Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lord Protect My Child

Forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but why, why is it so difficult to parent and feel confident that you're making the right decision?

I am almost 100% certain that neither my mother nor my grandmother ever weighed any decision they ever made regarding discipline. They didn't think about what they were feeding me, although I'm certain they gave a lot of thought to whether or not they would be able to put food on the table at times. They never questioned whether or not they were playing with me enough or providing me with essential experiences to make me more well-rounded or to enhance my intellectual opportunities. They didn't send me to preschool, so they never worried whether or not it was a good enough school to ensure I could go to kindergarten when I turned five. They just did what they did and that was it. I had a roof over my head, food in my belly, and clothes on my back, and books to read. And that was enough.

I'm not being critical here. They did the best they knew how under the circumstances and they did just what 90% of all parents in their generation(s) were doing.

Why have things gotten so complicated and we parents so competitive? I worry about every little thing and feel I get little of it right.

I love my son so much. But this summer has been so hard. He's just at an age where he wants to be his own person and challenge every thing I do or say. I feel as if we have spent our summer with horns locked, neither of us willing to back down. And instead of pushing back harder, my urge is to back away. I know my mother never thought like that and by the time I was my son's age, I knew not to argue or to sass my mom. I knew "the look" that meant I needed to stop whatever I was doing or else I was in for it. Part of me feels like giving him some freedom now will help him to become more independent and better able to make decisions for himself. (Something I have always been terrified of and horrible at.) The other, more rational and less emotional side of me feels as though I have to whip (figuratively speaking) him into shape before it's too late. I don't want my child to be a brat. And when I have pushed back this summer, we have seen some amazing breakthroughs.

We can now go into Target or ToysRUs without his asking for a toy. He is listening better most days. He is sleeping better, relatively speaking. He is sharing better with other kids and seems generally happier when he is playing with other kids.

He still doesn't eat and the things he does eat, he has suddenly decided that he no longer cares for. He still talks back. He still won't talk to adults in stores. He still has major meltdowns in the doctor's office, to the point I fear they will tell me not to bring him back. He is still bossy, though less so than a few weeks ago. He still is not potty-trained, but I hope we're getting closer.

And me? I still feel horrible for not having the perfect child. For not being able to overcome these shortcomings. For having my son tell me that he's mad because I'm mad at him all the time. For failing to believe in myself and feeling that my child is not perfect.

But you know what? He is perfect. He's perfect for me and I am the perfect mother for him. I simply have to remember that God gave him to me for a reason and me to him for a reason. We have something to teach each other, to learn from each other. All I need to do is try and remember to trust God and to ask for his guidance when I need it.

Easier said than done for a stubborn girl like me who just wants a little more control over her own life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gotta Serve Somebody

It never ceases to amaze me when someone says something like "But you don't seem religious; you're so intelligent."

Why is it that intellectuals -- particularly those who don't wish to have anyone else's faith pressed upon themselves -- are so quick to deny others their faith? It really boggles the mind.

We had this experience on Saturday night when we went out to dinner with some new friends. Wonderful people that we are delighted and excited to know. In so many ways, they are more like us than anyone else we've met in years. We are so excited to be getting to know these folks. But, that said, now I feel a shadow cast over my enthusiasm.

They didn't say this, but my perception is that they think that because I have faith in God, practice a religion, and believe in something bigger than myself, that I am somehow, intellectually inferior.

I didn't want to argue the point, but I was mentally making a list of people of faith and great intellect. Just off the top of my head I can think of: Albert Einstein, Thomas Merton, C.S. Lewis, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Walker Percy, Dorothy Day, John Newman, Graham Greene. Of course, there are a lot of Catholics on that list because, well, I'm Catholic, and they're probably the ones I know the most about.

Clearly, I don't put myself in league with those people. But I'm no idiot. And I certainly don't think that my faith lessens my ability to think. I came to my faith through a great deal of thought. As is true with many Catholic converts, I thought my way into my faith and into the Church. There were a lot of obstacles to overcome, many things I disagree with. But no other faith spoke to both my heart and my mind the way Catholicism did. The belief in the unity of good works and faith drew me to Catholicism perhaps more than any other facet of the faith. And now here I am. Unwilling to accept the notion that intelligence and faith are mutually exclusive ideals.

Thankfully, everyone involved Saturday night was willing to have an open dialogue on the subject and to accept each others' beliefs.

And that alone was enough to maintain my faith in friendship.