joy on ash wednesday

Ok, I know it’s not Ash Wednesday anymore, but I felt had to digest my feelings from yesterday. It was a plethora of parental joy moments for me. Not something I get everyday.

I used to say that I didn’t feel like a “real” parent until my kids hit age 4 or 5. This is when parenting moved beyond the care & feeding stage (feed them, make sure they walk, talk, sleep, etc.) to the real emotional work. Helping them learn to care for others, share; understand why someone was mean to them and the like. It is much more exhausting than midnight feedings!

Yesterday, we were discussing Lent. My son said that instead of giving something up he was going to give back. He had decided to read a bedtime book to his sister every night. My heart swelled, how wonderful! How thoughtful! (Plus, it meant I would get a break from reading – horrible I know.) Now you never know how my daughter will react to things, but considering the spirit of Lent she too was thrilled and sang her brother’s praises in the car ride home.

I was so pleased with what was obviously superior parenting skills (!) that I decided to take them out for dinner. It was here that my son confided in me that he was really having trouble at school and wasn’t sure how to handle the bullies in his class. Now the fear set in, that familiar – “oh dear, I’m supposed to be able to guide him through this and I have no idea how to do it” feeling.

No knowing what else to do I just asked questions about the who’s, the what’s, the how it makes him feel, etc. I gave him an analogy of being Luke Skywalker and bringing his friends over from the “dark side”. Well, this definitely struck a cord with him. [Star Wars, by the way, is a constant theme in my life] Eventually through all the talking he got to a point that he felt comfortable with and I got one of the biggest compliments: “mom, you’re a little better than the teacher at this stuff”. 😉 Wow! And I was just fumbling through!

So, as I begin my attempt at seeing more beauty in the world (see “impatience“) it should come as no surprise that once again it the lesson is from my kids. They are a constant source of joy and inspiration when I least expect it. My daughter has an amazing ability to move on – she can be devastated one moment and laughing the next, forgiving whoever had so disturbed her. I am in awe of her. My son’s big heart and practical approach remind me of myself – without the cynical taint of adulthood.

I was thinking about this last night when I saw and NPR story titled “On Ash Wednesday, Religion and Joy

On this Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and a period of fasting, Father James Martin reminds us that joy is one of the upsides of being religious, although it’s not mentioned nearly enough among the faithful.

Lately, I’ve been more focused than usual on the non-joy of religion. My journey is at a point where I have more questions than answers and because of that I find I’m frowning more than smiling; which is probably affecting my ability to see the things I’m blessed by. So I’m taking this chain of events as a wake up call. I will take hint from Father Martin’s piece and focus on the joy. I suppose this means I’m giving up pessimism for Lent!

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