Slip slidin’ away – the ‘un’ definition of marriage.

Last week many in the country and around the world celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the unconstitutionality of the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’. The court’s overturning of this legislation opened the door for legalized same sex marriage around the country. Much celebration ensued as a result of this decision as no more could a ‘spouse’ be defined as a part of a heterosexual couple.

blueisblueWhat many (most?!) are failing to overlook is that the removal of the definition of marriage between a man and a woman means that there is *no* definition of marriage. A change in definition is a removal of the original definition which, in turn, means that the definition is not static but is fluid. As such, it is not enough for those who believe in ‘marriage equality’ to decide that ‘equality’ *only* applies to them. Once the door of ‘discrimination’ is opened it cannot be arbitrarily closed.

The courts have ruled that it is a form of discrimination to refuse to allow same sex marriages and allowing the door to open on states to pursue this option again. So what does that mean for marriage? If same sex marriage is permitted and it is discrimination to refuse ‘equality’ to those who wish to marry someone of the same sex – then what happens when polygamists go to court to argue that they are being discriminated against? If we have decided that marriage no longer means a relationship between a man and a woman, then – technically – any form of ‘marriage’ must now be accepted or face the risk of being discriminatory.

Think it sounds far-fetched? Not so much…

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.

And what happens when parents and children decide to marry each other? What about 6 women and men deciding to ‘marry’ one another? Would it be okay to discriminate against those who believe that they should have the right to marry in the previous examples?

‘Oh, that would never happen.’ Would most discussing the idea of same sex marriage 50 years ago have believed that we would be redefining marriage at this point in time?

Robbing Myself of Joy

joyAs a woman, I try very hard to maintain ‘control’ over my life. I’ve written about this – repeatedly. Its very difficult to try and maintain order amidst chaos of running a household without some element of ‘control’. I recently wrote about my attempt to instill the virtue of ‘meekness’ in my life. Its not very easy.

I had the blessing of being able to bake biscotti with the Dominican Sisters recently. They are an amazingly joy filled group of women of which I am still trying to determine exactly how I can abscond one or perhaps all of them to come and live at my home. Of course, that’s not the answer nor is it possible. I know that I must be a source of joy for my family. Ultimately, their joy must come from within, but – as a mother – I must be an example for joy by revealing the sources of joy to them.

While baking biscotti, I talked with Sr. Maria about my virtue paper I had received on the weekend of the retreat. She explained to me that meekness isn’t necessarily what we believe it to be, but truly means ‘having an appropriate response’. We didn’t have much time to delve into that further, but I appreciated her insight into the definition. It had given me much food for thought and I have contemplated it during my day to day activities since that encounter. One of the most ‘appropriate responses’ to any given situation is joy.

Over the holidays it occurred to me that I had ‘lost’ my joy. Its funny, but we forget that we are capable of joy until we experience it – even if only momentarily. I had realized this because of two experiences when I felt true joy – one was with theDominican Sisters baking biscotti. The other was during the Liturgy of the Eucharist during a Sunday morning Mass. It was the Sunday morning of my retreat weekend with the Dominican Sisters.

I had returned home on Saturday afternoon and went to Sunday Mass at our local Parish. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist while on my knees in prayer waiting to receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist, I felt a joy in my heart that I had never felt before during the Eucharist. It was a feeling as though I might burst inside at the excitement and anticipation of receiving our Lord and Saviour. I looked around and saw everyone looking so serious as they filed their way up the aisle to receive the Holy Eucharist. It dawned on me that, while quiet contemplation and humility are appropriate responses to preparing to receive the Eucharist – so is joy. I could barely contain myself. My face almost hurt from smiling so wide. That feeling has returned during subsequent Masses, though not as intensely as that very moment. It was a beautiful gift of grace from God to reveal the love and joy He wants for us to feel and can receive through the power of the Sacraments.

