Friday, April 25, 2014

Children In Church: How Far Is Too Far?

This year, Elizabeth attended all the Triduum Masses (I know, I know, Good Friday is a service, not a Mass...but for ease of writing I'm just gonna lump them all together and say Mass) and Easter morning Mass:
Holy Thursday: 7pm-9pm
Good Friday: 3pm-4:45pm
Easter Vigil (Saturday): 8pm-11:30pm
Easter Morning: 10:30am-11:45am
The Triduum Masses are known to be long, late, and chock full of solemn silence. When I say that combination of words, the phrase "happy toddler" does not exactly jump quickly to my mind. Regardless, I was determined that she be there for all of it. Many people who heard I was doing this immediately told me that it would NOT be a good idea. The words "crazy", "are you out of your mind", and "glad it's you and not me" were all used. And to be honest, I knew they were right. But my stubbornness prevailed and away we went to participate in the most beautiful liturgies of the entire year.

As always, I had this vision of how things would go. It looked something like this:

For the late Masses, we would begin in the cry room and Elizabeth would fall asleep lovingly in Trent's arms. We would then proceed to the main part of Church and partake in the rest of Mass while Elizabeth kept sleeping. Good Friday service would be a breeze: my parents took her to my brother's church since I had to sing at another church. They're really good at keeping her occupied. Done and done.

My plans, of course, failed miserably and nothing went according to how I thought it would. God loves reminding me that I need to trust Him with'd think I would have learned by now that I should just stop making plans all together.

Would you like to know what actually happened? The good news is that the Good Friday service went extraordinarily well. Why is that, you ask? Because I wasn't there. For some reason Elizabeth behaves amazingly at Mass when I'm not there. Apparently it's normal for toddlers to be extremely whiny around their moms...right? RIGHT? It's normal, RIGHT?? 

The late Masses, on the other hand...let's just say this: thank GOODNESS we were the only ones in the cry room. I ended up crying from frustration during the Vigil at some point...I don't remember exactly when because it's all kind of a blur to me now...Trent was angry...Elizabeth was beyond tired...screaming at decibel levels I didn't know were possible...

Doesn't that just seem like the perfect picture of holiness?

Many people reading this will say at this point: so you've learned your lesson, right? Surely you would never put yourself or your kid through that again.

Yes I would. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And I plan on doing it again every year I possibly can. (Dangit!! I'm making plans again!!! I mean, God, I will do whatever Your will is...)

The following things have been said to me by many people. Allow me to give my responses. And remember: this is what we do in our family. It might not work for yours, and that's fine! It might not even work for ours in the future. Who knows? But just keep in mind that I'm not saying families who don't do what we do are bad. We're all different. I love y'all no matter what!

Q: That's unfair to your child to put her through that. She's just tired and miserable, so why do it?
A: I would agree with this if it was a regular occurrence. But the Triduum only happens once a year. Sure, she'll be cranky for a few hours during the late Masses.She might not get as much sleep for two nights as she normally does. But it's not going to kill her. It won't cause any long term damage. In fact, I really think it's good to be flexible for special occasions. If my out of town family is visiting, for example, Elizabeth might stay up a few hours later than she normally does so they get more time with her. This is no different...I'm just allowing her to stay up later to spend more time with Christ.

Q: You're not getting anything out of Mass when you take her. Don't you think it's better for you to be more spiritually and mentally present to what's going on around you?

A: That's true. I don't feel as emotionally or spiritually "fulfilled" when I'm focusing on keeping my toddler quiet during Mass. But here's the important part: Our goal in Mass should not be to "get something out of it." I always chuckle to myself when I see Christian churches advertising their "worship experience." Since when is it a requirement that Mass is an "experience?" Emotions and feelings change. Priests change. Homilies change. What I'm there for is what never has and never will change: the Eucharist. Jesus is fully present at each and every Mass, no matter how we feel. And I receive Him: body, blood, soul, and divinity, each time I participate. If my spiritual well being were dependent on my "feelings" or "what I get out of it", then I'd be in big trouble.
Also, in my struggles of caring for my toddler during Mass, I am offering up sacrifice, just as Christ did for us on the cross. It connects me more fully to Christ. Would I sometimes rather be basking in the glory of Liturgy? Or listening intently to the priest's homily? Yes. But I know that hardships are something that we can offer up to God.

