As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Learning Together

My oldest son is almost eight.  I love him to pieces, and I can appreciate the unique role he has in being our first.  Every new challenge he faces is a first for us.  We're still figuring out how to parent him, and just when we think we have everything under control he gets a little older, and finds a new way to challenge us - and we have to go back to the drawing board.

We have been struggling lately with a budding attitude, which I'm sure many of you will read and have a good laugh over.  I realize that it's just the tip of the iceberg, and I'd better figure out how to handle it without letting it get to me really fast, or I'm in for many rough years ahead.  It is a stark contrast with the rest of the children in our household - the younger kids are either in the middle of a tantrum or they're over it and onto something new.  But Joseph is learning how to hang onto things, and when I would rather he just accept something (a "no, you can't do that now", a discipline, or whatever might be the object of his dismay) he is learning that he doesn't have to turn the page just because I want to.  In short, he's learning how to think for himself.  And using this newfound skill to test himself against me, to see how far I am willing to budge.  It is trying!

This evening at the beginning of our family rosary, he was in a mood.  He had been in one all day and I, being emotionally spent, had a short fuse.  When he decided to pound on the couch with his fist, I decided it was better to cut the rosary short and put the kids to bed than to loose my cool.  I sent Joseph to my room to wait for me, while I put everyone else to bed.  Then when I got back upstairs, I started to talk to him about his behaviour, and why it needed to change.

Something happened while I was talking with him, that I can only attribute to the grace of God.  I realized that, as much as I am learning how to parent him, he is only just learning too.  He has new thoughts and feelings coming up every day, and as he grows smarter he has so much more at his disposal for living life than he ever did before.  This is as new to him as it is to me, and we are in this together.

He needs to know this, and so I told him.  I asked him to be patient with me while I figure out how to be a Mom to an eight-year-old, and promised I would be patient with him while he learned how to be an eight-year-old himself.  He wanted to finish the rosary, so we did, and afterwards I prayed with him, thanking God for the gift that he is to me, and asking that he would give Joseph a grateful heart for the many good things that the has, and me a grateful heart for the beautiful little boy that he is.

We are all growing together.  Sometimes, there are growing pains.  But mostly, it's just beautiful.  And I can't think of anyone I would rather learn alongside with.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter With Kids

Before Jeff and I started having children, we knew that we wanted prayer to be a part of our everyday family life, and that we wanted to share our faith with them from a very young age.  We imagined that it would be seamless - that because we were living our faith, our kids would just naturally pick up on it.  What I didn't realize was how much of my faith was an interior life, and when you have kids you have to dig deep to bring that to the surface - and communicate it to them in a way that is meaningful.  And that can be quite daunting.

Our first few years of family life were almost completely devoid of family prayer, save for the occasional Our Father (and of course, weekly Mass).  I struggled with how to talk to my toddlers and preschoolers about who Jesus was, and why He was important.  I wanted it to be so much more for them than just words that they say, or rituals they follow.  But how do you explain that in a child's terms?

Turns out, it's not nearly as complicated as I thought. They are quite capable of understanding a faith that is shared on their terms, and lived in their own family.  But I discovered something extraordinary along the way - in taking the opportunity to talk with them and answer their questions, I was forced to think about my own faith in ways that I have not done, probably since the early days of its first stirrings within me.  All these things that I hold so deeply within me I have somehow pushed "off out there", but when the kids ask questions I have to go back to the beginning, on the most basic level.  And it awakens in me a desire and an excitement that I have not felt in a long time.  The excitement, I suppose, of a little child.

The kids making their way to the next station
This lent has been pretty much a write-off for me, spiritually.  I have not kept up with any of the extra prayer that I had set out to do, nor have I curbed any of the bad habits I set out to conquer.  This week, however, has been much different.  There is an outdoor way of the cross at our church two minutes from our house, and one afternoon while the baby was napping and my husband was home to stay with him, I took the rest of the kids over.  We printed off a children's version of the way of the cross, and just stopped at each station, talking about what happened to Jesus and what that must have felt like for him and the people around Him.  We also talked a lot about the ways in which we cause Jesus to suffer, and were thankful for all the suffering He endured for our sake.  I cannot tell you the last time I went through the way of the cross with such sincerity and devotion, and it was all under the direction of these beautiful little ones, who have a way of passing on a faith to me when all along I thought it was my job to pass it on to them.

I pray that the rest of this Easter season will be a blessing for everyone.  If you get a chance to talk to a little one in your life about it - do it!  Ask them questions, and listen to your answers.  You might be amazed at what the Lord opens up through the faith of a little child.

Pausing for reflection

Monday, April 2, 2012

Blooming Where We're Planted

We recently found out that we are expecting another baby.  Which is always happy news, but brings a special joy after our miscarriage in December.  We know all too well how fragile life can be, and don't take this blessing for granted one little bit!

That being said, expecting a new baby has a way of causing you to re-evaluate your life - mostly because you need to make accommodations for a new little one.  Someone who needs to fit into your lifestyle, your budget, and - maybe most importantly - your house!  Which in our case, will involve a certain amount of squeezing.

We live in a 1,600 square foot, four bedroom house.  Our three oldest boys share one bedroom, and our daughter is currently enjoying the benefits of being the only girl and having her own room.  Neither room is particularly big, and with the new baby coming in October we will need to vacate the nursery that our current baby (16 months) occupies.  He will temporarily share with his sister, until we have a more permanent idea of room configuration down the road (based on whether the new little one is a boy or a girl).

We are both fairly certain that as long as the Lord is willing to bless us with more children, we will joyfully welcome them.  I think we both embrace the possibility that this could be our last, but it also may not.  We are only 31 and still have many childbearing years ahead of us.  And neither of us want to stop having children.  And so, I have never really allowed myself to settle into this tiny little house.  For the last few years I have come to see this as simply a temporary home, drifting back and forth between the idea of buying a bigger house, or renovating this one.  I check the real estate market, draw up plans for an addition, and dream big.  The problem with those big dreams is that they cost big money.  Which we don't have.

Recently however, after news of the new little one set in, I came to a small conclusion.  A small conclusion that made a big difference in how I see my space in the world - in this little house.  We have a downstairs family room, that if need be could be walled off and turned into a fifth bedroom.  I am completely comfortable with the idea of our kids sharing rooms and have seen many good benefits from it, and except for an initial trial period when the boys were really young have found even having three in the same room is more than doable.  With one extra room I am certain that we could have more than enough space to grow in the future, if God so chooses to bless us.  It was an important realization for me - that we don't need something more in order to grow - that we are not "held back" by our circumstances.  We can grow and thrive right where we are, with everything we have, which is plenty to be happy.

Our neighbour was in the back yard chatting with my husband yesterday.  As Jeff started to share with him how difficult it is to decide what to do when your family is growing (sell, renovate, or keep things as they are) my neighbour's eyes grew wide.  He responded with, "nooooooo, you can't leave!" and it was nice to know that we're not the only ones happy with our decision.

And so for now, we stay and we grow.  We bloom where we are planted.  And we celebrate all that God has done and will continue to do for our little family.

Little Mazerolles in bloom