Thursday, August 21, 2014

Catholicy Mommy Tribute

"Pray.  Hope, and don't worry." --Saint Padre Pio. 

My grandmother had a great love of this saint.  I never knew that much about him except for that quote, but it came to mind yesterday when I spoke with my daughter.  She is going to a new school and feels great anxiety about this change.  When I suggested prayer, she didn't exactly roll her eyes but she gave me the look. 

Over the recent years, I've heard the complaint from my teens, "You're going all Catholicy Mommy" on us." Some cringe when they hear EWTN radio on as I do the dishes, others if it is on in the car.  I get it.  All the outside of it can seem too sweet to tolerate even in small doses.   Pray, hope and don't worry sounds almost flippant.   Tra-la-la-lah. I've prayed so no worries.  That's not what the quote means, anymore than "Jesus, I trust in You." means God is my co-pilot.

I struggled to explain.  If it were flippant, it would be merely, "Don't worry, be happy."  But this is a directive.  Pray.  --which means do this first.  Hope.  This is a choice.  And don't worry.  This is an action, a deliberate effort of faith in life.   It means that prayer is an action, and hope is a faith lived, which allows one to proceed forward no matter what, with an uplifted heart.  God answers.  Every time.  Pray, hope and don't worry requires trust in God that He is infinitely good, infinitely loves us and infinitely seeks to bring us home no matter how we wander.

But what does it look like? To pray, hope and don't worry.

If you've ever met someone who deeply understands their vocation and lives it, they bubble with joy even if the work they do is strenuous, obnoxious and lowly.   They aren't trivial. They know the hardness of the life they've chosen, and yet they exude joy.  To be in their presence, is to be steeped in joy.  I've had the blessing of knowing priests, nuns, family, teachers and friends I love, who live this day in and day out.  I searched for examples.  I told her about the sisters of life, women I interviewed for an article and their constant work with crisis pregnancies. They dealt with hard realities of life and death, of struggle and sacrifice, and they yet were joyous people, and I could even feel that joy talking to them over the phone.  She understood.

 Later I thought of how Paul is joyful and we are joyful about him, but that doesn't change the reality of his Down Syndrome. It does however mean his condition is not the arbiter of how we will treat him or how much we will love him. There is still a muscular nature to the work of loving Paul. He requires more vigilance, more patience, more direct hand over hand, but it's all love.  I do not spend sleepless nights over the fact that Paul has this condition. Pray. Hope, and don't worry.  I understood slightly deeper.

So today, she got on the bus and I texted her, "Have a great day, love you." and she wrote back, "Hunger games hand thing." and "Do do doo do."  so I replied, "Thank you for volunteering as tribute."  and privately thought, "Pray, hope and don't worry." as I uttered a Hail Mary for her in my Catholicy Mommy way  and then mused on how very not flippant that sentence of Saint Padre Pio is.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bored Children

I have discovered possibly the most entertaining reality show of all time; a toddler and a five year old bored with summer, trying to entertain themselves without adult or sibling assistance. 

First, there was the lounging on the floor, draping of the limbs to illustrate how tragic and difficult this state of life was for their spirits.  Failing to gain sympathy or even much of a response, one tucked herself into a laundry basket while the other took solace in scooting across the floor in a laundry bag.  The end of round one resulted in a ripped laundry bag.

The three year old thought her brother's antics annoying and proceeded to make a mad face.  When we laughed at her mad face, she devoted all of her thinking to how to make her face madder still.  She pursed her lips and shut her eyes to illustrate how much more irritation she felt.  They traded faces for a time but to render the impact of their mad faces better, they stood up and looked up whenever the other volleyed a new face.  This led to them marching in a circle in the living room with their eyes perpetually glued to the ceiling.  Thus, they became dizzy, ending round two. 

By now, united in their sufferings, they climbed onto the piano to engage in an improv John Cage type duet, but that switched to a turn taking with each child singing to their creation and the other wrapping themselves up like a sausage in a pink blanket.  Round three.

Round 4, they pretended to be sleeping, complete with snoring sounds.

Round 5, a laughing contest, who could be loudest, it morphed into stomping, screaming and sometimes hitting the ivories with vigor.  