Q: I think it's actually rude to sit in the front pews of church when you have small children. You're distracting other people from the Mass.

A: I'm most interested in hearing people's opinions about this one. Is it just the few more outspoken church members who feel this way? Or is it truly disrespectful? Here's what I think: I sit in front of church because I am so easily distracted, and that's where I am able to concentrate best. If I have a hard time paying attention during Mass, what's it like for my 16 month old? Sitting near the front, children can really see what's happening. Rather than simply seeing the back of people's heads, they can watch the priest more closely. They can participate in the Mass more fully (to the best of their ability according to their age). Right now, Elizabeth's "participating in Mass" pretty much means she occasionally looks at the altar, points, and says "Mama." But they have to start somewhere.
Going to Mass is not just about us as individuals. It is about the community coming together to worship. Aren't children part of the community? Shouldn't they be included just as much as anyone else?

I understand that a line must be drawn somewhere. Obviously, if a child is screaming or being extremely distracting, parents should remove them. But children, just by being children, simply are distracting, even if they aren't doing anything. Here are our rules (under normal circumstances) at this point (some people might think these are too strict, others might think they are not strict enough. They are what works for our family at this two families are the same!):

  • No solid food in church, no matter what age
  • Bottles/sippy cups with milk are okay until a certain point. We are just now starting to phase that out since Elizabeth eats regular meals and doesn't need milk every few hours anymore. We've also found that recently, it makes her more cranky when she sees the bottle bag because she wants it.
  • Only religious toys and books allowed. Elizabeth has a wooden child's rosary and a few children's prayer books we take. I'm planning on starting to phase some of those out and moving her to books about the Mass for kids starting around age 2, depending on how she does.
  • We always sit in front unless the pews are reserved. 
  • We only use the cry room as a last resort. If Elizabeth starts getting very loud or persistently crying, we will go to the cry room. I personally hate cry rooms (although the church we go to has probably the best cry room I've ever's right next to the altar) but I understand their necessity.
  • We try not to encourage her to make faces or "play" with other people during Mass, although we don't mind if others are the ones initiating it.
  • We don't let her walk around, even if we are in the cry room. She either sits in the pew or we hold her (we broke this rule at the end of the Easter Vigil. She was running all over the place in the cry room because we were so exhausted)

What do you think? I really would like to know. Especially with my last question: is it rude or disrespectful to sit in the front of church with small children? Or even anywhere but the cry room? I often get feedback on Facebook, but feel free to comment on my blog too...I know y'all are out there! :-)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Living Liturgically: We're Gonna Party Like It's 478 A.D.

I have always found it fascinating to read about how the early Christians lived. They did not simply go to Church every week and check that off their list of obligations. Their whole lives were centered around the Church calendar. The WHOLE community shut down on feast days so they could celebrate! They literally lived their faith.

They had days and seasons of fasting and abstinence, which connected them more fully to Christ's ultimate sacrifice to us. As Catholics today, I feel like we emphasize these times of the year pretty well. We all know that Lent is a time of simplification. We give up something we enjoy for 40 days. We might do something extra. We try to incorporate more prayer into our lives. Fridays = no meat (or some other sacrifice if you happen to hate meat already). Even non Catholics understand this very well, as McDonalds and every other fast food chain shows when they just happen to coincide their reintroduction of the Filet o Fish with whatever day Ash Wednesday is that year.

But...what about the feasts?? Why don't we emphasize these more? Catholics have always been really good at partying. What are we typically known for? Enjoying good beer and making babies. Two very enjoyable activities. Why, then, are we not known for living out the celebrations that the Church offers? Even secular people celebrate St. Patrick's Day, St. Valentine's Day, Christmas, and Easter (all feasts that originate in the Catholic Church). Why is it that whenever people think of Catholics, they typically think "rules" or "restrictions"? Rules and restrictions are, of course, very important. But so are celebrations and feasts!