Sadly, I allowed myself to be robbed of joy over the holidays by what was a less than appropriate response to something entirely beyond my control. We had travelled to be with my husband’s family and were looking forward to visiting with them as it had been some time since we had been together. Our little family hadn’t been back to visit for a major holiday since the passing of one of his sisters in May, 2011. It was a bit of a milestone for us. One of his sisters had suggested hosting a lovely Christmas Eve dinner at her home. His parents had booked a photographer for early that afternoon in order that we might have family photos done since everyone would be together. Again, another milestone since the last family photo we had included his deceased sister just months before she passed. On the morning of Christmas Eve, we received an email from his sister hosting the dinner to advise that she had left town with her family to be with her husband who was away on business and unable to return for Christmas. She wanted to surprise him and take her kids to be with him. The email indicated that they had just landed and she was sorry for any inconvenience it would cause.

My response – I was livid. I was over the top and almost out of control livid. My anger completely overtook me – and I let it. In the middle of an absolutely crazy month of projects, I had done all of our Christmas shopping and wrapping early in order that we could pack everything and take it with us to his family’s Christmas. While we were only traveling for a few days, I packed for my kids and myself and took care of all the necessary details for our road trip. I did this with a sinking feeling in my heart because all I really wanted to do was stay at home and be in our comfortable little abode. I have been feeling anxious and overwhelmed with managing the work on my plate and the details of Christmas and planning a trip nearly put me up over the top. Needless to say, when I heard of part of his family’s decision to leave town without advising anyone after the efforts we had made – I felt utterly betrayed.

‘How could someone invite someone to come and spend the holidays and then leave after they arrived – and without telling them?’

I was ready to pack up the car and head home. I was a mess. My kids were upset at seeing me upset so I packed myself up and went out for a drive trying desperately to figure out how to pull myself together. I drove around looking at Christmas decorations. I even went to the Mall to try and find Christmas spirit there (not exactly an ideal choice on the day before Christmas!). I finally felt marginally acceptable to be around and decided to return to my husband and our kids at his parents’ home. I turned to prayer. I was so closed off to receiving any gifts of grace at that exact moment that even God couldn’t break through my armour of anger. I was still highly volatile and really not ready for prime time. I hadn’t yet been convinced I was even going to participate in the family photos. What was the purpose? Not even everyone was there!

When I returned, I saw the sadness in my daughter’s eyes and realized that I needed to get it together. I had allowed my joy to be robbed and it was robbing her joy. I was being entirely selfish and entirely inappropriate in my response. Yes, I had reason to feel angry – but I had no right to allow it to consume me such that it would destroy how everyone else was feeling. We were all disappointed and sad. I picked out a present from under the tree for my daughter to wear so she’d have something new and pretty for our dinner.

We ended up at my sister in law’s house for the photos and dinner. We did what we could to make the best of it. We took our family photos with our marginally sincere smiles and we enjoyed the company of those who were there.

Had I been a bigger person – or perhaps a little less overwhelmed to begin with – I might have responded in a way more in keeping with the idea of ‘meekness’. It was a great lesson in ‘joy’ because it was a moment where I allowed myself to be robbed of my joy. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour. I had lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. I had lost sight of my children and what Christmas meant to them in the excitement of seeing their cousins again. I had lost sign of what it meant to my husband to be with his family who were still there. I had lost sight of what it meant to be ‘meek’ and allow myself to feel joy.

The beautiful thing is that I have been able to reflect on what I have learned and it has provided me a reminder of being aware of those things that can bring joy – and hopefully be reminded to not rob myself or others of joy in the future. I stop and look at my beautiful children and find joy in their laughter. I look at the beauty of my surroundings in nature and find joy in the canvas that God has painted for me to look at. Perhaps most importantly, I can attend Mass and experience the joy that comes through the gift of grace received in the Eucharist.

The importance of consequences.

