A Short Christmas Story

William, my big baby boy, is growing up, even though he doesn’t want to.  He’ll be 13 in March, he’s almost as tall as I am, he weighs 140 lbs., and he started middle school this year. [edit: he’s now a 16 year old high school sophomore, 6 ft., and about 220 lbs.!]
baby william
He’s not a fan of school, William.  He’s had some struggles, and only returned to formal schooling last year after spending several grades being taught at home.   Making friends with other kids is not his strong point.  And middle school is a particularly vicious place, where bullying is a favorite sport.
This one kid has been a thorn in William’s side most of the year.  The name-calling got so out of hand that both John and I spoke to the boy ourselves after school as well as alerting the principal.  And things improved.  But while he has turned it down a notch, this boy cannot seem to stay away from William.  It’s more irritation than bullying, in my opinion–this boy is much smaller and William is not intimidated, just annoyed.
At first William would come home and complain about how much he “hated” the boy and what “a jerk” he was.  But lately that’s changed.  He still complains, but he also talks about how “sad” and “pathetic” the boy is, how he never does any schoolwork, how he just lays his head down on his desk, how none of the teachers seem to like him much.  He says, “I wonder what his life is like?” and asks me, “Why do you think he acts this way?  What is the matter with him?”  He says he wants to be angry with him but he can’t help feeling sorry for him.
William and Mace
William loves to have conversations in the car on the short drive to school in the morning, and today he introduced the topic.  “What do you think,” he asked me, “Jesus would say about the way we celebrate His birthday?”  We both agreed that Jesus would be in favor of presents, although not materialism.  But that most of all he would like us to show love, especially to those most in need of it.    William recalled the Golden Rule, and then I reminded him about turning the other cheek and loving your enemies.  I suggested–only half serious, really–that he should say Merry Christmas to anyone who bothered him today.
But when William  got in the car this afternoon, he said that on the way out of school he went right up to the boy who has been bothering him, gave him a hug and wished him Merry Christmas.  A few minutes later, he said, the boy walked down to where William was waiting for me and said, “I can’t believe I am saying this, but Merry Christmas to you!” 🙂
William gazing
 

I Fell off the Wagon . . .

The NaBloPoMo wagon, that is.  But, y’all, this week has been brutal.
First there was the all-nighter.  Jake got his paper done.  Emily bagged on us around 3 a.m.  I stayed up and up and up.  For those of you who have heard me rant about helicopter parenting, all I can say is that sometimes even big kids need their mothers, and Jake needed me that night.
Furthermore, any of you who do legal work will no doubt cringe when I mention that I also had discovery requests to fulfill the following day.  So I was working on that the following morning while continuing to help Jake with the paper.  I did not get to finally collapse until close to 4 p.m.  I slept for 17 hours.
This blissful unconsciousness put a serious dent into Thanksgiving prep time, however.  Normally I would have at least shopped for the food on Tuesday.  But that had to wait until Wednesday and I did not get down to serious cooking business until close to 7 p.m.  Brining the bird, cooking the giblets, and preparing the sweet potatoes and the mashed potatoes took until about 2 a.m.  Six hours later I was back up to cover the turkey in bacon and get it into the oven.  Then I moved onto the pies, and in between those major tasks handled all the little details that those of you who have hosted 18 people or so more Thanksgiving dinner won’t need me to explain.
2013-11-28 09.17.242013-11-28 15.29.502013-11-28 15.30.36
The fruits of all this labor were delicious, and as they say, a good time was had by all.  But after they all went home, it was back at it for me to clean up until around eleven (well worth it to come downstairs this morning to a clean kitchen instead of a mess).  Whenever I made the mistake of sitting down for a rest I wasn’t sure I could get back up again!  I finally treated myself to a long-anticipated soak in the spa tub and I thought I might just have to spend the night in there.
Mark my words, y’all:  I am NOT doing this again next year!  Next year you are going to be reading a post about how we went to Mass and then next door to the Crown Plaza for their Thanksgiving buffet.  You heard it here first.

