Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Great Moan Off.

I handed Ben the orange cup with the green lid.

"ButIwantedthecolorchangecup" he whined.

"Sorry, Ben. This is the one I gave you. Take it and be happy with it or I will take it back."

A few minutes later Ben walks into the kitchen holding his new "Buzz Lightyear" toy, purchased the day before with the last of his birthday money.

"I wished I coulda got the Poody toy too, not just the Buzz Wightyear"

"Ben!" I scolded. "You got a new toy! Be happy with what you have or I will take it back."

My older kids would tell you it's a mantra around here. "Why can't you appreciate what you have? Why can't you just be grateful for what I have already done for you? If you don't appreciate it, you don't deserve it. If all you do is ask for more, or grumble, I will think long and hard about giving it to you again."

It sounds reasonable right?

For them, anyway. Because here's the rub, I can be a bit of a whiner. On days like today, when I have been sick for the past 5 days and my children are climbing the walls to be free of this house. When the laundry is heaped in mounds in every single bedroom. When everywhere I step is a toy or a crumb that needs dealt with. When my body, overweight, achy and possessing far less vitality than I would like, balks against all it needs to do today:

I grumble. I march down to The Man's office, sit on the stool which I am certain he must have dubbed the whining post at some point, and grumble.

"Too much to do.
Don't feel well.
House is a pigsty.
Kids keep fighting, whining, sassing.
Cupboards are bare."

Or I call my friend, Melissa.

"Whining kids on my last nerve.
Need to meal plan and shop.
Have I mentioned lately how much I detest meal planning?
Pool party this weekend, fat as a house, can't be see in a swimsuit."

Whine, whine, whine.

Oh it's not everyday, of course. There are days, although more often minutes and hours, when I feel genuinely blessed to be living the life I live. But, I admit sometimes to a sense of entitlement to grouse. I am raising four children. Monday through Thursday I am doing it alone. I stay at home with them everyday, with often very little adult interaction. I am a STAY AT HOME MOM. I am doing the hardest job in the universe. I have heard Oprah say so countless times.

The hardest job in the universe. Raising kids in America? Is it possible that I actually believe this?

Everywhere I look on the news, on the internet, at my church there are images of mothers crying for their babies. Their children killed while sitting in school during an earthquake. Missing or homeless because of a cyclone. Children and their parents dying of AIDS, of malaria. Dying of starvation. Babies not allowed to be born because one child is all that is permitted per family. Orphans being forced to pick through garbage to find food to survive. Children being forced to pick up guns against other children. Fathers and mothers risking their lives to find a way to just to raise their children in this country. To take the jobs we will not take, to be offered a chance to live off the extras of our excess.

I cannot solve these world problems. Not even a fraction of them. But what does it say to these parents when I grumble amidst the incomprehensible amount I have been given just by being born here, in this country? What am I telling them about their struggles with my attitude of ungratefulness? And what am I teaching my own children when I tell them to be thankful for all they have and still moan about all I have to do?

The Bible tells us in Luke that "from everyone who has been given much, much will be required." I have not even begun to explore what this should mean for my family. But I know that my first step must be a change of heart about the way I view my own world, and the blessings that abound in it. The fact is, I should be walking through my life in a perpetual state of gratitude for all I am fortunate enough to have. I should have a continuous burden on my heart to find ways to help those who are not. I should but I am not. I do not.

So, I have decided to conduct an experiment. For one week I am going to attempt to remove every grumble from my lips. I am going to attempt not to whine, not to moan, not to complain. For one week.
  • I will not complain about my mountains of laundry because they mean my children have more than enough clothes to wear, and towels to dry clean water off their bodies.
  • I will not complain about my four children, the number we wanted, the number we prayed for, the biggest blessings of my life.
  • I will not complain about my weight, a result of having the opportunity to eat too much food. Too much food to eat.
  • I will not complain about the burden of having to shop and cook for my family to have food to eat. I am embarrassed to even write that I consider this a burden.
  • I will not complain about my dirty house, overflowing with stuff, excessive stuff, that needs cleaned or put away.
  • I will not complain about all I have to do, or the petty decisions I have to make each day. My biggest decision today is whether or not to allow our family to get a new cat. Oh that the entire world would also be so blessed.
  • I will not complain that my body is sore or tired, as I sit in my air conditioned house with my prescriptions against pain and depression and a comfortable bed to climb in.
  • I will not complain about the money we do not have for vacations or summer classes or home repairs.
For one week, I will not complain. I will say only positive things about my beautiful life. And I will ask my family, my friends, my blogging comrades to hold me accountable. I anticipate this being difficult. We live in a society of discontent. Of entitlement. And my eyes are opening to the fact that I am entrenched in that life. I know that this will not help any of the people suffering in this world, but I am hoping that it will be a catalyst for change in my own heart, and hopefully my family.

