The Grace Standard

hangry \’haη-grē\ , adjective:
a clever portmanteau of hungry and angry; an adjective that describes being irritable or angry due to hunger

Still a new colloquialism and not yet added to the dictionary, this was one of the most helpful words I learned when I married my dear husband 13 years ago. It was the perfect summation of the way his mood would seemingly inexplicably alter when he had gone too long without a snack. I thought this was annoying but loved to pester him about it, that is until I got pregnant and he had to keep an actual stash of Snickers bars on hand to remind me, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

So maybe it’s not such a strange phenomenon after all.

As it turns out, we managed to produce a few kids with the same proclivity toward hanger, as well as a similar — but markedly more pronounced — mood alteration due to sleep deprivation. Can we make a word for that too? Sleepetulance? Tire-ire? Fatigue-fury? Okay, I’m bad at word-mashing. I suppose we are just emotional people who teeter on the edge of detonation from a variety of external, physical factors. But I know we’re not the only ones. 

I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m in a mood, I can be a real pill. Okay, actually my husband would be the first to admit it, but he’s smart enough not to do so publicly, so I’ll just take this one. In my defense, I say “I’m sorry” a lot. But I also say shhhhh more than actual words, ignore opportunities to connect with my kids, rely on the bigs to play with and meet basic needs of their toddler brother, snap about little things, and speak in a tone somewhere between “three-year-old who has been given the wrong color cup” and “pubescent girl who has just been grounded from her phone.” I know I’m terrible, and I do apologize, but until the wave rides out, I do expect my family to buck up and dole out plenty of grace to get me through till the next meal/nap/vacation/whatever.

Why is it, then, that when my kids experience the same strain of fatigue, hunger, or just a bad mood, I am quick to jump into Mom Mode to correct their behavior?

If they are exhausted after a late baseball game the night before, I remind them that they wouldn’t be so tired if they had gone straight to bed instead of whispering to each other after lights out. When they are cranky because I wanted to be “fun mom” by giving them doughnuts for breakfast, I chastise them for refusing the eggs I also made but they didn’t notice in their chocolate-covered sprinkle excitement. When they just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I tell them their mood is not an excuse for poor behavior.

As their gracious and blessed guardian, it is my God-given responsibility to discipline and shape these young minds to be self-controlled, gentle, humble, patient, and polite in every circumstance. Just like I am…not? Granted, my outbursts are significantly less frequent than theirs, but I also have 25ish years more experience than they do, so certainly the standard should be higher for me. And yet here I have flipped the table and required the children to be the ones exhibiting control while the adults get grace.

Sure, as parents we’re obligated to teach our children self-regulation, emotional maturity, and good ol’ fashioned Southern manners, but we have to remember that they are not just humans like us; they are tiny humans, underdeveloped humans, still-learning-and-growing humans who deserve the occasional pass to have a bad day in peace. If you’re like me and find yourself enforcing a double standard, today is a new day to start giving away grace like you’re made of it — and maybe keep a Snickers close by, just in case.

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