All-Nighters

I may have mentioned a time or two that I was an English major.  So that meant I wrote lots and lots of papers in college.  And college being what it is, I rarely wrote any of them until the night before they were due.
I write really fast, so usually that wasn’t so painful.  My senior year I took four English classes at once.  By some evil twist of fate, my Southern Fiction and my Catholic Fiction class required four papers each that were always due on the same day.  Routinely I would start writing these papers around nine p.m. the night before the due date, and I’d be done by midnight.  This drove my roommate, who was in one of the classes with me and who was a much more painstaking writer, crazy.  She’d still be working on the first draft of her one paper and I would be all done.
If this sounds like bragging, it’s not meant that way.  Writing fast without the need for much revision is just a gift I have and I can’t claim any credit for it.  It’s a good gift for an English major–and a blogger!–to have.
Now these are five page papers I’m talking about.  When the assignment was longer, I did try to start sooner.  The problem with college (and now with life) is that things aren’t neatly ordered and often responsibilities fall on top of one another.  It was a mantra of mine in college to say “It has to get done so it will get done.”  And I would make myself do the most urgent thing first and then move on the the next.
So there were a few times when I waited too long to start a longer paper.  When I had so much to do in a given week that I just couldn’t get a head start.  When I started a ten-page paper at midnight (a paper that had to be written in longhand and then had to be TYPED ON A TYPEWRITER).  And that meant an all-nighter.
I remember one particular time, staying up all night writing and typing until dawn and then turning in the paper the following morning.  I was writing about Gulliver’s Travels, and I was so sleepy that I kept spelling the horse-people’s name a different way every time I mentioned it.  I won’t even try to remember how to spell it now, although it would be easy because Google.  I attached an apologetic note to my paper explaining that I was exhausted and the letters just kept running together before my eyes!
When I was a little girl about ten years old my mother and I stayed up all night one night to watch the sun rise in the morning, just for fun.  She made me sweet coffee with lots of milk and we stayed up and talked all night.  It was an adventure.  In high school I sometimes stayed up all night talking with friends.  Then there were those college all-nighters.  I’ve stayed up all night laboring with four babies.  But it’s been a long time since I can remember staying up all night on purpose, particularly pulling the kind of all-nighter that is followed by a  full day of responsibilities with no opportunity for sleep until late in the following day.
But guess what?  Jake has waited until the last minute to write his Western Civilization paper, a paper with such ridiculous parameters that you wouldn’t believe them if I read them to you.  And Jake does NOT write fast.  He is going to need a lot of moral support to finish this paper and Emily and I are providing it.  It looks like we will be up all night tonight.  I hope I still have it in me.

Not a Chip off THIS Block!

John and I were both well-behaved children, responsible, excelling in school without parental prompting, never giving our parents worry or trouble.
That’s why I think Karma is bullshit.
No, seriously, my kids aren’t that bad.   But they aren’t carbon copies of me and John either, which I guess is what I was maybe expecting.
I see this all the time in a multitude of ways, and I thought about it again last week at Lorelei’s 9th birthday party.
Lorelei had two parties:  a fashion party (her idea) with her school friends, consisting of manicures and makeovers courtesy of her big sister, and then decapitating and beating a pinata to death with a croquet mallet, followed by a family party in the evening.  I don’t remember my 9th birthday particularly, but I know it would have been a family affair, where we gathered with extended family around the kitchen table to sing and open presents.
Now I can tell you exactly what nine-year-old me would have asked for:  Books, Barbies, and Breyer horses.
Lorelei asked for stuffed animals, stuffed animals, and stuffed animals.  Lorelei has an Amazon Wish List, and roughly 95% of its SEVEN (!!) pages consists of stuffed animals.
Y’all, I had maybe two or three stuffed animals that I cared about even marginally as a child.  We got new bunnies for Easter each year, which I’d carry around for a few days, and then forget about.

Me with the ONE stuffed animal I saved until adulthood.
Me with the ONE stuffed animal I saved until adulthood.