You guys. The Church calendar is FULL of feasts! It's so exciting! My husband and I have made the decision (and when I say that, what I really mean is I have excitedly babbled on to my husband about how awesome this is, and he agreed) that our family is going to make an effort to live more liturgically. This means observing the fasts, like we already do. But it ALSO means observing the feasts!

I think this is particularly important for children. They learn by touching, tasting, and doing. It's important, of course, that they experience the solemness during times of fasting and abstinence. But it's equally important for them to experience the joy and fun of Christian living!

The Church has a feast day pretty much every day. So what we plan to do for now as we are starting this journey is to pick a few days a month that are important to our family and celebrate those days. There are, of course, activities you can incorporate for children with the feast days, but Elizabeth is not quite old enough for that yet. So here's what we have celebrated/plan to celebrate for April:

My husband has always had a deep love and fascination of anything French. St. Bernadette was born in Lourdes, France and is the patron saint of that area.

What we did: Made a French meal
  • Chicken Cordon Bleu
  • French Baguettes
  • Asparagus (not sure if that's French or not, but it was yummy)
  • Crepes for dessert
I intended to take pictures of all this, but failed. We also intended to read about the life of St. Bernadette but got distracted and didn't end up doing it. Next time!

This isn't necessarily a "feast day" but still a very important day on the Church calendar. It is when we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, and read about the Passover in the Old Testament.

  • Made a symbolic meal of traditional Passover/Jewish food
    • Roasted Lamb
    • Unleavened Bread
    • Potato Knishes
    • "Bitter" Herbs (we made Kale) intended...but failed. 

Our last name is of English descent, so we will be celebrating the patron saint of England, St. George!

  • Make an English Meal
    • Fish and Chips
    • Treacle Tart
  • Read about the life and martyrdom of St. George
  • Write down some of our own "dragons" (sins) with which we struggle and light the paper on fire (because we are pyros)

Divine Mercy Sunday, always the Sunday after Easter, is when we emphasize Jesus' unending mercy for us. It was made an official Feast Day by Pope John Paul II. Even before that, however, the Sunday after Easter has always focused on God's mercy as we read about Doubting St. Thomas in the Gospels on that day.


Pope John Paul II is a hugely important person in the lives of my husband and me. His teachings and writings are probably the main reason we began to fall in love with our faith. This day, the day he will be made a saint, is going to be a very exciting day for our family, so we plan on pulling out all the stops!

  • Make a Polish dinner (JPII was from Poland)
    • Pieroges
    • Sausage
    • Polish Honey Cake
  • Watch a short documentary on the life of Pope John Paull II (if we have time)

This will be a day of mixed emotions for us. We named our first baby, who is now in heaven, Catherine, after St. Catherine. So we will of course celebrate this feast day, knowing that our baby is with the Lord. But we will also take time to remember her and pray for all those who have lost their babies during pregnancy.

Living liturgically just seems to me like it's such a great way to incorporate our faith even more into our daily life. And it doesn't have to be a crazy, go-all-out celebration every time either! When we had our passover meal on Holy Thursday, we only had about 15 minutes to eat before we had to frantically get ready for Holy Thursday Mass. It's not always going to be a magical, amazingly spiritual experience. And obviously, as my lack of pictures shows, sometimes our plans don't always happen the way we intend. But I'm really excited to give this a try!

If you are really interested in living more liturgically, here are a few blogs that talk about it in more detail:
Kendra at
Haley at

What do you think? I would love any ideas of things you do in your family, or things you think sound fun to try!

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Becoming a Mother Changed My Outlook on Christ's Crucifixion

Every year on Good Friday I force myself to watch "The Passion of the Christ". I actually hate doing it. I want to look away at most of the parts. But I make myself watch. I figure if Christ can go through all the suffering and die for me, it's the least I can do. It really does help me realize what He went through. When we recite the Creed, we say, "He suffered, died, and was buried." Bam. That's it. It's very easy to just say those words and not even think about them. But after I watch this movie, I realize how much suffering He went through.

In the past, B.C. (before children), the parts I grimaced at the most were always the ones with gore. Especially the scouring at the pillar. Sooo much blood, tears, and awfulness. It seems like it never ends. How could anyone possibly do that to someone? And just stand there and watch (Although, saying that, we all do that. We stand by and watch all sorts of terrible things happen in our society without saying a word)?

