We are going to a birthday party for our Godson; it will be his first, and an exciting time for family and friends. It is a time for us to rejoice in this little boy’s life, looking back at all the milestones, not just the little boy’s but the parents as well; and with today being the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary it will be interesting for his mom to view this first year through Mary’s own experience.
Susan Netter wrote in her Facebook posting yesterday of Mary “pondering all these things in her heart”, and how parenting is hard, and we as “modern moms” ponder many things in our hearts. The Gospel this morning certainly reveals that Mary was going through experiences that we have go through or will with our own children. We see a teen age Jesus acting as teen age children do: exploring and expressing his own understanding of who he was becoming. And as older moms know and have experienced that process can be difficult, fear riddled and angering, the beginning of the letting process that is nature but not always liked by moms: seeing our children grow up, form their own response to God’s calling, and leaving the nest.
Did Mary, as she was searching for Jesus, look back on her life raising Jesus and see his milestones from infant to then and did she wonder if those memories would be her last? Did she vacillate between anger at Jesus being gone to her own doubts and worries to hope that Jesus is OK?
When Mary and Joseph stood at the Temple door looking in I don’t think they knew what as going on. It’s clear from the Gospel they didn’t, Jesus had to tell them why he was there and what he was doing. For our Godson the future is open, and the path being made. Mom and Dad are helping to forge that path, but it is our Godson who will be walking it. Like Mary and Joseph each decision whether conscientiously made or not helped shape Jesus’ journey but not the only influence, just as is true for our own children. And just as true of Mary and Joseph prayer, hope, and thoughtful guidance will be the best thing for our children
I have a friend who posts wonderful posts on Facebook that are filed with gentle wisdom about love, parenting and life. Today she posted the following which just rang in my heart as a prefect modern understanding of today’s readings but most specifically the Responsorial Psalm:
Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 10
Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
Pretending that painful or negative feelings do not exist doesn’t keep relationships more intimate. It can even create inner distance when I act as if the intimate relationship is not strong enough to hold pain, anger or hate. Powerful feelings can be frightening, but denying their presence keeps me from deeper layers of self. When my intimate relationships are able to hold the powerful, paradoxical feelings of love and hate, anger and forgiveness, something deep within me can relax and let go. If they are not able to do this, I need to withdraw from the relationship in order to be myself.
I can hold angst.
In this era of self-understanding and conscious efforts at parenting, we learn we should not come down to our children’s level. That is, we should not be as hateful toward them as they are to us. Yet, if we seal ourselves off they are cheated and burdened by the illusion that anger and hatred are personally inappropriate. Therapists are like parents. When the therapist comes down to their level, both grow from it when the generation gap is reestablished.
I understand wanting to have control of your reproductive rights, and soon the arguments about how the Church refuses to let women do with their bodies what they want will begin, AGAIN, an argument that has little merit: Natural Family Planning comes to mind. But there is a little more to this, that needs to be looked at.
When I was a younger woman, college age, I was a feminist in the Gloria Steinem vane. This period of my life was what I will call my man hater period, you see I had been raped three times, stalked by a very distributed neighbour, whom I never met but he was sure we were a couple, and just felt as if I had a magnet on my body that said: “Come and get her!” At that time I would have been one of those in the picture to our left…holding up some sign declaring my womb off limits to anyone but me! And frankly there was some justification to my feeling abused by men…because I was! I was protecting the only asset that was truly mine…me; or at least that was my thought!
During this time I was also thinking that the Church didn’t have a place for me and only thought of me as a womb, and let’s be honest ladies that is very true for many denominations even now, so I was mad, very mad. It took a long time to let go of all that anger and still on rare occasion it will rear it’s ugly head.
Now we get into the wonderful world of different perceptions, attitudes and values. How many of these women have history’s like mine in the picture? How many just don’t believe will never believe that its a baby. How many have been made to feel less that human by a pastor, rabbi, priest that talked to them as if they were just a walking womb?
