The I-Thou and Freudian Faith: A Reflection for Mother’s Day

In therapy there is an understanding that when a therapeutic relationship has been established, the client will likely experience transference during which the therapist unconsciously emotionally represents some other individual in the client’s life. The therapist can use this occasion to teach healthy interpersonal dynamics, such as how to express a need or confront when conflict arises. As the therapist grows in care for the client, the therapist may experience counter-transference. This experience of emotionally considering the client as the therapist considers someone else in his or her life is to be guarded against, as it brings the therapist’s personal feelings onto the stage rather than being totally present and open to the client’s own story.

This idea, that the relating which takes place in a relationship and the transferring of those feelings to another object goes beyond Freud’s couch. Richard John Neuhaus relates the classical explanation of it, called the I-you relationship, by Martin Buber: “the I-you relationship between persons carries within it the hint of the I-Thou relationship to the mysterious, to the Divine, to the strange glory.”

In Death on a Friday Afternoon, Neuhaus’ third meditation on the last words of Christ brings the reader to consider Buber’s proposition in light of the magnificent role of mother.

“Of course the child does not come into the world asking questions such as, Why is there something rather than nothing? Or, Why am I rather than someone else where I am? Balthasar writes: “And yet the child is aware, in the first opening of its mind’s eyes. Its ‘I’ awakens in the experience of a ‘Thou’: in its mother’s smile through which it learns that it is contained, affirmed, and loved in a relationship which is incomprehensibly encompassing, already actual, sheltering and nourishing.”

There are those who would like to dismiss psychodynamic theory Freud’s because of Freud’s over-emphasis on sex. Freud saw a dynamic life and key developmental points at the early stages of infancy. As one neo-Freudian psychologist relates more clearly, the infant at first does not distinguish itself from its mother. In time, the child learns to see itself as a self, and mother as and other. Whether he identifies with his mother or determines his sense of self as a contrast to mother, this comes later.

Of greatest importance here is the strange glory of parenthood which can lead a child to its later conception of God and the child’s sense of worth. Neuhaus explains

 “Everything is all right,” says the mother to the child crying in the night, and in that “Everything is all right” the child intuits a grand metaphysical statement about the nature of reality. In trusting the mother’s assurance, the child trusts that the universe is home, that he or she belongs here.”

So if the child is able to be free and secure in its mother’s love, this serves as a model for the later call of faith, to be like a child.

“Truly, I say to You, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus would later say. That turning is conversion, and it is in part a turning back. It is a retrieval of that first awakening to a world when all was miracle and all was play, when all was well in the security of a mother’s love.”

We’re called to experience that same security in God, that all will be well. Yet it is not regression, but rather “a matter of deciding, and deciding again and again.”

There are a thousand other moments between mother and child that serve as model for that child to one day call God Father. The faithfulness of the parents lay the foundation of understanding. As with any foundation, should there be some alien dust specks in the materials, the foundation can still be strong. So we ought not to worry too terribly that we are not perfect, that we fail, time and again, to be the parents we desire to be. In the end, all have fallen short of the glory of God, and parenthood is only a model, only a physical sign of a spiritual reality, that God is the perfect Father, complete in Triune unity, total self-gift.

So while the typical adolescent will wrestle with all the ways his typical parents are no longer a totally secure base but human, full of baggage and full of flaws, this can open the young adult to the reality of God who fills all things. This can help make peace with the absence of the parent, or the flaws of the parent, and aid the forgiveness and healing of broken relationships.

And if that was possibly not enough, for those whose mothers were absent, Our Lady of Guadalupe says, “Do not let anything afflict you and be not afraid of illness or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

IMG_4670Happy Mother’s Day (almost).


Life Lessons: The Lemonade Stand

Growing up in the country, there were certain aspects of life that were simply not possible to experience in my neighborhood. I had an orchard to myself, rows and rows of blossoms in the spring, castles, tree houses, massive play structures to let the imagine run wild. We’re not able to give these to our children on a daily basis (except when we visit the grandparents) but there is something I was always aware of, yet could never do myself except in pretend: the lemonade stand.

It’s iconic, isn’t it? So iconic it could be parodied decades ago by Lucy from Peanuts in her psychiatry stand. With joy my husband and I discussed years ago the idea of it for our children. This weekend our city held a city-wide yard sale and it seemed the perfect opportunity.

A friend delivered bags of grapefruit weeks ago. My husband juiced it and froze it. After the hit rosemary-grapefruit-ade we made for our littlest’s birthday party, we decide to re-create it. My mother donated some of her of delicious snicker doodle cookies and in the first day my daughter made $20.

We were open for a short period on Saturday since my husband works on Saturdays. Sunday, we were open all morning after mass. She totaled out at $32, my little entrepreneur.

I feel the experience, to be repeated in the future, is ripe with possible lessons. Setting up the stand takes some creativity. We use our picnic table, an umbrella from my parent’s house, homemade signs, and the crocheted pendant banner I made (found a use for it!). Over time, my daughter can decorate it and make the signs herself.

Creativity with products and recipes. Next year I plan to put out lavender bunches and make lavender lemonade. As she grows in her ability to plan, my daughter can put her signature touch on our products.

IMG_6924Creativity with what God has given us. The grapefruit was from a friend’s tree. The rosemary grew in our yard. The lemonade (made for the second day) was juiced and frozen from leftover lemons my mother did not use for a dessert donation. Being able to look around and see the potential in the things around us is an important life skill.

Money-wise lessons. Saving money through resourcefulness will yield greater profit. She’ll also have the opportunity, as she did this weekend, to learn about currency, addition, change, etc. We can prepare her better through homeschooling lessons before the next lemonade stand.

Marketing. Cute girls sell lemonade. I asked her to wave and smile when people went by and quite often, they stopped because of it. Lemonade was priced at 25 cents a cup. Who can resist? If she gets the bug and wants to make more money, we’ll have a marketing talk.

Saving. We’ve discussed what she can do with her profits. 10% goes to the church in the collection basket. Then a certain amount, approximately 40%, goes to the bank. I am thinking we’ll actually have her walk in with my husband to deposit the $10 at the bank to get the most out of that lesson. Then she can choose how to spend the rest. She has already decided to save $5 for ice cream, the little cutie. She bought a dress at a yard sale for $2.50.

She is young and worked hard. After the first day, it was much harder for her to sit in one place and stay on the job. She did an amazing job considering her age. All these lessons will take time to be learned, but I’m excited that we are blessed in such a way as to be able to provide her the opportunity.

We held a yard sale at the same time, and didn’t do too shabby either, I’m pleased to say. Before we started on the second day I spotted this antique chair at a neighbor’s yard sale.







IMG_6936For $7, I’ve got another exciting project on the list. I’d like to reupholster it in this (P/Kaufmann Adelaide Tigerlily Fabric) from Sailrite or something like it. I plan to leave the wood as it is. The chair fits the decor of our master bedroom so I have just the place for it.