After I had Elizabeth, however, I noticed that the movie affected me much differently than before. The parts that made me grimace more than anything were now the ones that involved Mary. Her expressions as she had to watch her son. As she stood there, not able to do anything. To me, that is one of the worst things anyone can go through. To watch as their child suffers, unable to do a thing to change it.

I think of all the times Elizabeth has been sick or hurt. And how much it kills me inside. And they have never been anything life threatening or horribly serious. When this happens, I think of Mary. And what she endured as she watched her son suffer.

Today is a day of fasting, prayer, and somberness. We remember Christ's ultimate sacrifice. We remember what his Mother and his Apostles had to go through as they watched. We remember what this means for us.

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Easter Vigil That Changed My Life

Ohhhh my gosh you guys. My inner Catholic nerd is coming way out. This next week is, by far, my most favorite week of the entire year. Way more than Christmas, even.


This is how I feel during Holy Week

For those of you who might be interested/may not know, Holy Week is the week before Easter. It is the most liturgically rich, beautiful, wonderful, and important week of the entire year. And it lasts ALL WEEK! Here's the lineup:

Chrism Mass (Tuesday before Easter in our diocese)

Taken from here:
On Holy Thursday morning (in some dioceses it may be another morning during Holy Week), the bishop, joined by the priests of the diocese, gather at the Cathedral to celebrate the Chrism Mass. This Mass manifests the unity of the priests with their bishop.
Here the bishop blesses three oils -- the oil of catechumens (oleum catechumenorum oroleum sanctorum), the oil of the infirm (oleum infirmorum) and holy chrism (sacrum chrisma) -- which will be used in the administration of the sacraments throughout the diocese for the year. This tradition is rooted in the early Church as noted in the Gelasian Sacramentary.

Holy Thursday:

Taken from here:
Holy Thursday is more than just the lead-in to Good Friday; it is, in fact, the oldest of the celebrations of Holy Week. And with good reason: Holy Thursday is the day on which Catholics commemorate the institution of three pillars of the Catholic Faith: the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the priesthood, and the Mass. During the Last Supper, Christ blessed the bread and wine with the very words that Catholic and Orthodox priests use today to consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass and the Divine Liturgy. In telling His disciples to "Do this in remembrance of Me," He instituted the Mass and made them the first priests.

Good Friday

Taken from here:
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, commemorates the Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. From the earliest days of Christianity, no Mass has been celebrated on Good Friday; instead, the Church celebrates a special liturgy in which the account of the Passion according to the Gospel of John is read, a series of intercessory prayers (prayers for special intentions) are offered, and the faithful venerate the Cross by coming forward and kissing it. The Good Friday liturgy concludes with the distribution of Holy Communion. Since there was no Mass, Hosts that were reserved from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday are distributed instead.
The service is particularly solemn; the organ is not played, and all vestments are red or (in the Traditional Latin Mass) black.

Holy Saturday (aka Easter Vigil, or the LITURGY THAT TOPS ALL LITURGIES)

Taken from here:
We wait in darkness, bless a fire, process with candles, and hear re-told the stories of our salvation through the scriptures.  The emphasis is on waiting for the culmination of the story: Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  Bells are rung, and alleluias are sung as we hear the gospel account of Christ’s rising.  Then, following this proclamation of the core of our beliefs, new members are brought into the Church through baptism and a profession of faith.  The recounting of Christ’s new life is closely connected to the Church’s renewal through the reception of its new members.
This celebration as a vigil is important because it doesn’t just commemorate something God did in the past; it celebrates something God is doing today.  Although our salvation was accomplished 2000 years ago, we are also watching and waiting to see what God is doing in our lives today.  Because our past and our future are connected, through God’s saving power, it wouldn’t seem like enough for us to simply sit in our pews on Sunday morning, as we do every week.
The celebration of Easter, as a vigil, invites us to break out our most potent symbols of God’s action, and our response.  So, all the waiting, the readings, music, candles, procession, and initiation, all remind us that God has accomplished something amazing by loving us so much.  And our vigil is a statement, individually and collectively, that we are ready to be renewed and to live out of the grace we’ve received.

