I’ve just realized it. Just now.
I’ve been sitting here at my computer, attempting to design a stunning website for a client, listening to my two little girls (ages 4 and 6) playing in the living room next to me.
They’ve been playing ‘Getting Married’. This entails putting on pretend make-up, going dancing and finding a husband. They ask an imaginary man if he thinks they’re pretty. They decide if they like the imaginary man and, if so, they run off with a towel over their hair for an impromptu wedding in the entry way.
I sit here, looking out the window, laughing at them.
I just smile and laugh quietly and try to watch them without being caught, because that would end the game, of course.
See, several years ago, I would have stopped the game. I would have told them they shouldn’t be thinking about getting married… “you’re just little girls, right?!” This is a very serious thing. I would have asked them why they were worried if a guy thought they were pretty. Inner beauty is much more important. And, it takes a long time to find a husband. This just isn’t something we play at, girls.
(I’ll pause here while you laugh at me…)
But, that was several years ago.
Because I was paranoid.
I’ve always had an overwhelming desire to have what is good for my children. What mother doesn’t? I want them to be Catholic, moral, holy, discerning and happy. I want them to choose good spouses. I want them to go to heaven. And, I guess in my ignorance as a young mother, I thought I could ‘force’ those things by creating a certain environment. By reading only certain books, watching only certain kinds of shows, by playing only certain kinds of games. More impressively, by what we wouldn’t do. What we wouldn’t hear, see, discuss or pretend. If I guarded them against anything and everything that could possible open a path to something wayward, then nothing bad could ever happen, right? I could control it. Yes.
No. Not really.
I realize now that I needed to control because I was so afraid. Afraid that they’d be like me! That they’d make stupid decisions. That they’d get hurt and hurt others. That they’d be selfish and worldly and not listen to the Lord speaking in their hearts. Goodness sake, I can’t have THAT. None of it. They’d be lost forever. And what would my friends think?
Then, while praying during the Easter Vigil this year, I realized something big. Big for me, at least.
God got me anyway.
Despite myself. Despite my weaknesses (of which there are many), despite my insecurities and obsessions. Despite my temptations, my past, my worldliness. He caught me and let me fall in love with his Church. If He can do that for me, with no lectures or cautionary tales before each life decision, then He can do that for others, surely.
And then, something else has helped. Having older children changes things. I see in them a heart and a conscience that I could not have molded on my own. I see them making choices that impress me. I see them wondering about people and how they act. I see them discussing the Church and her teachings and seeing the bigger picture behind them. I see them choosing friends that I wish I would have had when I was their age. As Elizabeth Duffy beautifully said, “They become less the herd of bodies I’m trying to keep alive, and more the people who add pleasant company to my life.”
I see them naturally seeking the good and turning away from the bad. And this gives me great hope.
Don’t worry. I’m not walking away. I’ll still fret, I’m sure. I’ll still guide and pray for them. I’ll still teach our Faith and discuss life with them.
But, not out of fear.
Rather, I’ll do all these things out of hope. Because I know what is true and good. I see their little souls leaning toward the truth like my houseplant that leans awkwardly toward the window in the kitchen.
It’ll do anything for a little light.
If He can catch me, He can catch just about anyone. I’m not afraid.