reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

This post is not a flex by any means. Maybe it will be a comfort to my fellow mommies in the trenches who lay awake at night pondering all the things left undone on their lists and all the unmet desires of their hearts.

I am not a great homeschooling mom. Since day one 16 years ago, I have been thinking that I haven’t done enough. Other parents are teaching more subjects in far greater depths. If I hit 2-3 subjects on a given school day, I feel like we got a lot done. Other parents are lesson planning in the summer while I am laying on the grass reading Anne of Green Gables to the kids. Other kids are enrolled in all sorts of lessons and classes half the nights of the week. We are playing Uno and stress baking brownies at midnight.

I am not being self-deprecating. I am being brutally honest. We never do enough, not nearly what we “should” be doing.

I was discussing my inadequacies with my therapist and together we took a giant step back and considered the adult children I have raised. The 21 year old is a chef and runs the food program at a small liberal arts college. The 20 year old just graduated with his degree in philosophy. The 19 year old is building houses. The 17 year old is about to leave for college. The kids are OK. They are more than OK. Some people call them overachieving. That may not be exactly the case. However, they are certainly out-performing anything I prepared them to do.

Israel defending his thesis at Magdalen College

More than all this, they are good people. They are people I want to spend time with. I don’t just love them. I really like them. They are generous of spirit. They are great conversationalists. They read books and think seriously about things. They are hella funny. They love one another and look out for each other. If something were to happen to me today they would take care of one another and show up for each other. I am not their glue and I am mightily glad about that. Most importantly though, they are all faithful. Like all people they have their challenges, but on Sunday you can find them there in the presence of the Eucharist, asking to be transformed. This is all I want for them–the deep transformation we call theosis. I have prepared them to love. Everything else is gravy.

I may be a very inadequate mother who is too busy, too tired, lacking ambition, and wearing herself too thin. But they are faithful to Jesus and His Church. For me that’s the whole game. That’s really the thing–the only thing–that matters. When all is said and done, we must all make it to heaven together–gathered into his Sacred Heart. It’s the only thing.

Dear Mommy reading this who feels like she isn’t doing enough:

I want to tell you something very important, the poverty of your spirit is an altar where Jesus takes the hearts of those entrusted to your care and imbues them with grace. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. There may not be a magical day when you feel like you’ve done enough. There will always be that other family who appears to be doing more or doing better or getting to their destination faster. It does not matter. Look your children in their eyes and see that tiny creature made in God’s image and love them well. Love them tenderly. Show them mercy. God will take everything you lack and make it an offering. I am not done on my parenting journey by any means. I still have five more to launch. And I will never not carry them all in heart, even after they are grown and flown. Still, take encouragement, dear one. “For they are purer than precious stones, and like an animal just born, and so naive and forever yours, asking for nothing and needing just this: being allowed to be this poor.” (Rilke)

Someone asked me recently how I felt about women working, especially if she could make more money than her husband. I said, “Given the choice I would move to the woods and be poor if I could just raise my kids in peace. Money means nothing. Hearts mean everything.”

Don’t come for me feminists. I know what I am. I am an inadequate mother, with outperforming children, and we would all rather be sitting around a fire together telling stories than anywhere else in the world.

River serving at the altar

The house of the poor is like an altar. In it the eternal transforms into food; and at evening it quietly returns in a wide circle and retreats slowly and reverberates. The house of the poor is like an altar.


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