When people started giving our kids stuffed animals pre-birth, I turned up my nose.  They’ll never play with those, I thought.  How boring and unimaginative, I thought.  What a waste of space, I thought.
By the time we had three kids, we had hundreds (I’m not sure that’s an exaggeration) of stuffed animals.  So many that I hung three animal hammocks in the corners of the bedrooms to corral them all.
But those infuriating children kept EMPTYING THE HAMMOCKS.  Yes, that’s right–they WANTED TO PLAY with the animals!
My kids named their stuffed animals, slept with them, carried them around with them everywhere.  Jake and Emily STILL expect the Easter Bunny to bring a stuffed bunny along with their baskets.
And Lorelei and William have taken this to even greater heights.  They don’t have as many animals but those they have are special, not just random gifts but ones they put on wish lists and were delighted to receive.  From “the ostrich from hell whose name is Blood” (I swear William once announced this to a random man in Shoney’s) to a horrifying stuffed possum to an actual stuffed FACEHUGGER, William cherishes his collection and keeps them arranged on his top bunk.
Lorelei carries hers around and talks to them as though they were real.  She dresses them up and gives them personalities for her make-believe games.  And naturally, she sleeps with them.  If I’m counting right, she received eight this year.
Stuffed giraffe she received from Aunt Betsy and Uncle Andy this year
Stuffed giraffe she received from Aunt Betsy and Uncle Andy this year

THANK YOU to the school friends who brought books.  I knew she’d like them even though she wouldn’t think to ask for them!

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

Today I watched my first Notre Dame football game as the parent of a student. After all, I’m “part of the Notre Dame family now,” (as we were reminded MANY times during last weekend’s orientation events).

Teddy's view from the student section today
Teddy’s view from the student section today

(Fortunately, the Notre Dame game was at 3:30 and the University of Tennessee game didn’t start until 6:00. My next door neighbor, a Notre Dame alumna, couldn’t understand why there would be any conflict for me if they aired at the same time! But I digress.)
I’ve grown up hearing about Notre Dame, which was always presented as the pinnacle for a Catholic student, and at one point I assumed I would go there. Then I read the Barron’s Guide which stated that there was nothing to do there in the dead of winter but stay on campus and drink beer. [edit: I am told this is accurate.] That probably sounds attractive to many high school students, but I was turned off and did not even apply.
Of course, now I’ve seen the place, and realize that as big and wonderful as the campus is, whether there is anything to do in South Bend is immaterial. I don’t have any regrets because I loved Georgetown, but I am very excited for Teddy and the adventures he is going to have.
The mystique surrounding Notre Dame is unbelievable. I don’t think there is anywhere I could have announced that Teddy had chosen that would have incited a more enthusiastic response. I had not realized myself until visiting the place just how attending a Catholic high school inculcates you with a familiarity with and reverence for the place. Teddy played high school football for the Knoxville Catholic Irish (and just last weekend, KCHS played the Chattanooga Notre Dame High School’s Irish!). The Notre Dame leprechaun was painted in the middle of the old Catholic High’s floor. Teddy wore gold and blue for most of his football career. We played the Notre Dame fight song at games when I was in high school. All the sports memorabilia that I saw at Notre Dame’s Joyce Center at the Purcell Pavilion looked eerily familiar. I told Teddy that all his high school sporting attire and t-shirts are going to fit right in (a good thing, too, since that’s most of his wardrobe).
ND purcell center detail 2
Notre Dame sets out to cultivate that mystique and to build loyalty from the moment you arrive with your kid. Once we were allowed on campus and directed to the back entrance to Teddy’s hall (St. Edward’s, the oldest one, built in 1882), we were met by an enthusiastic bunch of identically-dressed, cheering young men who surrounded our car, washed our windshield, and whisked Teddy and all his belongings upstairs in two minutes or less.
ND St. Edwards 3
As the weekend went on, we were fed every meal (for free!) in the campus dining halls (one of which features a fireplace big enough to roast a cow in and a mural of the Last Supper on the wall), offered the opportunity to watch Rudy (we were too tired), given ample time to walk around campus to absorb the iconic atmosphere, and welcomed officially via orientation events that went on until Sunday afternoon.
Saturday morning we were invited to meet with the rector and the rest of the residence hall staff in the hall chapel. Yes, EVERY hall has its own chapel and daily Mass at 10 p.m. I’m told that it’s really something to walk around campus on Sunday evenings and hearing the singing coming out of each hall. I’m not sure what I had envisioned when I pictured a hall chapel, but it wasn’t this.
ND Chapel Altar
St. Edward (King Edward, the Confessor)
St. Edward (King Edward, the Confessor)