Then, of course, EASTER! 

Oh, the point of Easter is not chocolate bunnies....right...of course I know that...

The past few years of Holy Weeks have been emotional roller coasters for me, so I am really looking forward to having a somewhat normal experience this year (although you can never really call Holy Week "normal").

Holy Week 2012: I was still recovering emotionally from the loss of our first baby (I will dedicate another post to that). My friend and co-worker had just passed away at the age of 30 from cancer the week before. It was a very difficult time in my life. I remember going to Holy Thursday Mass with Trent and getting in a huge argument afterward (mainly due, I'm sure, to my emotional state at the time). Then, the next day on Good Friday, I found out I was pregnant with Elizabeth. This news, because of the recent loss of our first baby, brought a new level of emotion to me: fear, anxiety, trepidation. I spent the remaining time of Holy Week praying desperately to God that he would deliver me from my worries and sadness.

Holy Week 2013: Elizabeth was a few months old and was very sick. She had RSV, and the doctor ordered us to get an x-ray of her lungs on the Wednesday before Easter. I was also suffering from bad postpartum anxiety and depression. I always envisioned that the first Holy Week with my new baby would be so amazing...that I would take her to all the Masses/services and experience the wonder of the liturgies with my brand new family. Instead, we had to keep her home at all times to make sure her sickness did not get worse. Trent and I had to attend the Masses and service separately. It made me so sad to not be able to attend with my family.

This year, we are so blessed. No one is sick, my pregnancy is going very well, and we will all be able to be together. Well...most of the time...Trent is working Good Friday and Easter, but 2 out of 4 ain't bad for a hospital employee!

The Holy Week I remember most, though, is the year 2008. It is one of the most profound weeks of my entire life, and the Easter Vigil Mass contained the single most spiritual moment I have ever experienced. 

Trent and I had been broken up for about a year and a half. That period was a dark time in my life. God was not really something I concerned myself with. I went to Mass, sure, but that was about it. I was desperately searching for happiness in all the wrong places. Making bad decisions. Wondering why I wasn't satisfied. I had recently learned, to my surprise, that Trent was coming into the Catholic Church. Many people assume that the reason he converted from the Lutheran faith was because of me, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I didn't even know about it until a few weeks before Easter.

Trent and I spent the week before Easter talking. A LOT. We talked for hours after Holy Thursday Mass and Good Friday service. Trent talked with such passion and enthusiasm about the Catholic faith. He seemed so at peace. It was exactly the kind of peace I was searching for. His zeal for the faith was contagious, and it caught my heart on fire. I promised him I would attend the Easter Vigil Mass to witness his coming into the Church.

I went to the Easter Vigil, not quite sure what to expect. I watched as Trent went up to the altar to receive his blessings. Then, right before communion, the priest opened his arms wide, smiled, and said, "Come. Receive Jesus for the first time." It was almost like Trent was glowing. As I looked at him up on that altar, I heard God say to me, "This is the man I have chosen for you. This is the path I have chosen for you." And suddenly, I was no longer afraid. There was not any trace of doubt in my mind. I was going to marry this man, and that thought gave me so much peace and tranquility that I could hardly stand it. I finally knew what God wanted me to do.

From that point forward, our relationship grew and grew. We were two different people than the ones who had dated in high school. We strove to put our faith in the center of our relationship, and it gave us both peace and happiness that we did not have before. And I never again had any doubt in my mind about the path that God wanted me to take. I can say the same thing to this very day.

So, folks, that's my story. I hope that you all have a blessed Holy Week. And on Easter Sunday, we can finally say the A-word which is forbidden during lent. It rhymes with Kalleluia. So ***insert a-word*** everyone!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Since When Does "I Disagree" = "I Hate You"??

I figure I'm probably going to be writing a lot of controversial stuffs on this blog, so this is a post that needs to be written.

