A good day usually starts with me getting up a little earlier than the rest and sipping a hot cup of coffee while reading the Scriptures. Until I hear footsteps…

At 7am it’s get up and go time (whether it was a good day and I was already up or not). The girls get ready for school, Efraim for preschool (on Tuesdays and Thursdays).

By 8:15 it’s me and the 2 big boys for a couple hours. It’s laid back and a great time to connect with them. It’s also their “school” time- which consists of reading (books in Portuguese), English (via Rosetta Stone), and math. When Efraim is home he plays in his room or near us.

On good days the boys usually finish school by lunchtime and play outside in the afternoon (and in between school pickup times). Park afternoons are scattered throughout.

The girls are home by 3pm. Everyone helps with a chore or two, the girls do homework (and boys if they’re not done), and they all play till dinnertime. Around 5pm I usually get dinner prepped and by 5:30-6pm Dad is home and we eat dinner together.

By 7pm the kids are getting ready for bed, by 8pm the kids are sleeping/quiet, and by 10pm my husband and I are (usually) in bed.

It’s not all that complicated, but it’s our day. There’s a good amount of margin (slivers of it here and there). And margin is needed.

Because in the midst of the coming and going, in the midst of playing and playing some more, there are attitudes and actions. There are comments, remarks, and behaviors that fill in the gaps. Some of them are cute and funny, others are not so cute and definitely not funny. (With five kids it can be a mixture of both at the same time.)

I’d rather just brush them off, look the other way, and act like I wasn’t paying attention. It would be so much easier to ignore it and pretend I didn’t understand. But it doesn’t help the next time it happens. And there’s always a next time.

I have to decide whether or not to engage the tough moments. I don’t have to. I can ignore it. I can wait for Filipe get home (to make sure I understood correctly). Every now and then I do. Sometimes after the eleventh times I just can’t do it again.

But engaging is worth it (at least I’m telling myself it is). Engaging with them during these times is hard and takes a whole lot of patience (for both of us), but I don’t remember a time I’ve done it and wished I hadn’t. I often walk away learning something in the process too. Right now the biggest thing I’m working on is not to raise my voice, but rather lower it. (I’m getting there…slowly.)

I was reminded yesterday why this is important when I asked one of the boys a question and he responded by screaming in my face. I knew I couldn’t let it go- as much as I wanted to. (We are trying to teach them how to respect authority.) I gently asked him to come inside and calm down for a few minutes. I sat near him and waited. I had things I would have liked to do, but it had to wait. Afterward I asked him to come talk with me. We talked about screaming and why it wasn’t respectful- and better ways to respond. (All of our “conversations” are in Portuguese. I stumble and struggle to find words, but they eventually get the point. I consider it an exercise in patience for them.) He apologized and we hugged and within minutes all was good. The day could now go on without guilt standing in the way.

We’re learning it’s the guilt that has to be removed. I noticed that when they feel guilty, the behavior almost always gets increasingly worse. Kids have to learn how to get rid of it and resolve the relationship before they can move forward. And this doesn’t just apply to the boys- all the kids have to work through this almost daily.

Correcting heart attitudes isn’t fun. It’s not on my to-do list so when things happen there’s not time to deal with it, but it’s one of the most important things I can do, and I have to make time. (Which is why I need lots of margin!)

>With our two big boys, I feel like we started late- and don’t have much time. Rafa could be out of the house in just over 7 years. That’s not long! I can’t undo the broken parts. I can’t fix everything. God will have to do the heart mending. But if nothing else, I can take five, ten, or thirty-five minutes and engage with them when the time calls for it. And for the days I just can’t take it anymore, I just remember…

I’ll get another chance again tomorrow

Mandy Sig