We were welcomed, we were instructed, we were reassured about the safety and welfare of our sons. Later in the afternoon we attended a welcome at the Purcell Center for the freshman and then a special session for parents while students were meeting their first year advisers. That was the first time we heard “You are part of the Notre Dame family now” but it wasn’t the last. We heard from the President of the University, the Dean of First Year Studies, and others, before adjourning to explore the many course offerings in the different academic buildings–making John and me wish we could go back to school and major in more subjects!
We had plenty of time for exploration while Teddy was busy setting up his room and doing his own thing. We spent hours in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We walked around one of the two lakes. We visited the grotto. Teddy was only with us part of the time but he was doing his own exploring and said that his feet hurt. Seriously, how even an in-shape young person can handle all the walking necessary in that enormous place (no cars, y’all!) is beyond me.
Basilica interior
Basilica interior

View across the lake
View across the lake

grotto
grotto

On our last morning we went to the Purcell Pavilion again for a Mass celebrated by the President of the University. (Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, by the way, was very much in evidence throughout the entire weekend.) Mass was followed by a box lunch in our seats, during which Teddy joined us so that we could experience the last event together.
This was “The Spirit of Notre Dame,” and there was no doubt that it had been carefully orchestrated to make us feel part of that “Notre Dame family” and to send us off on a high note. It featured words of welcome from the Mayor of South Bend, the athletic director, the football coach, and the women’s basketball coach, followed by musical performances from the all-male Glee Club, a mixed ensemble, and the Notre Dame Band. Notre Dame has a lot of traditional songs apparently, and we heard them all. We sang the Alma Mater, and the whole thing culminated with “the moment we’d all been waiting for” (seriously, they said that, and by then it was pretty much true): the Notre Dame Fight Song.
I had never visited Notre Dame before and did not know what to expect, but to say I was impressed by the program and the place is to understate my reaction. I am very excited for Teddy, and I can’t wait to go back and visit again.
ND Golden Dome

Letting Go

“Is there anything to eat?”
I think that’s maybe what I’ll miss the most–my hungry boy saying those words to me, in person or on the phone, usually multiple times on any given day.  I almost cried this weekend watching him fight his way through the mob in the cafeteria, trying to fill up his plate with meat.  I wished he could just sit down somewhere and wait while I sauteed a pan of boneless chicken tenders, just the way he likes them.
We left him at Notre Dame yesterday, about to begin his big adventure.  I’m not worried about him.  I’ve been through four years of college with one kid already and I know we will all be okay.  But I also know that things will never be the same.  Teddy is in many ways a closed book to me, with his own thoughts and his own life that he does not share.  But he still relies on me for certain things, and that is going to change.
When he was little, when he needed me, he would say, “Hold mine hand.”  He didn’t want to hold hands for long, just for a few seconds, until he felt better.  He’s always been good at letting go.  But he let me hold his hand this weekend, and he didn’t make a fuss when I played with his beautiful, thick, too-long hair.   He hugged me good-bye, and when I cried he hugged me again.
I was the one to let go, to say good-bye and turn and walk away.  One morning you go to a hospital, and you leave with a baby.  Eighteen years later, you go to a college, and leave without one.
Maybe only a mother can look at a six foot 260-lb. man and see her baby.  But I do.
Teddy Pumpkin
ND goodbye 3
Letting Go
UPDATE: This morning Teddy left to begin his Senior year at Notre Dame. The good-byes definitely get easier, but the homecomings are no less exciting! As I expected when I wrote this, we have seen less and less of Teddy. He came home that first summer, but worked in Chicago the following summer and was in in Stamford, Connecticut this summer. His end-of-summer visit home this year was interrupted by trips to New York City and San Francisco for job interviews. But he still likes me to feed him when he is home, and I find he still depends on us for help with a few things, even as he heads toward becoming a full-fledged adult.
UPDATE PART II:  Teddy graduated in May 2017 and moved to San Francisco in July.   

