Despite my best efforts, it had happened again: the Curse of the Witching Hour. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve nearly gotten through the day, dinner is in the works, bedtime is in sight…and then…
For the third day in a row, I had become a monster!
It was their fault, of course…. They were playing a game actually called “Monster,” where they basically chase each other around the house, trying to catch and tackle everyone else. Not my first choice of family activities, but at least they were starting out happy and occupied. All I wanted was to get this bread dough going!
And then, of course, someone screams. One has been smashed down between the mattress and bed frame by another. Then someone tries to help and ends up jabbing an elbow in somebody else’s face. Not. Good. The threads of patience are unraveling. They’re not even supposed to be playing with the mattress!
My mind begins to race, living out the episode moment by moment: I’m starting to lose my cool as nobody apologizes, nobody helps anyone who’s hurt.
Fine. Everyone to the floor, sit back-to-back in a circle. No talking. Mama is going to be right back.
In the kitchen, the sound track in my mind switches to anxious, uncertain music. Time is ticking. I’m supposed to know what to do here. But I have no idea! I just want to walk out the door. Or worse. I’m definitely not going to do anything like that, but then…what?!
Back to the bread dough. Kneading dough always helps me get my angst out. Breathe. Pray. Father, what should I do??
Of course, when I step back and think rationally about it, I know what’s going on. Everyone knows about the Curse of 5:00. Whether we’re all tired from schooling, too much or too little to do, annoyed at siblings, feeling cooped up in our little apartment, sick of the rain, hungry—or maybe all of these things. It amounts to the same result: the Curse, complete with extreme crankiness. I get it just the same as the kids. So the past few days that my husband had been out of town, I had actively tried to counteract the effects. Snacks in the afternoon, exercise time together, free time and/or structured activities. Nothing seemed to be improving that cursed hour.
But this time as I throttled the roll dough, the prayer in my heart enacted a change. I was blessed with the capacity NOT to yell at them right away. Progress… I felt ready to approach the circle of contrition—well, not ready, per se, but I had to do SOMETHING. I knelt down with words of chastisement ready to roll off my tongue. Instead, words of love came out. I expressed the focus of being a forever family, that we’re each different from one another, working together for our future—and that’s a good thing. I told them I would never, NEVER give up on them. I voiced my love for them, because love is what a family is all about.
This was literally a mini-miracle moment in our home. We all hugged and got to laughing, then went on with the evening. They helped with making a bigger mess of the bread dough—happily—and we got dinner ready together. The Curse (that night, at least) was broken.
As I contemplated the difference in outcomes, a sentence from “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen, came to mind:
“Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.”
The madness going on in my house for three days hadn’t changed. It was me. Previous witching hours bore the marks of a mama reacting to the chaos, blind-sided by distractions, & over-correcting in the darkness. Tonight’s mama had asked and allowed the Spirit to take the wheel, guiding us all to the safety of love and focus on things eternal.
We still suffer from the Curse now and then. But I’m learning to let the Lord be a partner more in our home, to ask Him more specifically for help with the things with which we struggle, and to have more faith that He will tell me “in the very moment… what ye shall say” (D&C 100:6). This way, I can more often catch a glimpse of the self I want to become.