punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Monday, May 27, 2013

What Your Kids Will Remember

The following narrowings of the “What will your kids remember about you, their parent?” question may help us more thoughtfully evaluate our efforts (Don’t worry, this isn’t another guilt-trip for that one time you looked at your phone for a second while they played ... maybe):
Tummy munching: hands down one of the most memorable aspects of parenting for all involved.

What will your kids remember… about how present you were when you were with them?

There’s a way of being fully present to your kids even if you are a working parent and there is a way of being completely distracted away from them even if you stay-at-home. Ask yourself, when you have the chance to be with to your children, how fully present are you?

Do they get adequate face-time with you or are you always doing something away from them such as house projects, sleeping, working out, hanging out with friends etc. so that most of your time is occupied with your own interests?

I too struggle with this.  Childrearing is hard, tiring, isolating and monotonous. We need to get things done around the house and do things for our mental health. And it’s easy to feel unduly put upon by kids’ simple requests in the midst of the million obligations that come with being a responsible adult.

I take great comfort in knowing that no one is born an expert at balancing their kids’ needs and the needs of the universe with their personal needs.  But if it helps, one rule I set for myself is this: give the kids as much time as it takes to accomplish tasks.  If I clean and email for an hour, I then make sure I give them an hour to do whatever they want.  Also, at all meals I sit down and talk to them and ask questions.  It seems to be working and I hope they remember our time together.  

What will your kids remember…about how you treated others?
Telling the kids to love their neighbor and then talking smack about those noisy, inconsiderate buffoons in front of them is more that a contradiction wouldn’t you say?  Apply this now to family members, cashiers, your fellow parishioners and the other drivers on the road and then ask yourself, what will they remember about how you treated God’s beloved humanity?

Ughhh. Sometimes Christ is just so good at being a Christian!  You? How often do you do this?
What about serving others?  I'm convinced that every family has a charism for doing a specific type of work together.   In any case, mission is an indispensable aspect of being Christians.  We would do well to remember that this is kind of the essential component for getting into heaven.  

If it is missing, it makes our Christian witness a bit incomplete, wouldn't you say? While we all want our children to be compassionate, teaching them how is still done best by heroic example.  How we've been charitable, loved, served and treated others is something our kids will most definitely remember about us.  

What will your kids remember…about the importance you placed on material things?
Whether you are blessed with riches or as poor as church mice, there’s a way of placing too much importance on things.  One big mistake we frequently make as parents is equating family happiness with material comfort or financial robustness.  I am not saying having nice things is bad, but whether you had the latest and greatest or you were a charity case, were you grateful and generous with what you had?

Were you miserable all the while having the nicest and finest things in life? Well, that’s what they will remember.  Were you happy and joyful while driving around in an old jalopy and wearing second hand clothes?  Bottom line: how important is your stuff to you and is that what you want them to remember?

What will your kids remember…about your faith?
One of my very first memories is that of a framed picture of Pope John Paul II in my grandparents’ house.  I grew up during the 1980s feeling like he was one of the family (in that pre-EWTN world).  Why not?  He was so familiar because his picture, with his serene smile and hands clasped in prayer, always hung on the wall.  It’s one of the earliest examples of the Faith becoming personal for me.
Look around your house.  How many images do you have up? Your children will remember them or note their absence as they are growing up.

Outside of displaying holy images do you have a family prayer time?  I’m not referring to anything extravagant, just a time to pray together.  Do you attend mass? Do you sing at mass?  Trust me, the kids are taking notes. 

Of course, we should want to do these things not out of guilt but out of love for Christ.  By the way, how is that going for you?  And please keep in mind, the answer to that question is what your kids will remember.

People do the best they can with what they know, but what they need to know is that sometimes our image of what the “best” is doesn’t matter at all.  Notice in everything I’ve mentioned, I haven’t placed any importance on worldly notions of success. 

What’s truly important to kids is how we’ve loved and lived and were patient and forgiving and fully present to them.  Ultimately, if this post shows nothing else, it is that we would be hypocritical to call ourselves ‘good’ parents if we never really spent time with our children, considered ourselves and family superior to the rest of humanity, were occupied with amassing material things, and ignored God.  Surely no-one wants their kids to remember that about themselves.