Summer Is No Time for Homework

I’ve got some pretty strong opinions about education, after 17 years of having kids in school–and they’ve attended several, so I’ve got comparative data–plus my own years “in the system.”  I am very fond of proclaiming what would and would not happen in the hypothetical school that I would run.  (I need to write that post some time!) [edit: I did!]
And I’ve got a new item to add to that list:  there would be NO SUMMER HOMEWORK.
When I was little I remember a year when we were supposed to keep track of all the books we read over the summer, and draw a picture representing our favorite one.  I was a voracious reader and I also loved to draw; I ended up drawing a picture to go with every book I read (probably 30 or more) and had a great time doing it!  But this wasn’t a requirement; there wasn’t a list.   Forcing grade school kids to read certain books or kinds of books for a grade over the summer is a recent phenomenon in my experience.  I don’t remember my big kids having to do it, but Lorelei was issued a reading list even before kindergarten!
Still, reading is one thing.  Everyone should be reading anyway, right? But what no one should be doing in the summer time is MATH WORKSHEETS.
Yes, at the end of first grade Lorelei’s school announced that summer math workbooks would be available for purchase.  This was suggested, not required, and I ignored it, even when they went ahead and sent the book home anyway.  But this summer the books were issued and we were told that every child must complete them for a grade.
Lorelei is rule-driven and slightly compulsive when it comes to school, so she opened up her book on the first day of summer and did a few pages.  Quickly she became frustrated by questions she could not answer and by the thought of having to do work every day in the summer time.  So I told her she didn’t have to do it.  Yes, I did.
I hate homework, and y’all know that already.  And I’ve seen plenty of educational fads come and go (that’s another post I need to write).  I know why they want kids to do math in the summer.  It’s the same reason some push for year round school:  to keep kids from forgetting what they’ve learned.  But we all managed pretty well, didn’t we, even with the slightly longer summer breaks of yesteryear?  And if they think they are going to encourage a love of math by doing this, no.
School started, and I still wasn’t sure how we were going to handle the problem of the math book.  It ended up being due only days into the first week.  I originally had some idea that maybe I would just tell Lorelei all the answers and have her write them in, or that I would do them all myself in little girl handwriting.  Why rock the boat and make the teacher decide I’m crazy with the year just beginning?  Lorelei is the only child we’ve had at this school, and I’ve kept a low profile so far.  But I decided that would set a bad example for Lorelei and that I needed to stand up for my principles.
So I wrote her teacher an email.
I told him that the math book was stressful for Lorelei and for me.  I told him that I do not believe in summer homework.  That summer in my opinion is a time for decompressing and relaxing and playing and being a kid, and the stress of a looming assignment has no place in that.  I told him how I thought about doing the math myself and why I was being honest instead, and that I felt my decision was the right one for Lorelei and for our family.  I acknowledged that I knew Lorelei’s math grade would be affected, but that grades interest me only insofar as they provide evidence of learning anyway. And I asked him to make sure Lorelei did not feel he was upset with her.

I didn’t get a response for a whole day, and I was nervous every time I checked my email!  When he did respond, it was fine.  He thanked me for being honest and explained the reasons for summer math.  He said there would be plenty of time for Lorelei to improve her grade, and that of course his interaction with her and with me would not be affected.

