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, May 4, 2014

Like My Boy

Jeff and I were in the kitchen this evening when we heard a basement door open.  The kids had been in bed for a bit, and I heard the spleepy voice of my six-year-old calling me from the basement, muttering something.  I sped to the basement, fearing that maybe he was sick (isn't that always the first thing that pops into your mind when a child awakes in the night?) Then in fact, he told me the real problem.  "I think I need someone to lay with me for a bit until I fall asleep," he said. "I'm a little bit scared."

I've been in his shoes.  I've been a little bit scared and a lot scared about many things in my lifetime.  Sometimes it's irrational things, things that you know you shouldn't be afraid of and yet you just can't shake that feeling (like what it feels like when Jeff works a night shift, and when I'm most thankful that I have a dog or I'm certain I wouldn't sleep a wink!)  Sometimes it's very real things - why am I so mean to my kids?  Why do I yell so much?  Will they grow to resent me?  Will they be able to talk to me?  Sometimes it's the fear of things that have not yet happened - will they get hurt?  Will we suffer?  Fear can be paralyzing.  Fear is very real.

I sat down with my boy and got him to tell me about his fear. He had seen a preview for a video game earlier in the day.  I forget what it's called, but he watched it with his Dad and his brothers, and it was for a game where a hand grows out of your head and you fight people with that hand, which also controls your brain. Sounds like something one of my older boys could have dreamed up on their own, straight from the mind of a little boy!  But for this guy, it was unsettling.  I sympathized.  I remember watching so many things on TV when I was young that really freaked me out, stuff that maybe kids shouldn't watch (paranormal activity shows, Unsolved Mysteries, alien abduction stories...I loved them, but I payed for it!)  Thinking it best not to share the details of what scared me when I was younger (lest I give him something new to freak out about), I told him that I watched a show about make-believe things, kind of like Monsters Inc., which we had recently watched as a family.  I said, "Now can you imagine watching Monsters Inc, and then going to bed and being afraid to sleep because you thought monsters would come into your room?" He thought that was funny.  "That's what I was like. I knew it was just a show, but it scared me and I couldn't get it out of my head.  So I know what it feels like to watch something and then be afraid of it, but what you saw on that game was make-believe, just like the monsters in Monsters, Inc.  Just like Mickey Mouse, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and'd never be afraid of those guys coming into your room at night, would you?"  He laughed.

Still sometimes even when you know you shouldn't be afraid you are, so I didn't want to leave it there.  One of the best coping mechanisms my Mom ever taught me is to say the Our Father over and over when I'm afraid.  She said wisely that there is power in the name of the Lord, and that He will not deny us when we cry out to Him, that He alone has power over our fear, and will comfort us.  To this day this gets me through my most fearful moments.  It has helped me birth all of my children.  It helped me to get through umbilical hernia surgery awake last summer, so I would not need general (only local) anesthesia or drugs, and could nurse my six-month-old baby the same day.  It helped me in the fall when the days were short and the sunrise was approaching, and my oldest boy and his friend were nowhere to be found (they had taken off without permission, and we spent a good half hour searching for them). So I encouraged my son to do the same.  I told him that his Nana taught me, and now I was going to teach him.  I took him back to bed and tucked him in, and led a quick prayer asking Jesus to help him not to be afraid, because He loves him so much.  Then we prayed the Our Father together.  My boy's face just beamed and he said, "something's different, I'm not afraid anymore!  Actually, I feel silly for being afraid now."

So I told him it's not silly to be afraid, that everyone is afraid sometimes, and then I told him that it was amazing that God just did that for him.  I told him God loves him so much that He came to his help when he called, and that what he was feeling was God's love for him.  Mommy and Daddy can't do that, we can't take away your fear - only God can.  And he just lit right up.  I encouraged him to say a quiet prayer of thanksgiving and left him for the evening, so touched by the way my boy had just had such a concrete experience of the Lord, something that he can articulate and he knows - I needed help and God was there. It was beautiful!

Lately my biggest struggle has been in the daily chaos with the kids, specifically that I am impatient and snappy, and often mean in the way I respond to them.  I internalize everything, so the things they struggle with (school, trying to sort out disagreements, wanting things they can't have) instead of being opportunities to teach and help them, end up being things that keep me from what I need to be doing. I lament, I whine, I complain.  I ask the kids to explain things they can't (Why, three-year-old, do you cry all the time?)  During Lent the Lord really convicted me that I need to have a major conversion in this area of my life.  The scripture where Jesus gives us the new commandment to love one another "as I have loved you," hits straight to the heart, because I know I don't.  Of course I love my children, of course I would do anything for them.  But in the daily, little things I fail miserably at showing it.  Never once in scripture do we read about Jesus snapping at the beggars who are seeking Him out.  And yet, this is how I am far too often with my little ones.

I've been reading the book, My Sisters, The Saints, and in the second chapter the author brings us into St. Thérèse's world.  The author says, "Thérèse's little way was not about telling herself or God that such irritations didn't bother her or faking feelings she didn't have. Her sensitive nature was precisely what made her acts of kindness and patience a sacrifice," and I've been trying to keep that before me. And yet, as is often the way, when the Lord makes us aware of an area we need to grow in, He provides so many more opportunities to grow.  

Today I have fared miserably on this front.  Not an hour before my boy came upstairs, I was frustratingly putting his three-year-old angst-ridden brother to bed.  A boy I had been so frustrated with all day, who had sat on me all the way through Mass with all of his 40 lbs squirming, and poking, and bumping, pulling my dress up over my knees, hurling himself off of one side of me, then the other, and screaming bloody murder when his father intervened to relieve me.  This same boy who had awakened me first thing in the morning to "snuggle", which apparently to a busy three-year-old boy means roll over, and over, and over, and try to steal Mom's blankets and kick her in the back as many times as you can. This same boy who also, four hours earlier (at 2:30 am) woke screaming of a headache and asking for Tylenol.  Yep, I'd had it.  So when bedtime rolled around, and he started wailing because he didn't want to go to bed, I thought, "Oh no you didn't!" I managed to salvage his bedtime and tuck him in peacefully, but not without a sizeable tantrum of my own first.  

This is the state I was in, one of complete and utter failure, when my six-year-old turned to me with his problem.  And I realized what a grace it is to see yourself through the eyes of a child.  The contact with God that had somehow eluded me through each of my trials all day was crystal clear as I talked him through his problems.  And the feeling that flooded him as he accepted God's help in his life flooded me as well.  I need God, every bit as much as my boy does.  But my boy is better at articulating his need.  "I need someone to lay down with me for a bit, so I can fall asleep."  Of course he does.  But he doesn't need me, he needs God.  And like him, I need someone to lay down with me, so that I can find rest in the midst of my inner turmoil.  To wrap me in their arms, and tell me it's okay, to talk me through my worst fears of failing as a mother.  And God is just as ready to flood me with His presence as he is my boy - what I need to learn, is how to ask like he does.

1 comment :

  1. It's amazing the clarity that can come in the middle of the night :) I have a 12 month old (and one on the way) and I love the peacefulness of the mid-night wake up. Time to pray and time to cherish those sweet snuggles.