Feel like your failing? There’s a point to that asking if you are.

One mother meltdown to start off our Monday.

Three assessments today. They scored “Advanced.” They smile with pleasure to hear their score. They have heard from their parents they are smart, but somehow they believe it more when they are assessed by an outside source.

I look out with delight at two fresh blooms in the garden. At lunch, my fingers reach continually to fuss with an arrangement of flowers celebrating those blooms.

As I organize my baskets, empty frames and decorative holders for my business my eyes spy ivory crochet squares through the lid of the yarn box as I stash away. I did not know my daughter could crochet these squares. It looks beautiful.

I think of the flower arrangement she cut for me on Mother’s Day with lavender, purple sweet peas and, for greenery, wandering jew. She chose a cut crystal bud vase and snipped to particular heights. It is enchanting.

Next to it on the table stands a Lego creation by son. He followed his father’s suggestion to build my garden but did it in such a way that includes the white bench, the tree, my husband fixing a broken sprinkler and, along with me watering the flowers, water flowing out the other side of the plant, unbeknownst to Lego me.

I asked my clever daughter why she switched beds with her brother to use the tallest bunk. “Because then Peter doesn’t bother me at night.”

I asked Peter the reason he does not do a particular thing the other kids do. “Because I’m scared to,” he answers with honesty and insight.

The day began with me staring at my limitations.

As the hours passed the opportunities to see their gifts grew.

I hope that I can communicate to them about their gifts. I hope I can recognize and make them feel that their gifts are seen and appreciated. I hope my mother-meltdowns are not the sum of our lives together.

In the Catholic Church May is a month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mother’s Day just passed. Our time of crisis ended a while ago. What happens now? Do I measure up now that things are calm and my excuses are gone?

I see my weaknesses and wonder.

My friend tells me the fact that I ask these questions is probably a protective factor against the outcome I fear.

The risk takes place if we never ask or if we stop asking and begin to answer. We answer with the negative. Instead of asking, do I measure up? We begin to tell ourselves, I do not measure up. I am not enough. This is not good enough. This never will be enough.

Or in the opposite direction, wherein we no longer notice our weaknesses. “It’s fine.” “At least I’m not like so-and-so.” “I’ve got this down” with the sort of satisfaction that tells us we can give up and stop trying to grow.

We cannot standstill.

The urge to ask the question of how we are doing and if it is enough is an invitation. Maybe it is an invitation to reassurance, to take stock of the value, to see the good before us and graciously allow that we had something to do with that. Or it is an invitation to honestly assess where we have failed and how we need to approach the path towards improvement, however painful that may be. Sometimes we need to be reminded we are human. Sometimes we need to be reassured that human though we may be, transcendence is possible.

It all begins with the question, not the assumption.

The assumption lowers us, locks us in, and stagnates us. The question, though painful at times, opens us up.

Had I not been questioning myself this month, would I have noticed how surrounded by gifts I am? Would I have seen the creativity, willpower, problem-solving, artfulness in those around me?

I may never feel secure in my ability to be a mother, but I can see the fruit of the effort, and that is worth a great deal indeed.

The Essential Challenge of New Things


Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch


This week I found myself reflect on the importance of challenging ourselves with new things.

When we only offer our children that which is familiar or comfortable, they do not grow. As a parent (speaking of my own parenting philosophy), it is my responsibility to seek out or loosen the reins for them to experiment in age-appropriate ways with new things. Age-appropriate for some will mean their number of years, but on the whole, it is a matter of discerning their personal readiness.

As a mother, it is my responsibility to show my children adventure is out there, good food that might look strange is out there, good books that challenge us are out there, good music that we have not yet learned is out there, answers to our deepest questions are out there. As a mother, it is my responsibility to introduce my children to this beautiful world, the gifts and inspirations among people, our culture and the cultures of those with whom we share this space. It might be unfamiliar. They might balk at a meal or clamor for a familiar song, but as I introduce them little by little too new and valuable things, they grow and their culture develops.

I have to be intentional about it because of what has taken place culturally in the United States. Within a society heavily focused on pleasure and entertainment, many receive their culture passively through media. This leaves them open to use by corporations seeking to market and sell products. Marketing reinforces the passivity of the senses. Thus, religion has diminished in the public square, holidays of virtue like Thanksgiving diminish and Black Friday takes its place as the national focus. In my parenting, I proactively introduce my children to important things like literature (storytelling), art, music, and the traditions of our religion, because that is the only way to transmit culture. It begins in the home.

Occasionally, when times are stressful or the environment too unsettling, we might rely on familiar things to get us through, but that is only when so much is already unfamiliar and the child needs the comfort of familiarity or when I have become incapacitated in some way as an educator. In times of relative comfort, we push them a little to expand their horizons. We do this not just with words, but their environment, their actions and their tasks within the home.

If I shelter my children whether it be with food, with experiences, with music, with entertainment, and offer only what they already know, their development will be stunted. Some of the adventurous ones will still want to try new things, but the more reserved among them will rely too heavily on the familiar and never want to take risks, never try new things, the natural curiosity of childhood will diminish and in some cases, die. How many adults no longer feel curious about the world in which they live! How many no longer ask questions about other cultures, life, existence itself!

In the 1994 Letter to Families, Pope John Paul II wrote the family is the school of love. I have the opportunity form my children not only in the love and recognition of other persons in their lives but the love of life itself, curiosity about the world and joy in the good things this world has to offer. By my own interest and vitality, I model it. By my encouragement, I invite them to share in it. And at times, by my insistence, I push them a little when they might hesitate to jump in.


And so, following in this grand tradition of parenting, pushing ourselves to grow —in addition to chickens, cats and children— we now own a dog.




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