My mind was changed the moment I became a mother, the moment I knew I was pregnant. I was surprised, overwhelmed and very upset; it wasn’t in my plans; but could I do that this little person? No, I couldn’t. This experience was life changing in a very deep sense for me. A true shift in consciousness. I was suddenly conscious of someone else’s presence in ME. It was as if this unknown child, this was 28 years ago before ultrasound became the rage, before it was common to know who was coming into the world, wanted to be here, needed to be here, the only thing I knew that there was someone in there; my womb was rented and I wasn’t going to evict.
This mind shift/soul shift, started 28 years ago, has taken many forms, but always toward the more positive. The more I began to realize that my life was mine, but now had a deeper commitment to it because of a child, I felt more in control of myself because now I had to think of more than just myself. I was truly a co-create with God! Now it took awhile to come to that realization and understanding of it’s power in my life; something I have much clearer vision on now that I am on the other side of mothering: mothering our adult children, mothering other younger moms on this journey, but still a revelation to true spiritual-emotional power.
Motherhood/mothering is a strong commitment to life, my life, my child(ren)’s life. It was a stronger understanding that now I was a mother; a mother that has journeyed through issues and attitudes about myself and my thoughts on motherhood. Motherhood is where I both lost and AM finding God. Motherhood is where I am finding myself, realize that I am a powerful spiritual person, that I am a Daughter of God, Priest, Prophet and Queen! Through mothering and the modeling that is inherent to it, I am working toward creating a healthier, stronger, wiser me…the me, the mother, God has called me to be; all those years ago..even though I didn’t understand it clearly…then.
More Mothering Articles
- Postpartum Doula Salle Webber Describes How to Best Support New Mothers and Ease Their Transition into Motherhood in Her Book, The Gentle Art of Newborn Family Care (prweb.com)
- Motherhood (patcegan.wordpress.com)
- Identity, Motherhood, and Why My Revolution Will Not Be Televised (blackbunchedmassmom.wordpress.com)
- My Womb Is Not A Football For You (youareasplendidbutterfly.com)
- Honest thoughts on motherhood (from an artist’s perspective) (beautifulhelloblog.com)
- A Womb With A View (candidpresence.wordpress.com)
I came across this on my Facebook timeline and thought immediately of the adage that the nuns used to tell us at Saint Camillus that when you sing you pray twice.
These mothers truly sing/pray their children into the world. That prayer follows the child all through his/her life even to death; the whole village will eventually know that child’s prayer, and by knowing that prayer they know the spirit of the child.
Here is a tribe in Africa where the birthdate of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind. And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him. And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it.
And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it
The Kairos experience was great one for our twinnie girls, but like all things it does not last. We as human beings can only retain that euphoria before we come back to earth with a thud. And last night that is what happened.
The girls were very close as young children but as they grew older their personalities and coping measures truly showed just how different the girls were, more like oil and water than twin sisters.
Our eldest twin has trouble with deep emotions and is a perfectionist, while her twin has a great deal of social unawareness and when pushed into a corner emotionally will shut down completely and refuses to speak. During Kairos the girls made a promise to “live out the fourth” by trying to become “sisters” again and work on their relationship…something we have been trying to do for years. :) I have no idea if it both were having bad days or our youngest just wanted to get under our eldest’s skin but last night was a doozy. Remotes went flying, words were said, yelling was heard, and it left a hole in my heart.
When I became a mom I swore I would not be like my mother, I wanted to be prefect for my kids, boy there is a goal for you! No one can be prefect for their kids and we all make mistakes, sometimes huge ones, but that is the nature of being human: making mistakes. Our eldest twin has such trouble with powerful emotions and people not doing what she wants that she resorts to self harm, because of a commitment to herself and the work we have done she tries very hard not to rely on that coping mechanism; she will come down to talk or dance in her room, paint her nails, talk to friends on the phone…anything to not do her self harm.