There has been much to read in the news recently about pro-life efforts taking place in the US and around the world. One of the things that reading this news online provides is the opportunity to observe a bit of a ‘social barometer’ in reading the associated comments made by readers. Of course, the general leaning of the comments will depend on many things – where the article has been published, from where it has been linked etc… In any event, the comments themselves make for fascinating reading and provide interesting insight into why people believe the things that they do.

What struck me recently was that in the great majority of comments I read from the pro-choice side there was a seeming lack of understanding that sexual behavior would result in the possible outcome of pregnancy. Does this mean that I believe that those who favor abortion don’t understand the biomechanics of sexual behavior? No. I’m not saying that. But there seemed to be a lack of willingness to accept that actions have consequences.

The arguments presented repeatedly were based on the idea that one must have the right to abort their unborn child because it was their body etc… There are comments after comments about the Catholic Church being evil in its trying to control women and how dare they tell women they shouldn’t use artificial contraception. The list of arguments as to why women must have the right to do whatever they want must not be hindered by anyone.

What appeared to be missing in any of the logic provided was the basic and fundamental idea that if one is to engage in sexual activity, the possible outcome is the creation of a new life through pregnancy. Our fifth grade daughter’s class just had a four day session at school regarding ‘responsible social behavior’ and I know that schools across the United States offer these classes, so it would be hard to argue that women aren’t aware of this concept.

This isn’t an awareness issue, its an issue of whether or not we wish to accept, as a society, that our actions have consequences. We have given ourselves a false sense of security by believing that by using artificial birth control varying in effectiveness from 70% – 98% that we will be in that range of success and that the failure rates won’t apply to us. *We* are in control – or so we believe. As someone who practices Natural Family Planning, I tell people who question my sanity for that choice that the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP is 99% successful when practiced properly. I know, however, that the 99% is not 100% and that I could very well be the 1%. I am willing to accept that fact and understand that the only 100% method of birth control is abstinence.

Who are we kidding? Ourselves.

It has been reported that roughly 54% of women who seek abortions report that they were using some form of birth control at the time they conceived. The same study indicated that 46% were not using birth control – and of those, 33% thought they were at ‘low risk’ for pregnancy. So 54% believed that the ‘success rate’ of their method of birth control – though less than 100% actually was 100% for them.

Its as though we have forgotten or refused to believe that the 1% ‘failure’ rate of the most effective forms of birth control – or 30% ‘failure’ rate of some of the least effective forms – results in the ‘failure’ by producing a child. We have become so focused on numbers and statistics that we forget that the risk we take is the risk of of the gift of producing a new life.

At what point did we, as a society, lose sight of the consequences of our actions? Or, did we? We tell our children not to drink and drive because it might result in our getting in an accident and killing ourselves and/or others. We are even warning young people and even adults about the idea of driving just ‘slightly buzzed’. We tell our children not to do drugs because drugs alter our minds and result in lower productivity and that continued use may result in the possibility of addiction. In other words, we share with our children the consequences of a particular action. Why is it, then that we give our children the idea that sexual activity is okay and acceptable provided it is done ‘responsibly’ which involves the use of artificial contraception. Again, ‘responsibly’ doesn’t mean that its 100% fool-proof – and the ‘failure’ rate results in pregnancy.

In looking at the abstinence only success rates versus comprehensive sexual education I came across this quote:

Unlike smoking, which is always bad for you, sexual behavior is a basic human need which can be a positive experience — although it requires maturity and responsibility – Michael McGee, VP Education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America

 

The quote is absurd because it overlooks the idea that people smoke because it can be a ‘positive experience’ in how it makes you feel. The argument made by Mr. McGee is that ‘kids are already doing it so we better tell them how to be responsible about it’. Kids are already drinking underage and doing drugs too… so let’s just tell them its okay and hope that they are responsible about it? We all know how responsible the average 15 year old is right – especially when it comes to decisions that can vastly affect the direction of one’s life? I, too, was young once and recall that drinking and drugs are also ‘positive experiences’ for young people too. Sex isn’t ‘bad’ for you – he’s right. But he overlooks the most obvious and known consequence of all just as, it seems, the rest of society has in that intercourse was designed by nature to result in reproduction of the species.

