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, November 10, 2013

Peace be with you

I had the most uncanny experience on Friday.  I was at noon Mass with all of my kids and they were - good.  Like, stellar.  Complete, out of worldly, what-have-you-done-with-my-kids good.  The grace was tangible, and the whole time I was sitting there fully aware that this was nothing of my own doing.  That the Lord sometimes gives you these little moments of peace to encourage you, to affirm you that the work you are doing is worth it, that this is possible, and to keep going.

Let me back up a little bit.  I belong to a wonderful Catholic homeschooling group who has a co-op meeting every second week.  We begin our meeting by attending noon Mass, which the kids at the small adjacent Catholic school also attend.  There are six homeschooling families (including mine), about sixty kids from the school, and other parishioners who fill the church on those days, and of all of the little people in the church, mine are the only ones who ever make noise. The other Moms and school teachers meet me at the back of the church to sympathize, because they've all been there, and I take so much comfort in their experience because I see them now, and I know that it is worth it.  But still, every week I leave thinking, "Someday I won't be the noisiest family at Mass."  This week, I wasn't.  And it felt so good.

I have the most trouble with my babies.  When I'm alone with the kids, I need to wear the youngest, one-year-old, in a baby carrier, to keep my hands free for the toddler, who is almost three. The baby is okay so long as she doesn't get an inkling to get moving, but when she starts to wriggle and realizes she can't go anywhere, she's done for it. And my toddler is going through a "baby" phase.  Kids (at least the ones in my family) don't tend to get jealous of new babies - the jealousy seems to set in when the new baby is around one.  And that's exactly where we're at.  He always wants up, and protests loudly and without reservation when I refuse.  He throws himself all over me and the baby, oblivious to the fact that she is on me, pulling and clawing to get what he wants.  He throws himself down on the pew or worse, onto the floor, all the while screaming like he's being tortured.  Have you ever tried to squeeze yourself down underneath a church pew with a twenty-pound baby strapped to the front of you (all while trying to be the least distraction possible?)  It's not easy!  Or he'll make a run for it.  I have to be on my toes with this guy, and it's mentally exhausting.  If all of this is going down at the same time my baby is fussy, it's all I can do not to self destruct.  So sometimes, Mass is frustrating.

Which is why the gift of last Friday was so badly needed and gratefully received.  As we approached the peace of Christ my toddler began to get fussy, but I felt like I had the grace I needed to handle it with dignity.  The encouragement of a good beginning to Mass helped me see that this is a good thing, and that my patience would maintain the family's peace, even if the toddler didn't stop throwing his tantrum. I went through a little book about the Mass with the kids a few years ago, one that explained on a child's level everything that we we do in the Mass, and I remember getting to the section on the sign of peace.  The book explained that the sign of peace was right before the Eucharist because we cannot receive Christ if we are angry with our brother.  We have to first make peace with our brother, and then come to Lord after reconciling with them.  That is so pertinent to family life!  How often by the time I reach this point in the Mass am I ready to pull my hair out!  And then I have to look at those little faces and instead of offering a disapproving look of discipline extend a gesture of peace?  Some days its harder than others, but that day, filled with the encouragement and grace that was abounding in our family, I looked right into my little boy's eyes and told him how good he was, and how much I loved him.  And his mood instantly changed.  While I couldn't pick him up I let him stand on the pew and hugged him close, and he was happy.  This is the wisdom of the Church.  Because that day I came to the Lord with gratitude, and peace resounding in my heart.

This Saturday we went to Mass as a family, and things were not so peaceful.  Supper time Masses are the worst kind for a family with little ones, and our toddler screamed the entire time.  But I was able to look at him with new eyes.  When I see his behaviour not as some act of disobedience towards me, but as a manifestation of emotions he can't control (it's supper time, it's dark, I've had a long day, and I want my Mommy and can't have her) then I get it. I can see his unformed humanity expressing itself in that frustration. Those cries are not meant to get back at me, they are an expression of his confusion at what is going on.  And so, with my arms still full of baby (who would not go to anyone else because she also was sleepy and hungry), I tugged my little guy close. I tried not to loose my cool, to tune out thoughts of how much people may have been disturbed by his screaming.  I comforted and soothed him. And when it came time for the sign of peace, I kissed his head, leaned into his ear, and told him how very dear he is to me.  I thought of myself, and how tender the Lord's love is for me when I am so often like a screaming toddler.  How the Lord's affirmation of love and my dignity even at my worst are so life changing for me.  And I knew this was the best thing I could give to my struggling little boy, to love him where he was at.  Not to make his behaviour be about me, but to let it be about him.

I struggle so much with three-years-old.  But on this day, I felt like I was starting to get it.  Like slowly, after four children before him, I am starting to get it.  And full of the peace of Christ, my boy and I approached the altar together to receive Jesus.  What a joy and a blessing the Mass is for family life.

It is so, so worth it to bring your kids, even the littlest ones to Mass.  Even when it's harder more often than it's peaceful, bring them anyway.  God is working, even when you can't see it.

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