The familiar chorus repeats itself. Endeavor to be a better parent. The dissonant sound of distracted parenting clashes with noble ambition.

I did it again today. I lashed out in frustration at my children. It was easy to pretend it was them. They did childish things that annoyed me. My impatience and selfishness was a result of today's doggone poor time management. I got behind and needed to catch up, and my treasured, elevated list is priority at times. I like to believe the reason I get behind is because my children are in front and I'm running after them. Sometimes my sinful heart convinces me that my children's antics cost me minutes, hours, even my day. I say ridiculous things, such as, "You steal my time when you do that. You make work for me that is unnecessary." Those foolish statements only echo back the truth. Give them your time. They are your work.

My days go well until life's dreaded inconveniences occur, things that need dealt with: someone made oatmeal cookies - on the couch, puppy ate a muddy boot, a donut is stuck in the VCR, or some other interruption. I know the optimist says there is no such thing as interruption, just God's sovereign opportunity. I'm not sure how their glass stays full when mine is half empty. Perhaps their children don't drink out of it. I can well handle the spilt milks of life on most days, but not yesterday. Yesterday it was the suitcase interruption that got to me. My son loves to pretend to leave. (I can't imagine why!) He often packs his huge royal blue duffle bag. We unpack the bag. He unpacks the bag. It's not a huge deal, except that it has happened so frequently it's annoying. Picture this. The house was clean, a lovely dinner ready, the children happy, the puppy sleeping, and my pleasant mood awaited hubby, who was due home soon. Then it happened. Sabotage. I come upstairs only to find uninvited guests - Mr. and Mrs. Major Mess. Son has packed the contents of his drawers in his duffle, along with various blankets, animals, and toothpaste. Little sister tried to get her favorite bath towel out of the linen closet. My once neatly folded towels were left in a colorful heap, not to mention daughter flattened the six-pack of toilet paper she used as a footstool. A roll of navy yarn had been haphazardly snipped, a GI haircut for a skein of yarn. Clippings littered the floor. As well, a strange menagerie of toys and other items was scattered about, and for some reason a plastic purple violet in a glass vase sat in water on the boys' dresser. One child "forgot" to make his bed today. The bookshelf I reorganized over the weekend is in disarray, and I wonder how and when this happened ... while I was outside working - pitching puppy poop in the brush pile over the fence. I guess I lingered to play fetch. And I was skimming that magazine. And I had a note to write. And on and on.

My pleasant mood dissolved into scorn. The switch flipped on, and the recording came out. The lecture. The one that says, "You know better than this. Why did you? Clean this up. Do you have to just make messes for the sheer pleasure of making messes?" The really crazy thing is that in 26 years of parenting I've never had one child say, "That was a great lecture. I'm changing my reckless ways. I'm giving up my wayward life of play and mess and mud and imagination and trading it for a smile, a vacuum cleaner, and a willingness to always obey my blessed mom." Lecturing has to be one of the dumbest things I do. My lectures are pretty much pity parties and guilt trips poorly disguised as instructions. "And another thing, if you ever pack this suitcase again for fun, there will be dire consequences." The threat rises within me. "Pay close attention, because your number one pleasure is getting ready to encounter its demise! You may not have ice cream for a long time. A loooooong, loooooooong, looooooong time."

Just about the time I realized I was acting dumb, Daddy came home. And part two of the lecture series emerged. "Your son ... Whawhawhawhawhaw," (Pretend you are hearing Charlie Brown's moms voice - because my oldest told me that is who I sound exactly like during lectures.) "And hubby, I told son if he does that again - well, son, you tell Dad." Son says, "Dad, no ice cream." That's right, I nod with authority. "And tell Dad how long it will be before you get ice cream again.""Dad, no ice cream for 20 minutes."