Being a good steward.

On our daily drive to school, my children and I spend the few minutes between our house and the carpool line in prayer. Some days they like to pray, and on other mornings they are tired or cranky and less enthusiastic. We begin our prayer in thanksgiving and spend time asking God to look after others, but also to look after us.

We ask God to help us be ‘good stewards of the gifts and talents He has given us’. I think I added this specific line to our prayers at the beginning of this year. This morning, my sweet boy decided to ask me what ‘steward’ meant – which, of course, at first led me to wonder to myself what he thought we’d been praying for all year. I kept that little thought to myself and instead turned to gratitude for his being inclined to ask and want to know.

I explained to him that being a ‘steward’ meant that we were taking care of or looking after something – something that usually belonged to someone else. We then talked about how God – through his grace – gave us the gifts and talents that we all have. We all have beautiful things to offer this world and everything in it, and that each of our gifts has a very specific purpose in order to help create harmony. I explained to my son that the gifts and talents that we have are a gift from God and that, by giving us these unique abilities, He wants us to use them for a greater good and to their fullest potential – so, in that sense, we are to be a ‘good steward’ of our abilities.

My heart was warmed as each child began to list off what they believed to be the gifts and talents they possessed. I reminded them that it was important that they be respectful and appreciative of those gifts and to only use them for a greater good.

Discussions like these make me stop and ponder whether or not I am using my gifts and talents to their fullest potential. Truthfully, I’m not sure I have ever sat down and listed what I think that these might be… which suggests that I am likely not only not using them to their fullest potential, but may not also be always using them for a greater good.

Perhaps its time for a period of discernment to prayerfully consider these gifts and talents and determine where it is God would like to see me use them in His name and for His glory. How wonderful that a simple conversation with children can lead us to an opportunity for deeper thought, consideration and discernment.

‘What does some old man who in Rome who has never been married know?’

Apparently, a lot. Consider this statement by Pope Paul VI regarding the widespread use of artificial contraception:

“Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”

Keep in mind that this was written over 40 years ago. I have to admit that I haven’t yet read Humane Vitae – perhaps its time. Very powerful.

Rich in Blessings

The weather has been so beautiful that I’ve been taking every opportunity to eat dinner at the little table on our front porch. This past Sunday night we at grilled hamburgers outside. I had made them specifically for my daughter who has given up meat for Lent. Since Sundays are feast days and one can partake in what they have given up on these days, she has enjoyed chowing down on some good red meat on Sundays during Lent.

While we sat outside eating, I expressed my appreciation for the blessings in our life. I looked around at the beauty around us as I took in the view of the hills across from us and the city vista off in the distance. My daughter said, ‘Mom, if I had a nickel for every time you pointed out our blessings, I’d have more than the people who won the big lottery on Friday night!’

I stopped and thought about it for a minute and realized the importance of her statement. While she’s morphing into a slightly cynical tween, she’s still hearing what I’m saying. At her age with few responsibilities and even fewer troubles in her life, she hasn’t yet crossed over the threshold into a world of significant challenges and the instability and uncertainty they can bring. She has been fortunate enough to have a yummy and healthy home cooked meal on the table virtually every night. She has a warm and comfy bedroom in which she can retreat into the privacy of listening to music and reading, or emailing her friends. For her, life is pretty good.

Its very possible, though, that it won’t always be that way. There will be times when she will worry about finances, or live in a student apartment that isn’t as nice, clean or comfortable as the home in which she was raised. There may be times in her life when she is working a low-paying job or may even be out of work.

There will be times in her life when she will experience disappointment with her friends and those whom she loves. There will also be times when she will experience the disappointment of not being accepted into a program to which she applied, or not winning a writing or drawing competition. These are all very real parts of life.