My kids will never be able to say I was perfect mom, but I do want them to say they remember a woman who was always trying to do the best by them (though failing often, hopefully improving over time).  I want them to say I was kind to others, that I never sacrificed family harmony for the sake of acquiring fancy things, and that I tried to make the Faith alive for them.   This is what I am trying to do and what I hope that they remember. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pro-Lifers and Former Abortion Workers Must Be Patient with Each Other

Trending in the media and blogosphere on account of the Gosnell trial and the emergence of investigations into the cruel, ugly face of the late-term abortion industry are several editorials that highlight one of the toughest parts about this movement: it is made up of sinners

Sinners who are working to end abortion, sinners who are post abortive, sinners who used to work in the abortion industry, sinners who are angry about the sin of abortion, sinners who come off as cold and others as judgmental.  Sinners, sinners, sinners, all of us who want desperately for this great sin of abortion to end and nought but the help of God’s grace, and yes other sinners, to help that come about.

As someone who has worked in the pro-life movement now for almost a decade, I believe wholeheartedly in God’s unconditional forgiveness for all sinners, regardless of how scarlet those sins may be, should one be genuinely sorry.

But this last month, some of the articles I read and photos I’ve viewed online, and testimony from abortion workers I’ve heard have absolutely disgusted me.  My stomach has been turned, my heart has been sickened and my faith been taken to a new level of trust in God’s mercy for myself, for others and for our country.

I believe repentance and healing is possible for everyone, but, let me tell you, I had to really, really pray this last month to maintain that belief.  Does that me a bad person? Or just a pro-lifer who needs everyone’s patience as I work towards a conversion within myself to becoming more fully compassionate toward others?

Some reading this might be tempted to label me as deeply and secretly judgmental toward those involved in abortion.  To a certain extent, they wouldn’t be wrong.  I have to pray EVERYDAY about not being judgmental whether it’s over someone’s driving ability or childrearing or eating habits.

Most people, I find, also have to struggle with their general prejudices about many things.  We’re all human.

When it comes to holding prejudices regarding the abortion industry, even unconsciously, keep in mind that we’re talking about a business where sin compounds with sin compounds with more sin and it can genuinely be a shock to the system, even for the most seasoned individual.   And just as many former abortion workers talk about how it was Love that helped them to change their ways, that same Love from the Almighty is what pro-lifers need if they are going “into battle,” so to speak, to change hearts in the abortion industry.

That means that pro-lifers need to experience God’s Love in their own brokenness and sinfulness so they understand how someone can say, “I used to work helping to kill babies, but I have found forgiveness,” or “I killed my children, but I have had found healing and new life in Christ,” and believe such redemption is possible.

Two conversions must always take place for true healing between our camps to occur.  Those involved in the sin of abortion must change their beliefs and repent their involvement in the sin.  The pro-lifer must also convert interiorly and become a truly compassionate, herald of the Gospel if they are to maintain any credibility as Christians at all.

Neither type of conversion or process is easy, and we have got to admit that more often.  Pro-lifers have to understand it might take a lifetime someone to come to regret their role in abortion.  Those who have repented for their abortion-related sins need to be understanding when forgiveness and rejoicing over their conversion doesn’t come like an automatic finger snap to many people ‘on the outside.’

If the comment boxes regarding this topic are any indication of mood then there is one glaring truth out there in the pro-life movement: pro-lifers and former abortion workers, and post abortive individuals must be patient with each other. But I believe that when we are willing to extend that olive branch of patience to one another, then perhaps then the rancor in the comment boxes over whether someone is truly sorry over their past sins, or if someone else is “real” pro-lifer or just an angry, condescending jerk, will cease.    

So let's pray for each other's conversions! Is there any one of us that doesn't need it?

Then maybe we can all catch up to heaven and do a little more of the celebrating over changed hearts, with the Father, who runs to embrace each of us no matter how far away we are.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why I Don’t Engage in Mommy Wars

The closest I ever came to ever becoming publicly angry to the point of wanting to engage with another mom…excuse, me, the three times that happened all took place at public parks (go figure).

