gregarious and sociable people need a little time away from the clamour and commotion of some aspects of family and work life. Often, the difference between a good or a bad day is that half hour of time alone to collect one’s thoughts and focus on the direction of the day. Early autumn can be a wonderful time to soak up the beauty of God’s creation with a walk or a cycle. Even sitting out in the garden when the weather allows can provide that welcome breathing space when we feel that familiar knot of irritability bubbling up inside. It’s not bad for children to realise that even Mammy and Daddy have to recharge their batteries. Ten minutes in the great outdoors or even a quick coffee while listening to some relaxing music can make all the difference. Don’t overdo it with the caffeine though. The same applies to alcohol which doesn’t really help too much when one is struggling to overcome moodiness and a short fuse. What seems like a relaxing night cap can actually disrupt sleep patterns according to neurologist and sleep expert, Dr Jessica VenselRundo. It can also cause a level of grogginess the next day, not the best feeling if you’re already inclined to be a morning grouch. Too much sugar can have a similar effect. I often grab a bar of chocolate for a quick energy boost during the day but I find a healthy sandwich or even a banana is much better for my mood and lasting energy levels.
Quite often, our shortness and poor way of dealing with others is not really about them at all but is a reaction to other aspects of our life being out of kilter. We’re disorganised and haphazard in our approach and feel threatened by other parents or work colleagues that seem to have it all together. A large degree of humility may be needed to home in on the root causes of our anger. We may be guilty of envy which is a temptation for some but can lead to us bad mouthing others and getting involved in gossip and back biting. I was reading an article about how workplace gossip can lead to distrust and bullying, even impinging on the mental health of workers. Many of us are meticulous in our behaviour in other areas but find ourselves drawn into something that starts out as an innocent chat. Even among good friends in Christian circles there can be an unhealthy competitiveness where one-upmanship, not good mutual support, becomes the pattern of interaction.
For the vast majority of little daily annoyances, stepping back and looking at the bigger picture makes all the difference. Will it matter in a week or in a month’s time? Are we sacrificing love and charity to try to attain an impossible standard for our children, friends or those we work with? Is it our own faults that lead us to think others need a fraternal correction when the finger of failure points firmly back to ourselves? St Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” She also said: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them,” words that might make us stop in our tracks, think twice and choose the path of kindness and love.