Update: In the original post, I neglected to mention some important information! This blog post is part of a link-up for faith, art and life. To find other blogs that are participating, logon to Twitter and search the Twitter hashtag #faithartlife. There are bound to be a lot of great posts, and I think you’ll be encouraged to discover new bloggers for whom faith is an intricate part of life and art.
My family and I go to a large church in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. I mean LARGE. And they’ve got great, dynamic, creative kids programming that all my children love being a part of.
But they don’t have Palm Sunday.
At least, they don’t have Palm Sunday the way I had it as a child.
Do you remember?
Remember finally getting to wear the special shoes your mom wouldn’t let you wear unless you were on a rug or carpeted area, even though they were so pretty with their little strap and tiny latch and shiny gold lining?
Remember the fancy dress you got to wear with the lace trim that made it extra-specially special? Maybe it had a petticoat or crinoline if you were really lucky? And you didn’t mind the buttons and how long you had to stand still while someone else buttoned them, as if you were doing them a favor by holding still for so long, rather than seeing what an act of love their buttoning was.
And remember the palm branches the kids all got to wave as they walked through the sanctuary?
“Hosanna, hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
You got to sing
and walk down the aisles
and be the center of attention
and wave your palm branch
and wave at your parents
and hit your neighbor in the eye with your palm branch,
then try to explain how it was an accident,
then get pushed away by the injured party,
then forget the self control you promised your mother you’d remember and push the one-eyed kid back, just a little bit,
then wave your palm branch vigorously to cover the rude faces you and the kids were now making at each other while standing on the platform in front of the entire congregation.
Afterwards, you’d get to bring your palm branch home, a small piece of greenery to get your through the rest of the Minnesota snowscape, which may or may not be gone by the time you want to look for your Easter basket seven days later. Nothin’ says spring like going on an Easter egg hunt in your parka and snow pants.
Remind me why my church doesn’t do Palm Sunday like we used to when I was little? Oh that’s right, because the grown-ups finally came to their senses.
Disclaimer: Even though it doesn’t sound like it in this post, I really do miss Palm Sunday for the kids. It was a great part of the rhythm of church life, and even though it was sometimes disorderly and had potential for chaos to break out at any moment, it was a time when the adults and children in the church got to share a moment together. And those moments are precious…even if they are messy.
Have you ever taken a long road trip? Gone a great distance on an airplane? Travelled to the grocery store with small children?
My husband and I once combined two of these activities (not the grocery store part, but the small children part and a long road trip) as a summer vacation. Why we deemed it a vacation rather than a crash course in anger management and patience building, I don’t know. We drove in a minivan from Minnesota to Wyoming with a three-month-old and a two- and four-year old. The baby was nursing. The carseat laws were enforced. It was madness.
When you combine all of this (roadtrip, children, mountain driving, long distances, road construction, unfamiliar sleeping conditions) it could have been a stress filled week. But looking back on it now, I don’t remember the whole thing being stressful. Am I using memory suppression in order to block out this traumatic experience? I don’t think so. I think it was just the way it was. One must accept a certain amount of craziness with three kids ages four and under.
When grandparents or people no longer “in the trenches” of parenting young children talk to those who are still in the thick of it, I think they go to two default positions: one is to romanticize those years as being leisurely time spent lolling in the grass, counting the leaves on four leaf clovers. The other is to demonize that time as being constantly harried, maxed out, never leaving the house, and handling disciplinary nightmares. Certainly there are moments of both, and sometimes immediately back to back, but I think the reality is somewhere in the middle.
If you’ve been a parent for any length of time, and have ventured out in public, you’ve probably been greeted by someone who holds one of the two extreme memory positions. There are those who shake their heads sympathetically and say, “Are you ready for school to start yet?” And there are those who get all quivery-lipped about the kids and dab their eyes while saying, “Cherish this time. It goes so fast.” Without fail, I run into the person who acts the exact opposite of what I feel at that moment. I’m friendly and make a brief comment about leaving a trail of baby socks or toys behind us so we can find our way out of the store, but rarely can I agree with them.
The reality is, life continues. You can’t stop doing all interactions with others once you have a child. You can’t pile an entire cupboard of dirty dishes into the sink while you stare in amazement at the little person who can now sit up for three minutes without falling onto the pillow you have placed behind her as a spotter. (I mean, you can, but eventually somebody has to make dinner around here, right?) The reality is, sometimes you just do what needs to be done and you can’t get caught up in how much work it is or how much patience it involves or how little you’ll actually get done in a one hour period if you bring the kids versus what you could get done in that same period WITHOUT the kids.
(You don’t get an hour without the kids? Well just wait. Once you do, you’ll be flabbergasted at all the things you can cram into 60 minutes.)
Keep pressing on, all you parents! Bust out the sunscreen and the bug spray. Don’t forget your water bottles. Live it up! Enjoy the children you have in your family, even in those moments when the only positive thing you can think about the baby is that she is a human gas decoy (go ahead, use the baby to disguise your own gas. Silently toot then make a comment about how gassy she is, she’ll never know). Even you who are at the point of looking back with astonishment that you made it through, you probably aren’t done being a parent, even now. You just get to be at a different stage of parenting, when it looks a lot more like mentoring or friendship (or heckling — it all depends on your strategy). If you abandon all outside relationships and activities, you might regret it later, either for your children or for yourself.
So take that vacation, even if when you get home you need another vacation just to recover. Luck favors the prepared, dahling, and vacation is for making memories, if only the memories you’ll have to laugh about later if it was a disaster. At least you will have the memories together. Hooray for summer!