Incident 1: Mom-of-the-year asks nicely if I can remove my child from the play structure shaped like a fire truck… because her kid wanted to play on it.

Incident 2: My kids occasionally bring toys to the park. Once we brought a plastic toy cork gun.  Cue mom-of-the-year talking loudly to friends about the dangers of playing with toy weapons (to which her much more intelligent preschooler rebutted, “But mom, it’s just a toy!”).

Incident 3: My kids sometimes climb on things at parks.  Not anything dangerously high or located next to spikes, or shark infested waters or anything, but you know, things that invite climbing such as benches.

And sometimes, other kids want to imitate them.  Cue mom-of-the-year running exasperatedly toward her perfectly capable, safe distance from the ground toddler grunting, “Don’t look at those kids.”  She meant my kids.

The last incident did cause me to open my mouth and say to her sarcastically, “Well, that wasn’t condescending,” Perhaps my protruding baby bump did intimidate, for she sized me up for a second, picked up her child and walked away.  But something happened in that moment and it’s the reason I dislike and don’t ever engage in mommy wars: you can’t say a thing without coming off as condescending yourself.

Sure, her reaction was over the top, but notice how quick I was to think and say so.  Was that not a bit condescending of me? 

Don’t think that I didn’t feel a twinge of the, “How dare you judge my parenting in public,” pang, because I certainly did.  And then my next uncharitable thought, which happened in all three cases, because it was another commonality between the three, was this: “It’s because she only has one kid.”

Ouch.  While it’s true that all three moms-of-the-year only had one child, is it not rather judgmental on my part to chalk that up as the reason they all behaved like insecure dunces (which, again, is own my harsh opinion)?

The irony of mommy wars is just that: no mom wants to feel judged, and no critic is a harsher judge of motherhood and childrearing than a mom. 

The very second I feel like some phantom rosette adorns an invisible sash reading, “Infallible Mom,” across my chest, whether I have one child or ten children, is the moment that I have completely lost the battle, so to speak.

Think about it.  Who ultimately wins in the war of the mommas?  Nobody. We like to think the kids are the winners, and that the fruit of our bickering over things like organic vs. processed foods, tv vs. no tv, playing with toy weapons vs. hugging small animals is a society that will eventually raise truly balanced children.

But when does that ever happen, really? And do kids really win when one mom is busy pointing the finger at another mom’s choice of snack food?

This goes both ways I find.  Some moms revel in their kids’ healthy edamame option while other moms rebelliously pack the Cheetos as a sign that they just ain’t apart of that crowd.

Where do I think we Christian moms should fall on the spectrum of overbearing vs. bone-headed motherhood?  Exactly where we should fall in every other aspect of our lives:  try the best we can (even if it means Cheetos and toy guns sometimes) and err on the side of charity, in this case, towards other moms (i.e. don’t go around publicly and loudly condemning her kids’ actions and snack foods as though they’re a microcosm for the whole of her parenting).

In two out of the three park incidences I mentioned above, God’s grace helped me do just that, and to put aside my initial angry feelings. 

For the first, I did move my child off the play structure because that mom begged and assured me that they would only be one minute and were leaving anyway. Ten minutes later when they were still playing on it and it was obvious she had lied I then wanted to react to her (but God helped me with that too).

For incident number two, instead of stewing, I struck up a conversation with the mom who was bemoaning the presence of a toy gun at the park.   I asked her how her son’s school was going and we had a really nice conversation about my homeschooling. 

To boot, she even let me gift our toy gun to her son (the “Mom, it’s just a toy,” kid) because he was having so much fun with it, and plus my kids have a whole armory of toy guns in our house anyway.   Yeah, go ahead and judge away.

I think the true victors of the ‘mommy wars’ are the moms who don’t engage but step aside to focus on what really matters: on those kids whose upbringings we’re all fighting to prove we know more about, and who have more to gain by our respecting one another’s journeys in our vocations as mothers, instead of pretending like we are the only ones who have it all figured out all of the time.

My advice is this: don’t engage in mommy wars, and may you win laurels of peace by doing so.