I feel really good that I resisted the further intrusion of school into family life, that I was brave about standing up for my decision, and that it all turned out okay as I had assured Lorelei it would.

first day of third grade

 Update:  Lorelei received a C that first quarter in Math because she failed to turn in the summer homework.  She would have received an A otherwise.  In other words, she was penalized for failing to do homework meant to keep her from falling behind over the summer, EVEN THOUGH THE VERY FACT THAT SHE DID NOT NEED TO DO IT WAS PROVEN BY THE GRADE SHE EARNED.  And now we homeschool. 🙂
I’m sharing this oldie-but-goodie post at the #worthrevisit linkup today!  This weekly look back at old posts is hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.

 

The Blogger's Pit Stop

Pretty Pretty Princess

So it seems like everywhere I look lately I see articles about what not to say to your little girls.  Don’t mention that you have issues with your weight.  Don’t tell them they are pretty.  And for God’s sake, don’t call them Princess.
(Disclaimer:  I am not especially picking on the people who wrote the particular posts above.  Those are the first ones that show up in Google for each topic, that’s all.)
I’m pretty much on board with the first recommendation, if only because anorexia and bulimia are life-threatening, so let’s err on the side of caution.  I try not to talk about weight and diets, but rather about exercising and making healthy food choices.  I don’t limit what my kids eat, for the most part; I talk about listening to your body and not eating if you feel full.  I can report that when Lorelei hops on the scale she boasts about her weight gain and is proud to be heavier than her ten-year-old cousin.  We talk about how wonderful it is that she is so big and healthy and strong.  Does any of this matter?  Let me be honest:  at this point I’m not sure what matters.  When my big kids are about thirty I will ask them and let you know.
But I’m sorry, I’m not going to stop telling Lorelei that she’s pretty.  For one thing, she IS.  For another, soon enough she will lose her current conviction, which she totally believes, that she is the prettiest girl in the world.  There is nothing I can do to prevent her suffering adolescent pangs and a lifetime of worries over her appearance.  I don’t know ANY WOMAN who is free of these things.  So why shouldn’t I contribute to her body positive feelings now while she still believes me?  I remember REALLY BELIEVING that I was going to grow up and win the Miss America pageant.  It’s great to feel that confident, about your appearance or about anything.
Now, about calling little girls princesses . . . y’all, don’t you think we are TOTALLY overthinking this parenting thing?  Isn’t it freaking hard enough already? Maybe it’s because I’m a Southerner, and down here terms of endearment are sprinkled liberally throughout every encounter with friend and stranger alike, but I just cannot bring myself to believe that I am somehow limiting my daughter’s future options or affecting her self-worth if I address her as “my little princess” from time to time.
Here are some things I call Lorelei: pretty girl, precious angel, mommy’s baby, punkin, sweetheart, baby girl, cute girl, darlin’, sweetie pie, sugarplum, dumplin’, honey, and doll baby.  I really don’t think she is going to grow up to be a gourd, or remain a baby forever, and the sweetness (debatable) of her current demeanor is not influenced by these pet names in the least, I can assure you of that.  I remember my daddy referring to me and my sisters as “slick” and “slim.”  I wasn’t either then and I am neither now!
2013-07-10 17.01.00-2
What pet names DO convey is love.  And making kids feel loved will always be the most important role of a parent.