Last night she did all of that, and I couldn’t be prouder, but unlike her dad who knows how to talk to her, really he studied her, learned her emotional verbal and facial triggers and puts his years of managerial experience to bare, (much of what my hubby does is so similar to what her therapist does its uncanny), that he is the best sounding broad for our eldest girl. In the beginning I was not her best listener, I showed emotion, which was something I always thought the children should see…no, no, no,no; the kids aren’t interested in your emotions they want strength..mybad. As our talk progressed I became the listener she needed: someone who our eldest twinnie felt safe blowing off steam and just let her vent. She wasn’t looking for someone to fix it, she was looking for someone to just let her talk out her feelings with no judgement. If I had not changed my state our eldest would be dealing with her need to “be there for mom”, very bad, she needs to be learning how to deal with her emotions, become the strong woman God calls her to be,
I began to think about all that: the wanting to talk to someone without judgement and it hit me like a ton of bricks: God!
If we believe that God is our Father than he is our parent, divine parent, but here is the rub; depending on how your parents treated you that is how you see God treating you, and in turn how you treat your children is how they will see God! ACK! Last night was the first time in a long time that I felt a connection to God. As I sat there I realized that how much of what our eldest needed from me was the face of the Divine to be reflected to her, and my face was filled with too much fear. It was so important to change my attitude so that our eldest could also change, giving her the strength to change her emotional state. For the first time in a very long time I understood how connected we were to each other, if I continued in the state of fear and sadness that was the energy that I was giving my child. From God we get our emotional state, 2 Tim 1:7: For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. It was clear to me, in a moment, that I was being timid, that I was not being self-disciplined so I could not receive the power God has for me.
That was the first time that I felt God in my life.
During the ’70s and ’80s the parenting concept of “tough love” was introduced: It is the ultimate parental nightmare: “Your affectionate child is transformed, seemingly overnight, into an out-of-control, drug-addicted, hostile teenager. Many parents blame themselves. ‘Where did we go wrong?’ they ask. The kids, meanwhile, hurtle through their own bewildering adolescent nightmare. ” (1) It was thought that if parents wanted their children to respect them, the parents, again, become productive; than they had to kick, literally kick the defiant child out of the house.
Now we had troubles with our eldest, the kind of nightmare troubles that no parent wants to have, and there were times when, especially I wanted to, kick that boy out of the house; but my husband talked me out of it every single time. For us the idea of kicking a child out of the house is just plain wrong; but it was something that concerned friends would advise.
The whole philosophy of tough love is dominated by the idea that harsh rules and even brutal confrontation are necessary to help troubled teenagers. (1)
To my husband and me it seemed very much like we were giving our son a snake when he was asking for bread. Luke 11:11.
To throw him out of the house was going to be seen by him as if we thought he was garbage to be thrown away. To throw him out of the house meant we were forever going to break trust with him. Was he breaking trust with us….very much so. Was he being disrespectful…in spades. Did our having him stay part of the family mean we were doormats….in no way. It meant we had to have stronger boundaries, rules and expectations. It meant rehab, family therapy, and consequences for actions.
It meant jail time if necessary. It meant that I had to think very carefully before I spoke because I had to speak words of truth but not blame: Words of anger but not cruelty; words of support but not saccharin. It was not easy to be there for our son, to work with him, to watch him change from being so angry and defiant to a respectful man.
Years later our son told us he was so glad we stood by him because he knew people who were kicked out, whose families did use tough love, and those young men were now far worse, not better, for the experience. It was one of the most difficult ten years of our lives. It was not all rosy, but God does not promise us a life of ease, but he does promise that he will be with us to ease it.
The Trouble With Tough Love/Time Magazine (1) By Maia Szalavitz, Sunday, January 29, 2006
I have so many wonderful sister moms that do this vocation of mothering all by themselves. So, who do they cling to. I know a mom who lost her husband when her eldest child was 18 months and she was three months pregnant with their second child. It was such a shock to lose someone you love so suddenly and so young: they were both in their twenties, just starting their lives together!
