Thursday, 22 November 2012

parenting books

Does anyone else completely freak out when they read a parenting book?

I pick it up and start to skim. This looks interesting. Wow, a lot of this sounds like what we're doing already. Wait a minute! I'm in the section of things that you're not supposed to do! Oh no! We're not nurturing enough...or maybe we're too nurturing and not spending enough time teaching him how to play pat-a-cake. Uh oh, he's not eating enough solids...or else he should be exclusively breastfed until he's two. If he doesn't get enough sleep his brain won't develop properly...but if we sleep train he'll grow up to be a sociopath ...aarghhh.

I happen to be a bit of a perfectionist, so my approach to parenting has been to research everything to death. There is truly a sea of advice on the internet and in parenting books, a lot of it contradictory. The problem is that every child is different, every parent is different and every situation is different. How can any parenting book have all the answers? How can any google search for "parenting tips"even scratch the surface of decision making that goes into parenting? There are thousands of great parenting ideas out there, and sometimes I get myself worked up thinking that we're failing miserably if we don't do them all.

When I skim through a parenting book and panic starts to set in I'm gradually realizing that I need to take a step back, a deep breath, and remind myself that we are not perfect. It's one of the great tragedies of parenthood that I can't be perfect for my sweet, innocent Isaac (short of sainthood, of course, which is a work in progress). As inevitable as it may be, it actually breaks my heart to think that our sinfulness will affect Isaac for the rest of his life. We are not perfect, our parenting is not going to be perfect. Sigh. We're just doing the best we can with the information that we have.

The solution, like so many others, lies in prayer. Prayer that, through grace, we'll raise a holy, happy little man, in spite of our faults. And prayer that through parenting we'll have the grace to grow ever closer to God and to sainthood.

Friday, 9 November 2012

awesome strangers at Mass

This morning I took Isaac to Mass. I love going to daily Mass. Or perhaps, to be more honest, I love the idea of going to daily Mass. Participating in Holy Mass is nothing short of the greatest thing that we humble human beings can do. I believe this to be true. And yet...

By the time Isaac and I are bundled up for the walk--racing to get my coat on before he gets up too many stairs, pulling him off the stairs to his screams of protest, digging through piles of laundry to find his missing sock, deciding that no one will really notice if his socks don't match, trying to get his coat, hat, mitts, and boots on while he takes all the shoes off the shoe rack--I'm already tired. By the time I've struggled out the door with the stroller in one arm and Isaac in the other I feel like my arm is going to fall off (the one that's holding my 28 lb baby). Then there's the Mass itself.

Sometimes I see babies in church who are content to sit in their parent's arms and watch as the Mass proceeds. If they get restless they flip through one of those adorable baby bibles. If they get tired they rest their head on their parent's shoulder.

I confess that when I see those babies my thoughts are not always holy. Because Isaac has never been one of those babies. I don't want to imply that he's "bad" in church. He's usually very happy to be in a new place with lots of new things to look at and touch. What he is not happy about is having to stay still. So he doesn't. We can't let him roam free, but he's pretty much in constant motion in our arms. He leans forward for the hymnal, but it's not enough to just touch it. He has to stand in my lap so that he can touch it from a better angle. He then has to tell everyone in the church how happy he is to be standing on my knees (in his own language of course): "do da dee doe-DAH, doe-DAH." You get the idea.

This morning, by the Consecration, he was getting restless and I was getting tired of his squirmy-ness, so we went to the soundproofed children's room where he could have a little more freedom and I could (hopefully) concentrate a little more on prayer. I had forgotten that his favorite part of the children's room also happens to be the least soundproof: the door. He can reach the handle and pull on it making the door rattle and he loves to knock on the glass panel. There I was, trying to follow the Mass and at the same time wondering how much of Isaac's noise was audible outside and trying to figure out a way to stop him without making him upset, when a man approached the door.

I recognized him as the old gentleman with the cane who always comes to daily Mass and sits at the back. He had always seemed friendly but all I could think was, "Oh no! He's going to tell me that they can hear Isaac banging on the glass and that I should restrain my child."

I opened the door for him and smiled weakly. He said, "I just wanted to mention..."

Here it comes, I'm about to get an earful.

"I just wanted to mention that I think mothers are the most important people in the world. I really mean it."

"Thank you." I was so touched my eyes welled up a little. "The most important people in the world." What a humbling compliment. What beautiful recognition of the sacrifice, the hard work, the joy and heartache of being a mom.

At the end of Mass we were back in our pew and getting ready to go. Many of the people walking by stopped and said hi to Isaac. One lady commented, "I just love hearing little ones at Mass. It's not often you hear them at daily Mass." When I said that I always worry he's being too loud she protested, "Oh no, he was so so good." Once again I was touched.

You see, since we moved here and I started bringing Isaac to daily Mass when I've had the chance, I've been afraid of what people think of us there. It's not a young parish and daily Mass would be so peaceful and so quiet apart from Isaac's many noises. I'm always afraid of being disruptive and of being judged on how I "handle" my baby.

Lately I've been pretty slack on going to daily Mass. With all the winter gear to put on, it's a lot of effort to get there. And Isaac has been harder and harder to contain during Mass as he becomes more mobile. Sometimes by the end of Mass I'm frustrated and feel like I haven't really prayed at all. Some days it just doesn't seem worth it (which is a sad and horrible thing to say).

Today I really felt that these strangers were being Christ to me. With a gentle nudge Jesus was reminding me that it may be difficult but it IS worth it. Prayer is worth it. Being a mom is worth it. My wiggly one year old is a precious little person worth all the time and effort and LOVE that goes into feeding, clothing, cleaning, and entertaining him. It's worth all the lost mittens and last minute diaper changes it takes to make it to daily Mass when possible.

Thank you, strangers, for being awesome today!