- On October 25, 2015
- 1 Comments
Today I read a beautiful post about a letter that Pope John Paul II wrote to a friend of his back when he was a young priest and she was a new mother of twins. I’m going to excerpt the part of the letter that author Claire Dwyer included, but I encourage you to go read her whole post.
You were afraid that I wouldn’t be able to read your letter to the end. Well, I not only finished it but I carried its meaning within me for several days, thinking about what to reply. Today, these thoughts crystallized when I was receiving the vows of some sisters. I sense tiredness in your letter, which is easy to understand…On top of this, you always wanted to plan and do everything rationally. And here is the kingdom of irrationality, where normal activity and energy aren’t enough; you need to wait things out, some time to do nothing, and simply, patience – especially since there are two. I realized that, on the one hand, there is always a price we pay for love. On the other, thanks to God, love is returned in that price. What I mean is, the concrete challenge of love cannot be separated from Him; it is always in Him. (215)
I love this post, I love this quote, and of course, I love this gentle saint. But a few hours after reading it, while my kids were being sort of insane, I thought about how negative I would sound if I went on Facebook and described it all. (It probably wasn’t this bad, but I sort of saw myself as Will Smith in I Am Legend.)
And then I thought about how a small part of me was thinking about Dwyer’s description of her kids destroying the house, knocking her $4 coffee off the counter with nary a glance back, etc., and realized that I had thought in the back of my mind, “Those kids sound awful.” And to be honest, I think that all the time when I read many moms describing the hard days.
Judgey McJudgerson at Your Service
It’s kind of ironic that my own “Judgey McJudgerson-ness”, as a good friend calls it, has me both judging the mothers whose honesty is so helpful to me, and judging myself before I even attempt to share what I’m thinking. When my kids give me a hard time, I recognize that:
- This isn’t a permanent state of things, and
- There’s probably a lot I can do to disciple them and make it easier for them to do the right thing in the future (i.e., not coming at them like a ton of bricks).
When other people describe their kids giving them a hard time, I think the opposite.
- This depresses me. Stop making me read your blog.
- It is hopeless.
I doubt I’m the only person who has this habit of instantly judging moms, despite being one. We have a whole culture that delights in picking apart other people’s parenting choices. That combined with the fact that something is leading to kids with epic levels of depression, attempted suicides, eating disorders, academic mediocrity, and a host of other ills creates a situation where we as a culture do need to talk about childrearing best practices, but can’t seem to do so in a way that respects the challenges of life in the babyland trenches.
Two Things To Figure Out
How to have that discussion about what is best for kids and families, and how to love and support all families, regardless of how off-the-wall their choices may seem is not something I know how to demonstrate here. The older I get, the more kids I have, the more time I put in, the more I realize what a complete newbie I am, and how annoying advice from me would be to all but the most fledgling and insecure parent. LikeMotherLikeDaughter.org is one of my favorite resources for a calm, beautiful response to the challenges of family life, so go there if you’re looking for people who have both answers and unfailing positivity.
What I want to figure out is how parents can share what is going on in our homes, without coming across like people who hate their kids for being imperfect, careless idiots, or callous scientists who have conducted a decade-long experiment on the effect of authority-free parenting on their children, just to see how that would go. More specifically, how do I capture what’s going on in my home in a way that is respectful to my kids (who will one day read this–hi kids!) and respectful to my lived experience? Glossing over everything but the Pinterest-worthy images and moments does no justice to the lives of women who are in service to their families for more hours a day than many people are even awake. We talk about the unsung heroines of antiquity, but what about the women today whose experiences are only palatable if they 1.) are polished into meaninglessness or 2.) eviscerate their families publically for the lulz?
We Need Givens
Perhaps further complicating this issue is that for someone in the trenches, it doesn’t feel like we have what mathematicians call a “given.” We’re still apologizing for imperfect houses, defending the choice to spend higher quality time with kids at the expense of a three course meal on the table, explaining that we do work hard! It doesn’t feel like we have a culture that recognizes that “eating bonbons while watching soaps” is a joke in all but the rarest cases (and those cases either involve neglect or a lot of paid help).
If it felt like everyone who knew that I was home with my kids assumed that I was working harder than I ever thought possible at a series of tasks that must be repeated continuously at worst and daily at best, then maybe I would feel like I could just focus on what’s adorable and beautiful every day. And maybe it would help if another given was that I can love my kids to absolute smithereens, but still want to master time travel so that I can fit in a week of alone time at every bedtime. Maybe the givens I’m looking for are unconditional respect for what parents do, and unconditional belief that parents love their kids, even if they need to say, “This is so not my bag right now.”
Do you struggle with being judgemental? Have a hard time knowing what you want to share online? Grapple with why you’re sharing things and aren’t sure you have a good reason for most of it? Let me know I’m not alone.