When I think about these things – all of which I’ve experienced in the course of my life, I think about that moment on our front porch and how important it is to stop and savor the moments of blessing in our life whatever they may be. During this Holy Week, I’ve seen and been sent several messages on ‘being still’. I’ve struggled with how to fit ‘stillness’ into my somewhat ‘full’ week of day to day living, but I realized that the moment on the porch with my children and being thankful for that blessing was an opportunity from God to be still.

While my daughter may not yet appreciate the importance of ‘blessings’ as gifts as well as our need to recognize and thank God for them, she does hear me (albeit, through her own filters). Hopefully – when she is grown and has a family of her own – she will think back to our dinner and understand what it was I meant. If I am ever so fortunate to hear her make her own statement about being blessed, I will know that I have won the jackpot.

Seven Days in Utopia

If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it for the entire family. Its a movie completely free of violence, bad language, sex and overwhelming noise and special effects. Its a movie about people and life. I had heard Robert Duvall interviewed some time ago about this movie and it had stuck in my mind. I was flipping through Netflix the other night on my laptop looking for a movie to watch, and up popped ‘Seven Days in Utopia‘. I enjoyed it right from the beginning. Its not perfect and there are some flaws, but they are well worth overlooking in order to get the full effect of this movie.

Why I love Natural Family Planning.

As a follow up to the story on why I stand behind the United States Council of Catholic Bishops and over 2000 other religious leaders in the US regarding the violation of religious liberty in requiring insurers offer ALL insurance plans provide for contraception/sterilization/abortion inducing drugs – hence forcing those who object to violate their religious beliefs in being forced to pay for such products and services – it seemed an appropriate time to discuss the ‘why’ behind Natural Family Planning (NFP).

Let me provide a little background before I get started, because I didn’t always feel this way about NFP. Years ago, before I converted to the Catholic faith, my husband and I attended a daylong seminar entitled something along the lines of ‘Heavenly Sex’ (for true!). It was offered by the Archdiocese of New Orleans (also for true!) and it seemed an interesting topic for a talk. Honestly, I had *no* idea what would be discussed but the title was intriguing. We spent the day with roughly 200 other couples listening to a Priest discuss the Theology of the Body. This was the first I’d heard of this particular Theology, but my eyes were opened – and wide.

I had been previously unaware that the ‘old and stagnant’ Roman Catholic Church had been headed by a Pope – John Paul II – who had made it a mission as part of his Papacy to bring to the surface the teachings of the Church as it pertained to human sexuality. His ‘Theology of the Body’ teachings had been encapsulated in 129 general audiences in which he walked through each and every aspect of humanity and its relation to sexuality. This was fascinating news to me and it changed my entire perspective on understanding the Church’s position on marriage, birth control, sterilization and abortion.

In a nutshell, it confirmed for me the intention of the act of intimacy between a husband and wife to be to produce offspring. Does this mean that it can’t be enjoyed? Not at all – quite the opposite. In fact, medical studies have shown that those attempting to become pregnant fare better when they fully participate and are engaged. Coincidence, I think not. To summarize, the Church teaches that artificial contraception is an attempt to ‘override’ God’s will and to define one’s own destiny. While I was enlightened as to the ‘why’ behind the teachings, I still was in the ‘my will be done’ headspace and not ‘thy will be done’ and couldn’t cross the hurdle into the world of Natural Family Planning.

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and this proves to be the case over and over in my life. Fast forward a few years and beyond the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) where I learned more and more about the history and teachings of the Church and the subsequent discernment process I underwent to be confirmed into the Catholic Church. Entering into the Catholic Church meant that I would enter into the Church as a full and complete participant believing *all* of the teachings of the Church. I struggled somewhat along the way with the idea of transubstantiation, but had a beautiful experience that sealed the deal for me.

