But that only did it for so long.
A few minutes into her supper, our little one was throwing her arms out and her head back, screaming, her face covered in prunes. We pulled her out of the high chair; it didn't help. She continued to let us and everybody else in the restaurant know that sitting there was torture, pure torture, and she couldn't wait to bust the heck out of there.
My husband is the most easygoing person alive, and situations like that just don't faze him. He quickly but calmly finished his food and, once we got to the car, remarked that the baby had done quite well for most of the dinner. I, on the other hand, rapidly transformed into a massive stress-ball as soon as she began to show signs of fussiness. My response to my husband's positive reaction was to basically scold him for being so chipper, and to please just let me wallow in my discomfort and anxiety.
It wasn't until later that I thought to myself, why didn't I pray? Why, during those tense few minutes that felt like geological eras, didn't I spend just a few seconds asking God to please calm her down -- or better yet, to help me to handle the situation in a more constructive way, like my husband did?
I have a bad habit of forgetting to pray in situations like this. It's odd, because there are other times when I do remember -- when I'm looking for lost keys, I'll ask God to help me find them; if my husband is taking a test or giving an important presentation, I'll pray that it goes well; sometimes I find myself starting an "Oh please God!" while watching a tense moment on a TV show, only to come to my senses and stutter, "um, well yeah I know it's just pretend, so I don't really have to be scared for that person, but now that I have you, I'd feel a lot more at peace if the plot went in a nice, safe, happy direction..." But put me in an embarrassing, stressful moment like the one in the restaurant, and giving God a shout-out is the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, I opt for the wallow-in-anxious-misery-so-that-everyone-else-can-feel-just-as-uneasy-as-I-do route.
I'm not sure why this is. I'm certainly not the holiest person on earth, but I'm also not one to only don my religious hat on Sunday: I think about God throughout the day. Yet, somehow, I manage to ignore Him on certain occasions when I'm overwhelmed with stress. Is it because I'm so caught up with anxiety that I can't sense His presence? Is there a twisted, self-righteous part of me that would rather seek refuge in my misery than in His mercy? Look at me, my life is so hard -- I have a child! She doesn't always behave perfectly! Wahhhhh! Nobody knows the struggle, the hardship!
My suspicion is that it's a bit of both. Ultimately, in situations that play out like the one at that dinner, I choose anxiety over peace. I may not actively think, "I am so NOT praying about this" -- in fact, I know I don't -- but in submitting to frustration and resentment, the decision is already made.
That is something I need, and want, to change. The daily challenges of motherhood are realities that I must face every day. There is no reason that I cannot embrace them with a smile and a prayer, instead of a tensely furrowed brow and an off-color, under-my-breath grumble. I know the change will not come easy: I am a naturally high-strung person who has habitually capitulated to stress for years. But, at the very least, I know exactly to Whom I need to turn for help.