Each day I will get on and journal how it is going. How successful I am being. And each time I find myself grumbling I will journal how I am actually blessed in that area. I am calling it "The Great Moan-Off Experiment." I am nervous to be saying it aloud. To be putting it out there for the world to see. For the accountability it will bring. And I can already predict the eye-rolling it will inspire from my family and friends. And I can't wait.

So here we go: THE GREAT MOAN OFF, DAY 1 .


slouching mom said...

Brilliant. We should all do it.

spaz said...

I'll be praying for you. God will bless you for your heart of gratitude!!! Get ready!!!

Chrissy said...

Good for you, Joy. I think that's something I needed to hear today, too.

Lori said...

Excellent! I will join you!

One distinction I have been trying to impress upon my boys is the difference between "aspiring" toward things, and "wanting and whining" about things. Whenever they tell me they want some material item, I say, "Okay. What's your plan for being able to achieve that wish?" Most of the time they realize that they don't really want it all that much, and it isn't worth the time and effort to try and earn and save the money.

I finally came to the conclusion that I would be beating my head against the wall to try and rid my children of their material longings. Instead, I am focusing on helping them understand what it takes to be able to have a life that allows for both needs and wants. That includes giving to those less fortunate than themselves. We tell our kids all the time that the most successful and happiest people in the world give and give generously. We are mostly talking to ourselves, but we still hope that some of our infinite wisdom will make its way into their hearts and minds...

karen said...

Sending you strength! Changing your words is a huge step toward changing your heart...

Lisa writes... said...

No eye rolling here, just a healthy dose of conviction over my own tendency to whine...

I've heard it said that contentment begins with gratitude. In your Great Moan Off, and mine as well, may we find as we respond with a heart of thankfulness that godliness with contentment is great gain. May we see the goodness and mercy of our God in all things!

Trenches of Mommyhood said...

This post was a perfect kick-in-the-butt for me to always remember what I have and to be GRATEFUL, so thanks for that.

Epiphany Alone said...

Thanks for this post, friend. It helps so much to put things into perspective.

Heavenly Father, please allow Joy to see her life and the blessings in it through new eyes, mindful about the great many opportunities and gifts You've given her and how she can share this wisdom of bringing blessings into the lives of those less fortunate together with her family. Lord, let her live the example she so wants to provide for her children. Thank you for hearing our prayers. Amen.

Kyla said...

Wow. That's a great idea. Let's see if you survive and then maybe I'll try it. LOL.

Sister K said...

excellent. every time i find myself longing for something i don't have, i try to refocus on what i do. and be grateful once again :) would your kids go for trying the same thing? to make it a family event? then everyone could help each other out as a team :)what about a complain basket? complaints could be written down and tossed in? then maybe one day they could be read and discussed? i dunno...just a fleeting thought! lol...

painted maypole said...

oh, what a great idea. You are so right, that we live in a culture of discontent. we are trained to want more from a very early age, and we buy into the lie that something more, or something different, or even something less (weight! clutter!) will make us happier. but then there is just the next big thing to want.

Hmmm... can I try to do this with you? I just might....

Lynn Stallworth said...

Yeah, that whining post-Don kicks that out from under me on a regular basis. If it wasn't for him, I'd be a glass half-empty person a majority of the time. Best wishes in your pursuits!

Amy Wyatt said...

Absolutely inspiring. Praying for and joining you in your challenge.
BTW... the snake bite victim is fine to our knowledge :)

Ashley Long said...

I was reading your post about your strange virus and about fell off my chair. Over a year ago I had the same crazy thing. Mine also started slowly with my elbow then down my whole right arm and then all over my body. I could not pick anything up, had a hard time walking...all I felt up to doing was sitting. I felt like I had been severly beaten or like I had worked out way too hard and all my joints were shot and muscles all knotted up. I too went to the er about a week later b/c my husband insisted. They did everything from xrays to blood work, testing for all kinds of stuff. Good news is that the docs told me I was perfectly healthy and I just had a virus...I was terrified I was getting ms or lupus, bad news, the sucker lasted for like 3 weeks. I hope your sickness is also just some strange virus and you start feeling better soon. I am praying for you.

Sarah said...

Your point about being a mom in America really put things into perspective for me. Thanks for the reminder. I think I am going to join you this week.