Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Lent of parenthood

My cereal-strewn kitchen was the scene of the following philosophical discussion this morning, a very typical discourse with my advanced 16 month old and gifted 3 year old:

"Why you cwyin? What chew want? Juice?"

Toddler stops caterwauling to nod.  "Jews!"

"Okay, Jews for you!" I put her down to get a sippy cup, and then to diligently search for the correct lid and matching spill-proof insert.  I am not successful.

"Careful careful. No touch garbage pail. Icky sticky!"

Three-year old arrives, so my language slightly improves.  "Okay, time to go potty! Yes, potty! Like a big girl! And get sticker on your chart! Yes, you have to try! No, you are not empty! And no sweetheart, you aren't dry this time either..."

Motherhood is difficult for me. It is easy to be the mom of my individually wonderful kids, but the role itself daily requires more than I have to give. Being on call literally through every night with the utter exhaustion that can entail; acting as the chief arbitrator of every minor and major crisis; trying to find solutions to broken toys and lost friendships; the tedious nature of the daily menial tasks of procuring, preparing, administering food and cleaning up again.  Oh, and diapers.  And did I say potty training?  Potty training!!  Not to mention the battle scars the body boasts from the whole experience.  Of course, there's the stretch marks, spider veins, and stretched-out... ness as mementos of the actual pregnancies, but also the permanent shadows under eyes, the backaches, the migraines, the fallout from a hurried diet and scanty real exercise, the germs the kids share with their primary nurse.  The difficulty remembering what you used to do for recreation, when you were just yourself, and even remembering why the heck you came into this room... The lack of paychecks, promotions, and lunch breaks.  The world wondering why you are wasting your time and your talents at your perpetually busy and messy home.

Katie, you are saying: that's awfully dark.  But it's Lent, and it's time to have a look at our darkness.

Dads, I know you've been there too in the trenches of parenthood in your own vital ways, and also serve as anchors in your wives emotional storms (well, I've heard rumors anyway::), usually while maintaining a full-time job.  But my sister moms, where parenthood is the full-time job: yours are the Aerosoles I walk in, and I'm reflecting on our daily Lent.  A Lent punctuated by little Easters that make it endurable and at times, a delight you actually never want to forget. The moment of birth. The first time they sound out a written word. The times when the weather is crisp and clear and sunny, birds sing, and you are pushing them on swings, and they are singing together and laughing in adorable voices, and parenthood is just a slice of perfection.  Little Easters that hint at the life we are created for: the Happiness that is our birthright as children of God.  

 I find Easter a joy too big and intangible to digest in its august fullness.  Christmas is so much more approachable: God becoming a baby.  We parents know babies!  But death giving way to Life... that's even bigger.  Haven't experienced that one yet.  I think that's why we have these "little Easters," the pieces of perfection in the imperfection that is our harried lives. When I walk by the floral section in the grocery store and catch the heady scent of hyacinths, I'm suddenly at the Pascal Vigil, hearing the story of Creation. And there at Stop and Shop, I faintly sense the eternal that awaits me, the greater whole of the part I'm playing.  Just for a second.  Until my kid spies the cookie display (which is right beside the flowers); then my Lent continued towards another Resurrection.

Fellow moms: perhaps, like me, you often wonder what on earth you are doing with your degree, or at least why you need a brain that is capable of rational thoughts more elevated than mac and cheese when your life revolves around barbaric beings such as preschoolers.  I've come to the conclusion that I still need my degree because--even as I speak gibberish and my shirt is inside out--I remember having the ability to think, and that framed piece of paper in a box in the basement proves it.  And someday, my kids and I will have more and more advanced discussions on what life means besides juice and the mysteries of the potty: its necessity, its function, that it is not a personal water-play area, that it is not meant for toys or my makeup (!), that it cannot flush you, dear. 

For Lent, besides truffles and ketchup and gluten, let us give up fear: the nagging fear that we'll mess this parenting thing up, the empty fear that our quiet lives of constant little sacrifices don't matter.  Let us give up judging each other's methods and motives, and the self-doubt that drives such a useless action.  Let us uphold one another in prayer as we all try to become closer to the parents and people God created us to be.  And let's give up comparing ourselves to others who seem more successful, or more organized, or more patient, or more creative, or more holy than ourselves because--when it comes to your kids--no one compares to you.  Let us remember that we are doing, very literally, a good job. -TLC

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.... In the morning, fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days."  Psalm 90:12,14


  1. This is so true. I was just telling my husband the other day, that I don't know what to give up for Lent because I feel like I already gave up everything. I love the way you described it as Lent with little Easters..that is a beautiful description.

  2. Rock on, Katie -- you use your degree every day of your life, every moment. Your command of the English tongue, to say nothing of your razor-sharp penetrating theological perspective, is a gift your children will never outgrow, and now it enriches our lives as well -- your degree has gone global, babe.