A Lesson From My Dead Cat

Maggie 3-09

There it was. A puddle on my newly mopped floor. Again. I knew that this offensive offering was the dastardly work of my aging pet, Maggie. I felt the rage boiling up from my toes all the way to the roots of my hair. So I took a deep breath, and realizing the foolishness of my response, immediately dropped to my knees and repented of my murderous thoughts. Then, recognizing a ‘teachable moment’, I quickly gathered my children to watch me clean up the mess while instructing them on the merits of compassion and service.

***Scratchy record rewind sound here***

If you actually fell for that, then you either don’t know me yet or you are incredibly gullible. The ugly truth is really more like this:

…I felt the rage boiling up from my toes all the way to the roots of my hair. In fact, I could feel my hairs rising and poufing out like some odd human version of a Halloween cat. I’m embarrassed to admit that I stamped my feet a little. With fists clenched, I hissed something impolite and began angrily searching for the feline offender. I will spare you any more details of my tantrum, except to assure my more tender-hearted friends that I did not harm my cat in any way. I merely acted like a total imbecile.

Now fast forward with me to about three weeks later. I slowly hung up the phone and sat down. I was glad that the kids weren’t home to see me cry. It was strange, this grief. I mean, I don’t even really like my animals that much, do I? Maggie’s kidneys were failing, and in that moment I saw my earlier tantrum in a whole new light. I was ashamed because, even as I had ranted at her accident on the floor, I had known in my heart that something was not right with her. We had had Maggie since just before my son was born, 13 years before and she had never been destructive, naughty, or messy.

With that diagnosis came a complete change in my heart. I became the perfect pet mom. I tenderly held her whenever she wanted to sit on my lap. To heck with chores—if Maggs wanted to snuggle, then they could wait! I cringed when I had to stick her with an IV needle each day to help hydrate her frail body. And when it was time to take her back in for the last time, I stroked her soft fur and cried when she became still.

I’ve had some time to contemplate the experience and I find that the whole ordeal reminds me of my son. No, he does not pee on the floor, nor is he dying of kidney failure. However, when he was young, he couldn’t follow directions to save his life. He couldn’t retain any of the wonderful knowledge that I tried so skillfully to impart. I ranted. I railed. I said things that I am too ashamed to share. All the while I knew in my heart of heart of hearts that something just wasn’t quite right. When I finally stopped and really looked at him, I decided to seek answers. ADD, auditory processing weaknesses, and dyslexia are some of the labels we now live with and quite frankly, those labels have saved my sanity. Once I confirmed that my son was not being defiant or lazy, but simply needed things put a different way, all of my frustration disappeared. It was truly that simple. I became a better mom all the way around because, not only was I really seeing my son for the incredible unique individual that he is, but that spilled over to all of my family. I see each of them now in a whole new way. They are each fearfully and wonderfully made. And thankfully, they are not like me.

Wow, sounds all good and warm and fuzzy doesn’t it? Well it is….and it isn’t. You see, there was a question that kept niggling at me. Why did it take a death sentence to get me to love my cat? Why did it take the labels of ‘learning disability’ to get me to extend grace to my son? The answer is not pretty. Once again I am confronted with the fact that I am seriously lacking in the old ‘loving others’ department. And year by year I find that when I am not in daily communication with the Lover of my Soul, that is when I fail most miserably.

We sit in our churches and sing, ‘Give me Your eyes’, then go home and promptly forget the sentiment behind the words. We all too easily become joyless tyrants cracking the ol’ whip on our hapless progeny. Gotta get the schoolwork done, every last worksheet, mind you. Gotta fold the laundry, no time for a snuggle. Got a list of things to be done, no time for fun. STOP! Jesus told busy Martha that Mary was doing the better thing, which was fellowshipping with Him. Seek Him first and ask Him to give you His eyes for your family.

Now I know that some of you have children who struggle to ‘get it’. Some of you simply have children who are very different from yourselves and you are baffled by them. I know that you are frustrated and overwhelmed. And I am relatively certain that a few of you have thrown your own tantrums. Just know this: Jesus does not make mistakes, nor is He surprised that your kid doesn’t do math very well or doesn’t read yet. He is also not surprised when you lose it. For every weakness that you or your children possess, there is an offsetting gift. Find those gifts and teach to them. Put on your ‘God glasses’, and really see each of your kids as people separate from yourself. You don’t need a label or a diagnosis to give you a heart of compassion for them. Just sit back and really look. Marvel at each child’s unique way of doing and learning. Be willing to bend and change as well. If you can do this, I guarantee that your homeschool will be a lot more fun and you will be a lot less stressed.

*First published for BACH Co-op in Oct. 2011.  Revised and updated May 2013.

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