Monday, December 31, 2012

LOST: Sense of Humor (On Parenting)

Last seen somewhere along northbound I-35E near Loop 635, between 5 and 6 pm on Thursday.

There's also a good chance it went missing on Sunday morning, between 10:31 and 11:34 in row 2 of the church sanctuary.

It was definitely gone by Friday, 5:48 am, breathing in swear words with a stubbed face at the wall adjacent to our bedroom door that is not, in fact, a doorway to the crying baby's room. 

Whether my humor's lost, stolen, or simply run away to someone else's good times, allow me an indulgent moment to complain about my silly first world problems before asking St. Anthony to please come 'round ("something's lost that can't be found," for the non-cradle-Catholics among us).

In case you can't tell, I drove full-force into the doldrums of part-time stay-at-home parenthood. It's okay if you just smirked a little, recalling my idealistic declarations a few months ago, something about cooking more, dusting, and having perfect kids.

I've been pursing my lips and raising my eyebrows a lot more lately, including as I read the recommendation of a mysterious blogger that I regularly stumble across. She suggests that parishes start an encouragement ministry for young mothers.

I was completely on board until she said it should focus on spiritual and emotional help, and not include babysitting or help with the housework. I suppose this means it wouldn't include assigning your children to the pews and subjective oversight of other random parishioners on any given Sunday either.

In my opinion, the most effective tool the Catholic Church could offer our world in sharing this vision of children as blessings, fertility as a gift, femininity and masculinity as windows into the spiritual life, and parenthood as a path to sainthood, is to get into the trenches of this divine mystery:

  • Apportion part of the parish budget toward quality, free babysitting during faith formation opportunities.
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  • Put up some heavy Catholic guilt on parishioners to volunteer for religious education -- and not on the parents whose kids are in the programs. Believe me, they see enough of their kids.
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  • Try not to laugh dismissively at parents who complain that cry rooms are literally Purgatory on earth. Don't judge parents who quit showing up for Mass, because they got tired of spending Sunday mornings in a 12 x 12 foot room with a dozen other fussy, wiggly children, and no clear view of anything except kids playing Nintendo DS in the back pew.
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  • Offer Mother's Day Out for free. (Oh my gosh, now this woman's just looking for handouts!)
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  • Don't be afraid to set up rocking chairs in the back of the church for all the parents pacing the narthex with sleepy kids.
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  • Have parishioners serve in the nursery who don't have kids in the nursery.
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  • Schedule one service each Sunday especially for families with children and gear the service to capture the curiosity and reverence of kids (not necessarily more flashy or entertaining, just more accessible).

And this is only one mom's late night brainstorming session!

Other thoughts/suggestions?

(And it's okay, if you just want to say, "Get over yourself. Your two kids are NOTHING compared to my life, much less to the bigger problems of the rest of the world." But you'll probably make me cry. And then eat the rest of the chocolate-covered peanuts we made for our neighbors but forgot to pass out before Christmas.)

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