We say a prayer before we start school every morning. Allika thanks God for the day and the nice time that she hasn't had yet, nor is going to have. It's kind of a practice in futility, except I suppose she's learning the discipline of starting her work with prayer.
So, then I pray. I ask God to help me have a good attitude and to help Allika to do her best and work really hard and learn a lot. Another practice in futility. Sigh.
The other day, she told her grandma that she didn't like me teaching her because I always get angry with her every time she makes a mistake. She always makes me look like a saint when it matters most. (There was also the time when she told grandma that I took her money from her, placing her at the poverty level, so could grandma please send her .47 cents.)
Anyway, I could explain here that her idea of anger is my idea of strict enforcement. I could also tell you that she does not have a competitive bone in her body, which is good in some senses, but not when she does not grasp the reason why she should try her hardest at something. Furthermore, I could explain that she gets distracted very easily (huge understatement), which presents a challenge when she is supposed to be writing the word "weed," but, instead, finds the speck of Crystal Lite powder on the table much more fascinating.
Here is an example of a typical conversation during a school session:
Me: Allika, where is the one's place? (This is after Van has extensively gone over this concept with her the previous day.)
Allika: I don't know.
Me: Remember that it is all the way over to the right of a number?
Allika: (Absent-mindedly) Oh.
Me: So where is the one's place?
Allika: All the way over to the right.
Me: (Getting really excited that she finally got it) Good! So which number is in the one's place?
Allika: (Looking at the number 112) The one.
Me: No Allika, which number is all the way over to the right?
Allika: The two.
Me: (Excitedly again) Right! So, which number is in the one's place?
Allika: The one.
Me: (Starting to get somewhat exasperated) No! What is the one's place?
Allika: I forgot.
Me: The number all the way to the right.
Me: So which number is all the way over to the right?
Allika: The two.
Me: So which number is in the one's place?
Allika: The one.
Me: No, Allika. It's the two. (I know my mother would roll over in her grave if she were dead. She is a firm believer in never giving the answer.)
So we go through a similar process with the ten's and hundred's place. Then, I ask her to write the number one-hundred-and-one. She writes it out like this: 1001. I am beyond frustrated at this point.
In the middle of all this, she is spacing out and getting side-tracked by all manner of things that tickle her fancy...like the light switch.
This leads me to what happened a few days ago. We had said our standard prayer before beginning our school day. Allika had thanked God for the great fun she was having and I had asked for patience and a good attitude.
Things began to rapidly deteriorate as I tried to get her to focus on her work, pay attention, do her best, and have a good attitude. (It's somewhat ironic to me when I yell, "You need to have a good attitude, Allika!!!")
In the middle of this loss of control I was displaying, Allika looked up at me and said, "I guess God didn't answer your prayer, Mom."
"Because you asked him for a good attitude and he didn't give it to you."
"Allika, he did answer my prayer because I don't have a bad attitude. I'm just trying to be strict with you because you need to do your best and pay attention and work hard and have a good attitude."
Well, I've been thinking a lot about that. A lot. A great amount of a lot.
I realized that so many times I have asked God for something and waited for him to make it happen. I forget that sometimes I am the answer to my own prayer. Is God going to sprinkle me with a good attitude just because I ask him? Is God going to send money from heaven to my friend because I prayed that he would help them through these difficult financial times? Is God going to make my marriage better because I've asked him to show my husband the areas he needs to change?
But just as likely, I will have to make choices to control my behavior when I feel like letting all my emotions hang out.
It's possible that I am the one who God will use to bless my friend in a monetary way.
It could be that God wants me to change my faults, fix my attitude, and love my husband unconditionally through all his weaknesses and imperfections in order to enjoy my marriage.
James 2:14-17 says, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
Last night, I asked my daughter what she would change about our family if she could change one thing.
She said it would be me getting grumpy all the time during school.I told her that she was right, and that was going to change immediately.
Today, I let go of all my exasperation and frustration and corrected her kindly. I made a deliberate choice to only respond softly and gently and to walk away for a while if I thought I would lose it.
Her performance went up by 100%.
She said, "This is the specialist day in a long time."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because you're not being so grumpy anymore."
It looks like God answered my prayer after all.