Shamrocks and Late Nights

I had every intention of taking on the role of that mother, you know, the one who anticipates every holiday and presents her kids with an appropriate craft and history lesson on its origin. I know my limitations, so I planned to make simple shamrocks with the kids and Google search St. Patrick to provide just enough basic details about the man for whom this holiday is named.

photo via

Yeah, it didn’t happen.

Instead, at 8:50, when we are typically heading out the door for preschool which is five minutes away, we were all still in the kitchen. I realized the date and looked in horror at my three perfectly well-dressed children in the clothes they had laid out the night before–none of which had any green.

Because my priorities were in order, I made a mad-dash up the stairs, ripping through my son’s t-shirt drawer, pushing clothes out of the way in my daughter’s closet, finding completely new outfits for them down to the little green hair clip to adorn my daughter’s strawberry-blonde locks. I threw my son’s shirt over the bannister knowing that if I saved him the 30 seconds it took me to get his sister’s clothes and walk down the stairs, they both would arrive miraculously on time for carpool.

Hannah Grace, excited to change and put on more clothes, followed me up the stairs. Moving faster than she had in at least a week, she helped me whip off her shirt and pants and donned an outfit that said she was proud of that eighth of Irish blood in her.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I looked in horror at my son who had not performed the Jedi mind-trick of removing his first shirt without actually using his arms and replacing it with the one I threw down the stairs.

“Caleb! Why haven’t you changed?”

“This shirt isn’t green.”

“But it has green on it!”

My voice was getting a little shrieky. Clearly, Caleb didn’t understand the sense of urgency I was going for, as it was now 8:55. Clearly, he didn’t understand that the only reason I got him a new shirt was to prevent him from possibly getting pinched. It could happen. Preschoolers can be mean.

Caleb walked away as I began grabbing an assortment of bags of the book and diaper variety that I had previously piled up at the door. I unbuckled Chloe who had been sitting in her booster seat at the kitchen table while I had run from one room to the other. And, suddenly, Caleb emerged from the laundry room.

“I’m going to wear this one.”

In his hand was a beautifully green t-shirt. Perfect.

“Did you get that shirt from the laundry basket?” I asked suspiciously.


“But you just came from the laundry room, and that shirt wasn’t in your drawer upstairs.”

“I got it from here.”

Caleb took me into the laundry room and pointed to a small pile of clothes on the floor that weren’t even good enough to make it into a basket.

Hmm. Even better.

I snatched the shirt out of his hands, gave it a quick look-over, smelled it, and tossed it back to him.

“Okay,” I agreed.

Caleb pulled the new shirt over his head, and we made our way out the door at 9:00 for the preschool carpool that was now just beginning. I ushered the older two into the van and ran to the other side with Chloe, who, of course, decided now was the perfect time to start the I-can-arch-my-back-so-far-you’re-going-to-drop-me routine. Once she was buckled, I started to run back to my seat when I noticed Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum staring at butterflies and rainbows in the air.

“Get buckled!” I insisted.

And for a moment, I started to panic. But then I remembered who caused this fiasco. I remembered the two times I hit snooze this morning, and I remembered how I chose ‘green’ as more important than ‘on time’. And as we headed toward the school, I relaxed as I remembered that carpool runs until 9:10, and if we arrived later, I’d simply walk the kids inside.

Every week since I started writing on the fruits of the Spirit, I’ve been tested. In fact, I can honestly say that I can’t wait until this study is over. I don’t like being tested, and I don’t like seeing how much I need to improve. Prior to having kids, I was gentle. I was kind and patient. After having three kids, my impulse is to freak out and speak harshly when things get chaotic.

And I know now that being gentle isn’t about cooing at a little baby or about how to handle china. It’s about my response to my daughter who stared at the garbage men in a comatose-like state for three full minutes in the middle of the driveway while everyone else was buckled in the van. It’s about the words that I held back when I found a mysterious wax-like substance melted into our newly cleaned carpets. It’s about the temper that I contained when my kids had their own St. Patrick’s Day parade in my bedroom with every gift bag and piece of tissue paper they could find. And it’s about my attitude when I was rocking my daughter to sleep at 10:10 p.m. while her daddy was out with his friend, and I had spent the last two hours trying to get her to stay in her room. ‘Gentle’ truly is a gift from God.

And ‘gentle’ is hard, but I’m getting better. I’m trying to look at life logically and see that the craziness of every day isn’t really all that big of a deal, but the tone of my voice when I speak to my children is.

I’m trusting that He will see this change through and am clinging to the promise that “he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

And until that day I’ll keep practicing my deep breaths and counting to ten as I watch the applesauce hit the floor for the fourteenth time.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23, New International Version, 2010). Emphasis mine


Now it’s your turn! Link up with your own post on ‘gentleness!’

7 thoughts on “Shamrocks and Late Nights

  1. And ‘gentle’ is hard, but I’m getting better. I’m trying to look at life logically and see that the craziness of every day isn’t really all that big of a deal, but the tone of my voice when I speak to my children is.

    BRILLIANT!! I needed this today, thanks girlfriend!!


    1. I don't know if I'd attribute 'brilliant' to anything I do…I did let my kid wear a shirt straight off the laundry room floor. 😉


  2. Love your honesty here, Jennifer — especially the part about being excited for the fruits of the Spirit study to be over! 🙂

    I've never been gentle…and I have to say, having kids exacerbates that tendency even further. But I do learn a lot from my oldest — he has such a gentle spirit. I should have written about him for this today, but I couldn't get my act together, so I had to post something today with few words and lots of pictures. We leave for Massachusetts tomorrow to visit my family for spring break, and I am scurrying like a reckless fool today! Still doing laundry…never mind packing yet! Next week I will be out of town for self-control, too, so I don't think I will be linking up for that either. I'm sorry!


    1. I hope I didn't sound too negative–I am ready for it to be over, but God has changed so much within me as a result of the study. It's just been painful every week!Have a wonderful vacation! Enjoy relaxing with your family, and don't worry about not linking up. You've been such a faithful participant!


    1. Ha ha! I'm afraid of what this week is going to bring. Normally, I don't struggle with eating too much or spending too much, so I'm afraid of what I'm going to find out! Who knows–this might be the week I'm tempted to eat a whole box of cookies!n 🙂


  3. Jennifer- this is off topic.. but would you be a guest writer on my blog in a week or two about potty training? It would be awesome to have some tips and advice from a seasoned mom 🙂 A bunch of my friends are new to the potty training world or will be about to embark on that adventure soon..


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