Today started off crazy. Our good friends' two little boys spent the night Saturday night and this morning they woke our teens up super early. Everyone was a little tired and we forgot what it took to get little ones ready for church. They are 5 and 4 and of course, we weren't used to anyone getting up early enough to eat breakfast before mass.
We loaded everyone up, after running to grab car seats, and headed to church. The boys were very good, even though it was their first time in a Catholic mass. We brought a couple books and our kids brought their phones to distract the boys when they got antsy.
I have been struggling recently with drawing my kids closer to the church. I have also been feeling a lot more like a stepmom than usual, feeling a bit left out. It's a natural progression as the kids get older and start figuring out which parent is the "fun" one. Shock of shockers, that ain't me!
I feel like sometimes, instead of leading them to Jesus, I have pushed them further away. I get frustrated because they aren't following along, they are distracted, they don't take as much time to pray as what I think they should, and it makes me hypercritical. I see myself getting angry and making biting sarcastic remarks to them and I know it only hurts them. I can see it in their eyes and it makes me feel so, so sad.
Today during mass, it struck me that I need to let them see the Church through new eyes. As with the two boys we brought along today, I need to allow them to have the same awe and excitement that the little ones experienced. Before, I would make sure they were following along closely in the missal. I would give them head nods or hand signals to let them know to pay attention, but what I was missing is that we have to also EXPERIENCE the mass. In the midst of the chaos today, I realized that my stepson didn't have his missal. It was just after the transubstantiation and I at first thought I needed to grab one and hand it to him, but then I stepped back. We were at arguably the most important point of the mass. Jesus became present to us, through His flesh and blood, in the sanctity of the Eucharist. My stepson was still kneeling down and still looking at the altar. Did I really need to bother him to make sure he was following along line by line? What if I stepped back and allowed him to experience the mass in his own way? Would that be so bad?
I am struggling with lots of emotions regarding my children lately. They are your typical teens, reluctantly doing chores, sometimes reacting with a negative attitude to certain requests or situations, and I often forget what I felt like during those years. It's a wonder how my parents (and siblings) survived when I was a teenager in that household. Would it be so awful to allow them to express their feelings and react how they need to? Of course not. The teenage years are hard enough without a harpy of a stepmom on your shoulder!
To draw them to the church, perhaps I need to show them how loving Christ changes you as a person. Instead of trying to have them stick to my rigid demands, I need to let them love and embrace Christ how THEY need to. I need to pray for them LOTS and I need to be sure they know that not only do we love them, but God does, too. I also need to remember the line from our homily on this Pentecost Sunday, that we ALL fall short.
The Holy Spirit guides us and we need to teach ourselves to listen. I've fallen short a lot recently and it has left me feeling like I am a horrible mother. I love these children and I want to see them do well in life, but I also need to remember that they are 14 and 13 and at a very rough time in their lives, regarding identity, self expression, and identifying the truth.
I'm willing to let God take the lead on this one. Next Sunday, I will do my best to allow them to immerse themselves in the mass. I will let them look around in awe at the beauty of the physical church. I will also let them be reminded of the beauty of the metaphysical Church as well, as we honor God by our praise and worship and remember what the center of our lives should rely on.
I will do my very best to get rid of the critical tone in my voice that has appeared so often as of late and instead, listen to my children. It's so hard sometimes to know when you need to push and when you need to let go. I don't think I'll ever get that balance right.
But, you know, an off balance life is a good life and one I'll gladly take.