She had family to gather around her, she was very lucky and blessed to have family; not everyone is/does! So, who do you cling to when you are alone?
For many single moms it means creating a family of their choosing. Building a community of people who will be there for them: Ruth and Naomi come to mind.
In Hebrew the name Naomi means “my gracious one” or “my delight”; Ruth, meaning “friend.” What appropriate qualities to look for when finding those to whom to cling: ones who will be gracious, a delight and who will be friend.
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh. Gn 2:18-24
I was rereading last Sunday’s readings and the passage above, especially: and the two of them become one flesh jumped right out at me as if it was written for ME; I know I have heard this passage at many a wedding, but now as a mother it takes on a very different perspective.
As I always say the Bible is an ever living word and it has specific things to say to us over time, and this passage speaks to me as a mother. It is the word cling that speaks to my soul. When we first marry of course we cling to our husband, and as our marriage create children we can slowly begin to cling to our children. How many times have you heard someone say: “Boy, she, (mom’s name here), really changed after having kids!” My father-in-law had this very talk with his son, my hubby, when my hubby was a teen. I don’t remember why they got on that subject but it was such a pressing point that my father-in-law had to say this to his son.
When my hubby related the story to me I was dealing with young children and NEVER thought that that would EVER happen to me; all the while, as I look back, I was engaging into what I call the mommy warp — children’s need stucking you deeper and deeper in and away from your calling/marriage/self. Remember when you held your little one right after birth; all the sudden rush of love…
That is the start of the warp. I am not saying don’t fall in love with your child, just don’t FALL IN LOVE with your child and forget to cling to your husband! It is such an insidious trap this mommy wrap: Our children are so small, vulnerable, needy but it is our marriage that is the foundation of our lives.
……….what can I say…PLZ think better of yourself and me!!!
I was always a morning person, someone who went to bed no later than midnight, in fact midnight felt as if I had been up all night. Of course that changed when my hubby and I had infants and small children, that was something expected, necessary as a parent: Feedings, sick kiddies, nightmares; I was sure there was a *time limit* — HA!
As our children grew they were becoming who they thought they were called to be, and of course their perspective is very different from what they are truly called to be: Teen years are such a different time for both parents and children, and our first teen’s years were very hard.
While now our eldest has grown and become such a more mature person, as a teen it seemed to me that if I wasn’t *up* to make sure things were going well, well…something very bad would happen.
I spent many hours talking of my struggles with my therapist and spiritual director. They would always ask if my staying up was *really* helping. Looking back only very rarely did it help prevent anything; mostly it became a contest of who could *out* stay the other. What did I need to discern?
What was I trying to do? I was trying to be the guardian/protector. What I was really trying to do was control the events. I remember my mother staying awake night after nights watching my father breathe. My father was a very stubborn Irishman who drank, didn’t care for himself and really held the family hostage with his actions. I was trying to do what my mother thought she was doing: Help the family remain stable, make sure she was on patrol, but she would be so tired the next day it was impossible for her to be present.
What all this did was set up situations for failure. I would become angry at my Hubby for being so nonchalant as to go to bed while our world was crumbling around us! He knew that to cure the situation there had to be positive pro-action, not reaction and reaction was what my staying up all night was. It truly did nothing, nothing but create in me a spirit of fear, of control, or anger, and loss of health.
I no longer cared what happened to my body, health, what was the point! I crawled deeper into a dark place. My treatment of myself was reflected in how our family was. My hubby and I had to work on getting me to a place of strength because it was truly needed so that together we could do what needed to be done to bring our eldest out of his darkness. It was ten long years, tearful years, but also years where we learned and grew as a married couple and as individual people.
Those years were a gift because as each child went through their own dark night of the soul that the pre-teen and teen years can be; my hubby and I had the tools and insight to deal with each situation with compassion, knowledge and pro-action.
Now it time, for me to care for myself; something I should have never stopped doing — live and learn my sister moms, live and learn.