Before I proceed, let me get one thing straight. When it comes to moral and religious issues, I despise relativism (except apparently when it comes to parenting). I don't buy the "what's true for me may not be true for you." argument. It makes no sense to me because if something is true, it doesn't matter what we think of it. The lamp next to my bed is, indeed, a lamp, regardless of whether or not I want to believe it is. When it comes to religion, I have faith that Catholicism is Truth. Despite anyone's belief as to whether it is or not. There are two possibilities here: Either I'm right, or I'm wrong. There is no in between. Either Catholicism is the truest religion (I of course think that all Christian, and even non-Christian, religions have some elements of truth to them, but the Catholic Church is where one can find the complete fullness of truth), or it's not.

Of course, we are all human (except for my dog. She's not a human but I'm pretty sure she has some strong opinions about this subject). So naturally, there are going to be subjects about which we disagree. Some subjects cause more emotional reactions than others. If you disagree with me about, say, my view of whether or not the sky is REALLY blue, we could have a pleasant conversation and perhaps just agree to disagree in the end. But if you try and tell me that my opinion about my grandmother's strawberry rhubarb pie (it's the most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth and it should be considered a miracle which means my grandmother should be considered for canonization to the sainthood) is wrong, then you might as well never talk to me again because I don't think we can be friends. (Jk, jk. We can still be friends. I just won't like you as much) ((SERIOUSLY, joking. Kind of))

My point is, even if we disagree on important things like moral or religious issues, that doesn't change the fact that there is, indeed, a correct answer. One of us is right. And of course, most people believe that they hold the correct view. They wouldn't hold their view if they didn't think it was right.

OKAY. I have that out of the way, so I shall proceed.

*Clears Throat*
*Adjusts Glasses* (If I wore them)
*Shuffles Papers*

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a "tolerant" culture. What exactly does that word mean?

Being tolerant is the "cool" thing to do nowadays. When I hear the word, I think of this:

We need to have tolerance, simply because there are different opinions out there and people do not always agree. Tolerance is a good thing. But here's the problem I have with it: it seems as though many who preach tolerance are not, in fact, tolerant of those who disagree about certain issues. In fact, they go so far as to call them names: hateful, phobic, bigoted, anti-freedom, etc etc. The list could go on. Allow me to give an example:

Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla, recently stepped down from his position. People responded with outrage as they discovered his $1,000 contribution to California's Proposition 8 campaign in 2008. I'm not going to pretend to know a vast amount about what exactly happened here because all I have read is what the media has reported, and I've learned never to trust the media. What I do know is that Eich was encouraged (many people say forced) to step down from his position because the company did not agree with his contribution that supported opposition of same-sex marriage.

Mozilla's executive chairwoman, Mitchell Baker, issued the following statement regarding Eich's resignation:

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.
Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.
I'm not going to get into the issue of gay marriage here, by the way. That's for another post. What I don't understand is how they can possibly say they "believe in equality and freedom of speech"? Apparently that does not apply to Eich. "We welcome contributions from everyone"...except those who disagree with popular opinion.

I've found that many people do just this. They say that they are tolerant, that they support equality, that they believe in freedom for all. But really, they don't. Eich was branded as a hateful, homophobic bigot by many who discovered his monetary contribution. And so are others who hold his views.

What would those people say if Mozilla decided to "encourage someone to resign" because he publicly supported gay marriage? It would be all over the news. Those who once were "tolerant" would suddenly become just the opposite.

"I disagree" does NOT mean "I hate you". I fully understand that many of my views are not the views that a majority of our society holds. I don't think contraception is right, but that doesn't mean that if you use it, I think you're a horrible person. I do think you'd be better off not using it, and I still think you're wrong for using it, but I don't hate you. I'm not a "people-who-use-contraception-phobic." I don't "fear" you (as the term "phobic" implies) or wish you any harm. In fact, I wish the opposite, which is why I encourage others to consider my viewpoint. I can still be good friends with you. I just disagree. One of us is right, one of us isn't. End of story. And really, who does agree with every single life decision or viewpoint of another? It's nearly impossible.

So do we truly live in a culture that encourages tolerance? I don't think so. In my view, Americans define tolerance as agreeing with the loudest voice (which is not even necessarily the majority voice). If you don't, you are considered hateful. Or, as they ironically like to say, "intolerant."