Drained

It’ no news to me that my stats for this thing are way, way down.  And it’s no wonder, given the irregularity and infrequency of posts here lately.
Now I knew I wouldn’t be able to post much during the craziness that was most of April and all of May.   But I kind of expected that once summer got here I would settle into a once daily schedule again.  What a wealth of things I would have to tell y’all about!
I got off to a nice start when John and I went to his Reunion, but then we came home.  I started a post to wind up the story and have yet to finish it!
So what’s my problem?  It just came to me.
I’m an introvert, and I am still exhausted from all that socializing.  I want and need to crawl into a hole and be alone for a few weeks.  But I still have six other people living in this house. (Will any of them ever leave?)  It is summer–Lorelei and William are home ALL DAY.  The big kids are in and out.  Day in and day out they want and need things from me, and one of those things that some of them require more than others is emotional energy.  Energy that I can never get enough alone time to fully replenish.
And to complicate matters, I am an introvert married to an extrovert.  An extreme extrovert who wants to be AROUND PEOPLE ALL THE TIME.  When I could just SCREAM AT THE THOUGHT OF HAVING TO TALK TO ONE MORE PERSON.
To John, April and May were heaven on earth.  All the commotion!  All the parties!  All the people! (I am getting tireder just thinking about it.)  Now that it’s all over, he’s depressed. (Guess who supplies the emotional energy to help him recover from depression?  Hello!)
And today I realized that although I am alone (I hope) when I write my blog, it’s still a social activity of sorts.  I have an audience whom I hope to engage with my writing.  So it does require some of the same kind of energy that I use for socializing, the kind of energy that I don’t have nearly enough of. (And if you will recall, I also work at home.  So there’s that.)
And now I am off to finish getting ready for the Father’s Day cookout.  It’s a small affair–only 14 of us.

Dear Mom in the Pew

Dear Mom in the Pew in Front of Me, the One with the Rowdy Kids:
No, I am not going to write about how much your kids disturb me during Mass.  I’m not going to suggest that you take them to the nursery (we don’t have one anyway!) or sit with them in the cry room or tag-team with your husband so that you don’t have to bring them at all.  I’m not going to criticize your parenting or tell you to feed that baby with a bottle when you are at church.  And I’m not thinking those things either.  Nor are most of the parents in this congregation.
It doesn’t bother me when your kids make noise.  They are just kids and an hour is a long time to be quiet and sit still.  When your three-year-old escapes you and runs up onto the altar, I’m just glad it’s not MY kid–because it just as well could have been.
What I want to tell you is Thank You.  Thank you for bringing your kids to church–both for them and for the rest of us.    Thank you for being open to having a large family.  Thank you for nursing that baby when she needs to be nursed; and you really don’t need to worry so much about that blanket–if I am staring, it’s only because of fond memories, not judgment.
If kids are not welcome in a Catholic church, there is something wrong with that church.  Jesus loves the little children.  That’s not just a song; it’s in the Bible too–and if you look up, right over your head, you’ll see that scene in a picture on the ceiling.  “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.”  That’s what He said, and what all of us should be saying.  So thank you you for your little visual reminders, these “least of these” that Jesus wants us to love as He did.
If during Easter Mass some cranky submarine Catholic turns around and tells you that your babbling toddler is “ruining it for everyone else,” (and yes, this once happened to me) I want you to know that if he thinks that he doesn’t know what “it” is and he is the one who is ruining things.  I’d rather be like the woman who after a Mass during which my children were even rowdier than usual turned around and patted my arm and said, “It gets better.”
Because 18 years ago–yesterday–I was sitting in that pew with three rowdy children aged four and under (actually not in THAT pew–you are already smarter than I am by choosing to sit up front where the kids can see instead of in the back so that you can make a quicker getaway!).  I have been here almost every Sunday for over 22 years, and for years on end I couldn’t listen to the homily, couldn’t even pray.  This six foot muscly fellow next to me, the one who read the first reading today–he was the babbling toddler who was ruining things for everyone else.  These two younger ones weren’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye, and now the youngest will make her First Communion next week.  They sit quietly.  They make the responses.  Some of them even sing.  And I listen and pray.  It goes so fast.  You think people are just making conversation when they say that until IT GOES SO FAST.

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Emily, Jake, and Teddy – Easter 1995

So ten years from now–tomorrow–there will be big quiet kids in your pew and you will be able to pray again.  No one will be staring at you except to admire your lovely family.  You will be the one smiling indulgently at the cute toddler playing peek-a-boo with you over the back of the pew.
Until then, remember, you are doing a wonderful job.

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This post was originally part of the Dear Mom Meme hosted by The Mom PledgeIts goal was to help spread positive mom-to-mom messages across the web!

I’m resharing this post today as part of #WorthRevisit Wednesday.  Check out the hosts’ blogs here and here for more great posts that are worth a second look!
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