It's good we took our picture before Mass, because after Mass...oh, dear. Our little loves gave us a run for our money today! In all fairness, they are both in a major Mommy stage, and I was a lector, and they were both pretty unhappy about Mommy not holding them during the whole Mass.
I have to admit, during Mass I was thinking, "Fs! They are both getting an F for behavior today!" I went to Communion and was pretty much fuming at the elder of these two little girls (she was truly out of sorts, today!), and praying, begging Jesus for the grace to forgive my oldest daughter. Have you ever said this sort of prayer? I struggle with showing patience to these little ones because I sometimes am so stuck on "me." Why is she doing this to me? She's embarrassing me! Why can't she just behave for me?
Notice the key word in all those sentences? Me.
But it's not about me, raising these little ones. It's about them. Yes, my own personal well-being is important, but it's another issue entirely. That's an issue for the Abbot and I to focus on, to be aware of. While these little ones do need to learn what is expected of them, their acting out is not a personal offense against me. It feels that way sometimes, but it's not.
At one point during Mass, I was looking into the unhappy face of a toddler thinking, Is this really you in disguise, Jesus? Because I find that very hard to believe.
But, Christ is in, as Mother Teresa aptly put it, "distressing disguise" in our littlest ones. Sometimes the disguise is so distressing that it takes massive numbers of prayers begging God for the grace to be able to see Him in them in order to see Him, but He's there.
When we got home, I handed the littler one to her Daddy and took the bigger one upstairs. I wanted to dive straight into lecturing her, but I stopped myself, scooped her up and into her bed, and just cuddled her until she and I had both calmed down. Have you ever cuddled a two year old? It's pretty hard to stay mad at a little person curled up in your arms, attempting to, "Take deep breath, I calm down, Mommy!"
Once we were both calm, I gently but firmly reviewed the ground rules of Mass behavior. She agreed and repeated them back to me. Do I expect her to behave perfectly in the future? No. I prayed for grace, not for a miracle, remember? But, addressing her behavior in this way did something for me.
I was so, so frustrated with her little typical two-year-old self. I prayed desperately for the grace to forgive this little person for her unreasonable behavior. And, do you know what? God granted me that grace. He granted me the grace to show her love and forgiveness.
Why is that so important, you may wonder? Because, right now, I need to learn patience...not just for my own sake, but for hers. I need to learn to love and forgive her so that she finds the love and forgiveness of the heavenly Father believable. I need to show her that, always, there is mercy.
It's a tall order, but that's why I'm not doing it alone...by the grace of God, there go I! And yet, it helps me to recall that this parenting gig is about more than discipline, teaching children to behave, changing diapers and pull-ups, etc. It's about so much more. It's about forming little souls, guiding little consciences, and helping my daughters to experience and believe in the love and mercy of God.
My motherhood is more than a job. It is truly my vocation, the way that I am growing in holiness. Yes, sometimes that journey to holiness looks like resisting the urge to yell at a toddler who had to get taken out of Mass early by her Daddy, and who is sitting throwing a fit in the car. But, more and more, I am coming to see that each of these things I do for "one of these little ones" I truly do do for Him.