I tell you this in the hopes that when you read any future posts of mine, you do not label me in that way. Just because I might have a different opinion than you does not mean I'm hateful. Just because I might preach that a life choice you happen to be making is morally wrong does not mean I hate you. I just disagree with you. And, like I mentioned earlier, I will stand my ground that what I believe (which is what the Catholic Church teaches) is true. And you'll probably stand your ground. And that's okay.

Let's not be H8ers. Let's have discussions with intelligence and kindness. Perhaps what I say may influence you to think about your decisions. Maybe what you say will encourage me to really think about my viewpoints. Or maybe in the end we'll just agree to disagree. I promise you that I won't call you a h8er.

Unless, of course, you criticize my grandmother's strawberry rhubarb pie.

Just don't go there.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Parenting Style May Raise Eyebrows, and I'm Okay With That: Part Two

Apologies for my lack of posting this personal goal is two posts per week! The stomach flu hit this family hard, and I was preoccupied with copious amounts of throw up. It was a fun time. But we are all back into the swing of things, so without further ado...

If you haven't read my last post regarding the topic of parenting styles, you need to do it. If you don't, it will be like trying to read the seventh Harry Potter book before you've read all the rest. Which means the world will explode. So I'll give you a few minutes to do that. I'll go get some stuff done while you do.

*Cue Jeopardy Music*
*Start attempting to do laundry but get distracted by something shiny*
*Decide that I'm too pregnant to lift the heavy laundry basket anyway so I should do something less strenuous*
*Go wrestle with my 100lb dog instead, which is clearly much less dangerous than attempting laundry*
*Realize that wrestling my dog was a bad idea because now the amount of fur on my clothes makes me look like I'm Bigfoot*
*Wonder where the idea of Bigfoot came from anyway? Google it.*

Okay, done? Great! Let's move on. I was very productive while you were away.

When Elizabeth was a newborn, Trent got me this awesome book for us to read together called "How To Raise Nearly Perfect Catholic Children" or something like that. During my breastfeeding sessions, I devoured the book (Meaning, I read it quickly...not like I was so hungry I ate the book. Just clearing that up). I loved everything it said: the importance of sacrificial love, communication, and self-giving parenting. I made a mental list of how I would handle certain situations as Elizabeth grew: tantrums, feeding, etc.

Then, just as I thought I had it alllll figured out, I got to the chapter about: *dun, dun, dun* Attachment Parenting.

What many unknowing people think of when they hear "attachment parenting"

For those of you that are not aware, I'll give you a quick summary of what attachment parenting is. It's a very popular way of parenting, especially with young mothers in my generation. These are the eight principals of attachment parenting (summarized by me) from

1) Prepare for pregnancy and birth
2) Breastfeed (or "bottle nurse" if breastfeeding is not possible) on child-led feeding schedule
3) Always respond to baby's crying or distress, as immediately as possible
4) Use touch often (skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, baby massage, etc)
5) Co-sleep (family bed)
6) Consistent care giver (baby stays with main caregiver at all times if possible)
7) Positive discipline (don't react to bad behavior, instead learn the needs causing the behavior)
8) Strive for balance (make time for yourself)

Well they make this attachment parenting thing sound picture perfect!

Some of this was obvious to me. My thought process in response to these eight principals B.C. (before children):

1) Duh. Take all the classes, read all the books. Check
2) Duh. Why wouldn't you breastfeed? (Post about this coming soon)
3) ?
4) Sounds good to me.
5) .........
6) Ok, sure.
7) Ok...sounds good to me...
8) Good. Make occasional spa days and have date nights. Agreed.

In response to number 3:
This seemed like advice from another planet to me. I come from a German family (extended family too, not just parents). In relation to child rearing, the biggest piece of advice my aunts ever gave me was: "LET 'EM CRY." It was really the only piece of advice I'd ever heard, and I didn't even know there was another option. I was terrified of spoiling my child.

Elizabeth cried A LOT as a newborn. No matter what we did.
So...we had plenty of experience with crying babies.