Those who know me know that I am a ‘rule follower’ but I am not a ‘blind’ rule follower. I read, I study, and I struggle to understand in order that I can say ‘yes, I am willing to follow those rules because I believe in them’. This was a requirement for me in being confirmed into the Church. Of course, the rules said that the marital act I was to share with my husband would require me to be ‘open to the possibility of conception’. Don’t think I didn’t question the idea of artificial contraception. I spent a long time in discussion with a Catholic Doctor arguing the idea that since no form of artificial contraception had a 100% success rate, wasn’t I then also being ‘open to the possibility of conception’. He explained to me that the difference was between the ‘artificial’ and the ‘natural’. By placing a ‘barrier’ – either literal or in the form of drugs – I was closing myself off to God’s will. Okay, he got me and I understood. I still, however, struggled.

It wasn’t long after this that a friend was discussing her own experience with NFP and the ‘why’ behind it for her. She summed it up beautifully:

As a Catholic am I willing to say ‘God, I trust you in all aspects of my life – except this one.’

This absolutely encapsulated it for me and I was convinced. Nervous, but convinced.

My husband and I attended NFP classes given by the Couple to Couple League. We were one of roughly a dozen couples in the class and, surprisingly, not the oldest (we were the second oldest). Our instructors were a lovely couple who had four children and been practicing NFP for over 20 years and it had been 20 years since the birth of their last child. It would be hard to argue, with four children, that their ‘success’ rate in preventing a pregnancy for over 20 years had been a result of fertility issues.

We learned the sympto-thermal method in which you would chart three different symptoms to monitor your monthly fertility cycle: your temperature, your mucous, and your cervix. As a type A personality, I liked that idea of not being reliant on only one aspect to trust where you were in your cycle. One of the first things that we were taught was that this method is 99% effective WHEN PRACTICED PROPERLY. That last part is highlighted because I hear over and over and over – ‘I know so many couples who got pregnant while practicing NFP’. There are several NFP methods and the couples I know who got pregnant all admit to not practicing it ‘to a t’.

We began our journey charting and, at first, it seemed like a nuisance. After a very short while, however, it became a part of my daily routine – as natural as brushing my teeth or getting dressed in the morning. I realized that the entire ‘process’ took me all of one minute of my day. Aside from the minimal effort required on my part, my husband took an active role in actually being the one to note the items on our chart so that he also played a part and the onus wasn’t just on me to keep track of everything. The respect and care he showed for me by partaking in this was was entirely unique to this particular method and I began to really appreciate this aspect of our marriage.

His role would expand, however, in that NFP works by identifying your most fertile period of the month. Couples who employ NFP to space pregnancies must – egads! – abstain from intimate relations during this brief period of their cycle. I know, I know… this doesn’t fit in with our ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’ instant gratification model of society – why ever would one want to do THAT? To look at this phase of the fertility cycle in that way is to minimize the impact it can have on a marriage and a man’s respect for his wife – and even her respect for her husband – in overlooking the restraint they must exhibit if they wish to avoid pregnancy. Generally speaking, this phase of one’s fertility cycle lasts roughly five days. To suggest that one cannot go without being sexually engaged for five days is downright insulting to any member of the human species.

For our marriage, this method is a respect for natural law in which the act of intimacy is intended for procreation and a willingness to accept God’s will. I know many, who when I told them of our plans to employ NFP in our marriage, placed bets on how quickly I would become pregnant. Its been almost three years and so far – 100% effective!

The beautiful thing about NFP is that its just what it says it is – ‘Natural’. I am not pumping my body with class one carcinogenic synthetic hormones by way of the birth control pill making my body think its pregnant for years on end. As an aside, I did try the pill long long ago and learned very quickly how bad it is for your body when I experienced practically every side effect they had listed on the box. NFP doesn’t require that I walk around with a foul looking insert into my uterus to prevent pregnancy or cause spontaneous abortions by creating a hostile environment in which a fertilized egg cannot implant itself into the lining of my uterus. NFP doesn’t require that my husband and I have a latex barrier between us – wow, *that’s* romantic! NFP doesn’t require that I *never* be open to another child by undergoing tubal ligation or having my husband undergo a vasectomy. Having said all that, my intent is in no way to criticize those who choose any of those paths. I know that none of those are for our marriage.