Round 6.  Anna pretends to be a cat snoring, draped across the piano bench.   Paul tries to restart the laughing contest, but also lays down to try to snore.  I sneezed which made the snoring cat stop to say, "Bless you." breaking character and apparently making everything hilarious.

Round 7.  Earthworms.  Without using their hands or feet, they squirm, roll and crawl across the floor.

Round 8.  The sleeping cat is back and Paul doesn't like this game so he wants a different one.  Wake up Anna might prove to end the pleasant play of the morning so as ref of this contest of titan toddlers, I think about breaking it up.  But Anna has solved the problem herself until he grabs her feet to hold.

Round 9.  There's a double knock out.  Pretending to sleep has created to actual sleepers. 

Ding ding ding ding ding!  The Battle is over!  I WIN!

One week until school starts. 

They may have been bored, I on the other hand, was highly entertained. 

It's summer, but you can't end summer until you've had days that drag by like syrup and result in competitions to stave off the boredom of an unstructured day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Not Yet Trained

For my sister and me...

Potty training isn't simply a skill, it's the first time as parent, you impose a demand on your kiddo across the board and the only way victory is achieved, is when they comply and oblige every time without fail.  It is for many children if not most, the first time they hit the non negotiable wall.  That surrender and discipline is for many, a hard truth that takes a long time to accept.  But maybe I just raise stubborn children.  

I started thinking about the places I struggle with my children, bedtimes, homework, potty training, practicing music, for some, reading, for many, vegetables, getting up, getting dressed, accepting criticism about choices, or suggestions they should be reading.   I had to wonder if my whole parenting technique is the issue, not the issues themselves, as all of them are struggles between what I know they need to do and what they want. 

Yesterday, I felt the pain looking at my almost six year old son not being potty trained.  He starts special kindergarten this year.  Up until now, there's always been the glimmer of hope that we would get there before school.  But school starts next week, and while he will sit and has at least on three occasions, successfully used the facilities, it is not something he seeks.  Perhaps we should push harder, but it is hard to know. My youngest daughter is 3 1/2.  She also isn't potty trained, but she knows what's up and has begun naming her terms.  So far, they include a red cake just like the one she had for her 3rd birthday, and a t-shirt with an owl on it that shines and lights up the sky.   I don't know how she came up with that image, but I'm on the hunt for it. For my own sanity, I've adopted the Catholic church perspective.  I constantly propose, I do not impose.  Here's hoping one day, they embrace the suggestion to go to the bathroom.  

Regardless of the age, children think they want endless time, endless activity, endless leisure, (but they don't really).  Children think they want to stay up forever. They don't. They think they want cotton candy at the fair, but find it sticky and oddly without any taste, as they chew on it hoping for some taste that isn't there.  The more they eat, the more dissatisfied they become with the experience, and yet they ask for more.   Sometimes, the art of parenting is letting them try imposing their will and discovering it's not for them, and other times, we get the job of holding firm no matter what.  They think they don't want to read books or learn a new skill, but the triumph in their eyes when they do, tells me otherwise.

When you're a parent of many, the question is always, which situation is this?  I can let the 15 year old bike to the Sports Authority to shop, but not the 10 year old to the McDonald's.  The three oldest can watch this movie, the others cannot.  She can handle an extra activity.  He can't.  She needs to be put in honors classes and pushed. This other one needs to be held back, given the opportunity to be the age she is and not the age her older sister is.  It's a constant juggling, is this when I push? Is this when I pull?  Is this when I talk?  Is this when I listen?  Is this when I draw a line and hold firm? Is it time to be disciplined or the time to be flexible?  It changes from situation to situation, child to child, moment to moment. For me, all of parenting is learning to surrender, my priorities for theirs, my time for theirs, and to give them my judgment, my time, and my efforts and to do all of it without hesitation and with full joy even when it is a total pain.  (Like potty training, teaching driving, and running extra errands because of the demands of an extra curricular activity).

The only thing that doesn't change is the need to pray through it.   Or pray after it because I didn't pray through it.   And I realize, I'm not yet parent trained, or surrendering and submitting and serving wouldn't still be a constant battle within my head to know what to do and will to do it. God keeps asking me to things He knows would make me healthier and happier and holier, and He's having no more luck with me than I am with my own toddlers.

We are a stubborn and stiff necked people.  But we are also a people of hope, so maybe today will be the day we harden not our hearts and miracles happen.

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