In response to number 5:
My mother is a SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) instructor and has done extensive research on the topic. She has told me horror stories about the babies she has seen in the hospital, all victims of unsafe co-sleeping. It was drilled into me from a young age to never, never sleep with a baby in my bed.

Sorry mom....It was during the day, I swear!! I wasn't sleeping!!

So, back to my book. I was on board with most of this attachment parenting stuff. But when I got to the chapter about never letting your child cry and co-sleeping, I was more than skeptical. I almost didn't even read it. But when I did, I received this basic message:
"If you ever let your child cry, she will suffer from mental problems, social obstacles, and trust issues her entire life! You are not being a Christ-like parent! BAD Ashley, BAD!"
"If you sleep train your baby, she will never feel truly close to you! You will sever your bond with her FOREVER!"

Well, that's all I needed to hear. I never let my baby cry for extended periods of time, but it never bothered me to let her cry for a few minutes as I finished a task. I didn't feel bad letting her cry for 5 or 10 minutes as she fell asleep. I started freaking out, researching more about this "attachment parenting" stuff. Was I doing it wrong?? Was I going to emotionally scar my child forever? I agonized over every decision I made for a long time.

I got to a point, with the help of a very good friend (hi Kim!), when I realized that I can't be so concerned about what others are saying in regards to raising my children. What really matters is what my husband and I think, and of course, what God thinks. 

Let's fast forward to present day. Here's what I've learned about parenting so far:

There is no "right" way to parent.
I normally despise relativism, but in this case, I buy it. What I do to raise my child might not be right
for you, and vice versa. Maybe you do co-sleep and have great success with it (it is possible to do it safely). I could never do it. I would never sleep. I like having my own bed, and I'm not a bad parent because of that. Perhaps you do use the "no cry" method. That's great! Crying babies do not bother me. I don't think it's possible to spoil newborns, and agree that a parent should try to constantly meet a newborn's needs. But once babies reach a certain age (less than a year old), they KNOW how to work the system. And I simply can't tolerate that. Does that make me a lesser parent? I don't think so. 

I can trust my instincts.
I am very influenced by what I read, especially in regards to parenting. I get consumed by guilt by books and articles telling me how my parenting decisions will negatively affect my children for the rest of their lives. So I've learned to just not read them anymore. I know instinctively what the proper way to deal with my child is, and that's awesome. It might not be the "popular" way. But I know that I'm doing the best I can and that the decisions I make are best for my child and my family.

I'm done worrying about what's "politically correct."
Is it just me, or does it seem like parenting sometimes feels like tiptoeing through broken glass? What I mean is, I often feel like I'm so worried about offending others because my method of parenting might not be "mainstream" or "common." Honestly? I think spanking is fine. I have no problem with it. I don't think it's child abuse. People gasp when I say that. When Elizabeth doesn't listen to me the first time, there are immediate consequences. I either put her in a pack and play "timeout" or lightly smack her hand. And it works for me. You cannot sit a one year old down and have a conversation about why her behavior is incorrect. Some parents would hate that, and would never dream of disciplining their child in that way. And that's great! But don't tell me that my disciplinary techniques are "mean" or "inappropriate." They aren't. They just might not be right for you.

In regards to parenting styles, I don't care what "research has shown"
"Research" is a buzz word right now. "Research says!" "Research shows!" Research has proven!" The frustrating part about this is that no matter which side you are on, there is "research" to back up the effectiveness of it. So what do you believe? I have come to the conclusion that because every parent and child is different, there can't really be one "correct" way. And researchers can say all they want, but they don't know my child like I do. They aren't the ones taking care of her every day, trying to prepare her for heaven in the best way possible.

It has taken a long time for me to get to a place where I am comfortable and confident with the way I parent. And I know, especially with a new baby coming, my style will have to change and adapt to whatever life brings. I will never have it totally figured out, and that's okay. No one does. Information is a wonderful thing, but it has the capability to bind us if we let it. Our diverse world is a beautiful place. Instead of filling our hearts with worry and guilt and judgment, we can learn from our differences!

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go fetch my child. She's busy organizing the items in our "dangerous electrical equipment" box, and I need to get her ready for her playtime at "Swimming With Sharks R Us."