(…and I don’t mean in super hero terms)
I once read an article about the life of a suffering woman and her young daughter in an impoverished country. The family had dirty water and barely enough to eat. The reporter have the daughter a piece of chocolate and then captured a poignant moment as the mother wiped an errant crumb from her daughter’s lip and put it in her own mouth. The take-away message emphasized the hardship the mother was facing, the difficulty of her life.
Did the reporter not realize that as mothers our children are, for many years, extensions of ourselves?
The chocolate crumb (which was something the daughter was lucky to even lay eyes on. If it was between me and my daughter and only one of us could have the chocolate, it would be no contest. I would win the crumb. She’s only four and I’m much bigger than she is.) on her daughter’s lip was really in that moment a crumb on the mother’s lip.
It is not until later when they no longer need our help, when they no longer need us to interpret their babble for strangers (and sometimes their own fathers), when they can tell us the sum of 135 and 24 that we become aware of their separateness. Or rather they become aware and we accept it, knowing it is an essential part of their development (thank you, Mr. Maslow).
But as they distinguish themselves from us, don’t we miss it — those un-self-conscious moments when they twirl our hair to comfort themselves, or when we can still carry them on a hip and we must reposition their hand because it rests on our breast? Our bodies were their bodies, at least for a time, and while we wanted a break (“Could everyone stop touching me for three minutes!?!”) from the demands on our bodies (while nursing how many times did you feel bovincial? — and is that a real word?), when we discover it has happened, it is a bittersweet moment. And if we did not physically birth the child, as is the case with so many mothers with the divine calling to adopt, there is still a physical shift, an invisible tether that leashed us to that child when we first held her, whether it be instant or by inches. Maybe that’s why certain people have lots of babies and huge families? because that dependant, needy phase can vanish just as you realize it is only a phase?
This connection is what those grannies must refer to when they tell the disheveled, sleep-deprived mother to savor the infant stage, toddler stage, cranky three-year-old stage, because “they grow up so fast.”
At that moment all we hope is that they WILL grow up fast.
But we can’t arrest time at a certain month or year. What the grannies mean is that after only a few looooong-feeling years, those dependent years will be ones we long for. Like an amputee feels a phantom limb, we will absent-mindedly do the baby bounce when we stand in line behind a fussy baby, or hurry to dig through our purse for a distraction in church when an impatient toddler squirms in the pew in front of us. Or quick snatch a piece of chocolate out of a preschooler’s hand, because, of course, that’s not a healthy choice…for a preschooler.
But maybe the grannies are right and we do need to be present and appreciative in the years when we feel like we’re under water in a sea of diapers, baby food, naps and very very short grumpy people. After a few more years they may still be grumpy, but they’ll no longer be short. 🙂
It is cool this morning, the air is dry, and there is a subtle scent that has me thinking that even if the calendar didn’t say it was the middle of August, I would still know that autumn is on the way. My sweetie has been saying it is the end of summer since July, though, so I’ve been resisting and trying to be the summer optimist.
My family is in for a serious reality check this fall. Over the past year, we’ve had very few things regularly scheduled in our lives. I homeschooled my oldest son, my middle son did a few days of preschool, and our youngest, our daughter, just hung out and did whatever the rest of us did. Even this summer, my husband and I chose not to sign up the kids for many activities, for a few different reasons: we wanted to be free to spend time at the family cabin, we were just getting settled into a new house and town, we don’t want to be the parents that schedule every waking moment for our kids…and we missed most of the deadlines in the spring!
A few weeks ago, however, I wished we had more structured outlets for the kids. There was one five day period when they were all crabby and difficult, which made me feel crabby and irritated. I realized then that there is a certain amount of schedule that helps define a summer, helps punctuate it and make it flow. Of course families who sign up their kids for multiple clubs or sports also have times when their kids are ornery too, but they have more times when they don’t have to hear it since their kids are off doing something else with somebody else. There’ve been times when I wished for that this summer, if I’m totally honest. But shhhh, ’cause I’m not supposed to say that out loud.
As we get ready to start life with a 2nd grader and kindergartener (the preschooler hasn’t gone anywhere, but we aren’t sure if she’ll attend a program or not), we want to be purposeful about which activities we enroll the kids in. There are so many things available for kids to do these days, and they’d probably have a great time in any number of them. But we’re trying to look towards the future, and not get ourselves committed to something we’ll regret later.
Let’s take sports, for instance. What if we sign up our oldest for hockey this winter? Do I ever want to see my baby get checked up against the boards by a boy twice his size? That sounds like a really stupid idea! But what if he tries it and likes it? I had a brother who played hockey growing up, and I’m familiar with the sharp smell of indoor ice rinks and the smell of stinky hockey equipment cluttering up the laundry room. And football doesn’t seem much better, without even bringing up the expense of the required equipment.
It’s not only sports that we’re thinking about. In an attempt to raise well-rounded children, we also want them to be involved in music (a high priority for me, especially). Do we automatically start them on piano? Then I’ll have to draw them a keyboard on the dining room table, ’cause we don’t have a piano, nor do we intend to purchase one. (Do they have indestructible, outdoor pianos?) Then there’s the mid-week church activities, not to mention all the after-school clubs they offer these days. We could already choose between chess, Legos, science, cooking, art, and even more “enrichment” activities.
How does one choose? That’s where you come in, Dear Reader. I have my own ideas, but I’d love to hear your words of wisdom, as my family enters the world of elementary school schedules, and grooming my children to take over the world. How do you pick between “the better” and “the best” for your family? Post your comment so I can come back and blame you when I’m stressed out from driving my kids all over the place! Ha! I’ll need somebody to be the scapegoat.