- A fellow mom in my daughter's Little Gym class whose military husband has been enlisted overseas for the last ten months
- A physical therapist, who works full time, has two small children, and is studying after hours to earn her doctorate
- A friend's friend who's wife passed away from a brain aneurysm, leaving behind two little girls aged one and three
- A parishioner from the story in today's homily who's husband travels often, leaving her to raise their TEN children alone
- A close friend from college struggling with alcoholism, and its damaging aftermath including divorce, lost custody of two small children, and depression
- A friend's friend who lost her husband to a tragic and random murder in their own driveway, just days before she is about to have their first child together
- Various family members of people in our community who have lost jobs and are therefore struggling on a daily basis to make ends meet...
These are recent stories I have encountered of REAL people and their daily challenges. These people have endured huge obstacles and tragedies, and still manage to survive, move on, and even flourish. These are my heroes, the people who inspire me to count my blessings, put my 'woes' in perspective, and realize how petty my daily challenges truly are.
Although we hear of such stories, and their intensity is powerful enough to stop us in our tracks, take our breath away, and sink our hearts, we still battle the guilt from not counting our blessings often enough, not putting our woes in enough perspective, and not giving of ourselves (our time, resources, etc,) enough to those TRULY in need.
All of this came to fruition this morning when I experienced massive parental fail. At Sunday morning Mass, we experienced the inevitable alligator-wrestling match with our little ones, as they squirmed about the pews, loudly banging their toys and books, whining, talking loudly, crying, etc. Our church-going experience is not always this disruptive, as some Sunday Masses are miraculously smooth sailing, and they are happy, well-behaved, and relaxed. This morning was NOT one of those days....it began as we were in a rush to get out the door, and noticing we were out of bananas (healthier option), grabbed perhaps the worst breakfast item: peanut butter granola bars....likely full of sugar, not the most wholesome choice to satisfy their hunger. Perhaps it was this early morning parental fail that sent into motion the following downward spiral. My youngest, Caroline was completely out of control the entire mass (i.e. banging her toys, talking, whining, fighting with her brother, etc.) After various attempts to calm her, we finally exited the church into the back vestibule area. Of course, this sent her into a greater tailspin, screaming, crying, wriggling out of my arms at every attempt to pick her up, so much so, we had to actually LEAVE the entire church building altogether...Once I finally calmed her down outside, we went back in and tried again. After a couple minutes, squirming, crying, whining: repeat....we left again. We literally did NOT make it through a one-hour Mass! These are the moments when I think, I have completely failed as a parent...there was nothing I could do to effectively calm her down, teach her how to behave in church....How is it that some days they behave and others NOT AT ALL!? I could blame her age, as these church experiences seem to be getting worse and worse as of late, but I witness children her age all around us who are sitting quietly, calmly, well-behaved.
These types of daily parental struggles/failures are enough to put us into our own tail-spin. But, the reality is that everyone goes through these experiences; it just seems more dramatic and isolating when it happens to us. I find solace when other parents share similar stories and acknowledge how difficult the role of parenting truly is...and then, when I hear about people with challenges that are so much more intense and severe than I could even imagine, I take a step back, and count my blessings. These people seem to pull themselves through impossible scenarios, and with dignity and grace nonetheless. These people inspire me to not only put my challenges in perspective, but also make use of my blessings to be a better mom, wife, friend, and neighbor.
So, the next time I grudgingly organize the house or catch up on laundry in lieu of watching some ridiculous guilty-pleasure show like 'Real Housewives' or 'American Idol', I should be thankful that I don't have to spend the two hours between the kids' bedtime and mine, studying for my doctorate because I am both Mom AND bread-winner in my family....or, when I have a two year old melting down in church, I should be thankful my husband is there to help me, and we have three as opposed to TEN children to manage, or the next time my husband travels for work, I should be thankful that he will be home in one week, as opposed to one YEAR, as those military wives must endure. Perhaps we must take it one day at a time and recognize life comes with the inevitable good days and bad....the yin and the yang...but, we must always remember to count our blessings along the way.
Addendum: Shortly after posting this, I read an interesting article in the WSJ, "Why French Parents are Superior" by Pamela Druckerman. She discusses methods French parents employ for raising "happy, well-behaved children without all the anxiety." (Perhaps I should have read this article BEFORE attempting Mass this morning!) Although I am not crazy about the title (sorry Jacqueline if you are reading, ha!) I found it to be very relevant, enlightening, and helpful. Article link is as follows...
On a lighter note, I have included a few quotations about parenthood I wanted to share...
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you hang up my first painting on the refrigerator, and I wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I knew that little things are special things.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I believed there is a God I could always talk to.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight, and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.
When you thought I wasn't looking, I LOOKED... and wanted to say thank you for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn't looking. ~ Unknown