NFP requires that my husband and I *work* together and that we respect natural law. It provides us with a mutual respect that we didn’t have prior to engaging in NFP and a complete openness toward one another. As time has progressed, it has become entirely ‘natural’ for us and my love for its methods and philosophy has grown tremendously. On  a side note, NFP has also proven to be very effective as a method of achieving pregnancy. NAPRO technology has an even higher effective rate than in-vitro fertilization.

Incidentally, it costs nothing – well, virtually nothing. All we need is a thermometer, a pen/pencil, and paper. That’s it. Oh – and a little self control now and then.

Loving my kids and wanting to smack people silly.

How’s that for an advent reflection?

Okay… the latter part is a figure of speech. I’m not seriously advocating smacking people silly, but there are times when you feel incredibly frustrated and really would like to do so! It is, I’ve learned, not the Christian thing to do and I will therefore restrain from doing so :)

As a parent, there is no greater love that one can feel than a love for a child. They drive you bananas, make you want to pull your hair out, and sometimes exhaust you beyond comprehension. The good news is that they are children, and so that you – as a parent – make them feel the same way at times. Justice is a beautiful thing.

In spite of the frustrations we feel at times with our children we love them with an unconditional love beyond measure. So when we see them hurt, we hurt for them. Recently, my children have undergone some challenges with friends and schoolmates. The challenges have been different with each child, but the end result in both situations is that our children have been left feeling hurt and even, at times, angry about their respective situations.

Let me digress for a moment to note that I don’t, for one second, believe that my children are somehow magical and have never said or done something toward someone else that is hurtful. Heck, I’ve seen them interact with each other! I’m not suggesting that my children are perfect little angels – they are, after all, children. Having said that, I do know that our children are not mean and malicious. They don’t take pleasure in seeing others hurt and they are sensitive toward how others feel. I have had discussions with our daughter were she says ‘why do they do that?’ – she, quite literally, doesn’t *get* catty behaviour.

When I see either of my children brought to tears by behaviour encountered at school, I *do* feel as though I want to smack people silly – not literally, but its overwhelmingly frustrating. As a parent, you look at the situation and see that those who make fun of children or are mean to them are usually either insecure about themselves in some way or even jealous. I’ve recently had to explain the concept of ‘projection’ to my eleven year old daughter so that she’d understand that its not really about her. I’ve had to sit with her while she is in tears and say ‘Who cares what other people think?’ and tell her about the times in my life I’ve been shunned or hurt. Its produced some great moments of bonding between us and helped her to see how stupid and inane people’s behaviour can be.

I’ve had to sit with my son and help him laugh at the comedy of the behaviour he’s encountered to help him feel less victimized by it and see the absurdity in some of the things being said to him. I don’t, however, want him to feel that his feelings of hurt and anger are not real and valid – but it helps to be able to diffuse the situation and teach him to not let it get the better of him.

I want both of my children to know that a) I have their backs and that b) this isn’t about them and c) it really doesn’t matter what others think as long as you stand up for what you believe and maintain your integrity. I’ve also done my best to let them know what the boundaries are for acceptable behaviour and that its important to share what’s happening with my husband and I, or the school, so that we are aware of when children may be crossing the line.

What we do next is probably unusual for a lot of people – we pray for those who are adding unnecessary challenges to our lives. We pray for them and for their families. We pray that whatever it is that is making a child behave in an unhappy way toward others will be resolved so that they can find peace within that, in turn, will bring peace to others.

Its a challenging thing to pray for those that hurt us, but its a lesson that learned early in life can help children grow into forgiving, confident, loving and healthy adults.