Author Archive for Michaelyn Hein

The Upside of Failure

failYesterday my son’s school celebrated Science Fair day. I didn’t think it was a big deal. The letter that came home a month ago only mentioned that a science fair project was voluntary for kindergarteners. When I asked my son if he wanted to do and present a project, he adamantly said no, and as he’s only in kindergarten, I didn’t push.

But, when I dropped him off at school yesterday morning, I saw a sea of teal blue shirts on kids running around the playground, running to find their morning line, running to grab their backpacks when the bell rang. Teal blue shirts that I quickly realized marked the many, many kids who’d done a project. And there stood my son, in his black Minion shirt (the one with a red cape velcroed on the back so that he looked like a little superhero). And there I stood, beside him in his line, taking in the fact that at that moment I felt like anything but a superhero mom.

My son handled it well, admiring his friends’ t-shirts, and so, though I left feeling disappointed in myself that I didn’t encourage him more to participate, I was comforted that he didn’t seem too upset about it.

Until we attended the Fair together at the end of the school day. We walked hand-in-hand, observing the projects done by so many other kindergarteners. Color shows, and visual explanations of why it’s colder in winter and warmer in summer, and magnetic slime all wowed my son and captivated his attention. At the end, the children who’d participated were awarded medals to boast around their necks. My son watched them earn their medals, and I watched him bravely fight back tears. Of envy. Of regret. Of disappointment.

From my end, my own disappointment from earlier in the day returned as I realized I’d failed. I thought of all the reasons I’d done so. My son being my oldest, I was unaware of what a grand event this school-wide Science Fair was. The letter sent home hadn’t mentioned the shirts and the medals and the fact that most of the kindergarten class typically participates. But, whatever the reasons, I knew yesterday was a “Yep, I failed this one” kind of mom day.

Usually, I’d be hard on myself. I’d not let it go, grumbling to my husband about it after the kids were in bed, turning it over in my mind while trying to fall asleep myself. But, during this past Lent, I learned something beautiful about failure.

On Ash Wednesday, I’d made a commitment to waking up extra early each day to spend time with God. To read some work of a saint, to write, to pray. But, after the first week, I’d only made it up early enough to spend a little extra time with God on two occasions. I continued to struggle until soon enough I figured I’d just give up altogether. I’d already failed. What was the point of going on?

Until early one morning about halfway through Lent, feeling defeated, I forced myself out of bed (why, when I’d missed so many days already?), opened my copy of Divine Intimacy to a random page and began to read about humility. “It is impossible to gain humility,” it said, “without humiliations; for just as studying is the way to acquire knowledge, so it is by the way of humiliation that we attain to humility.”

I paused. I’d been seeing Lent as a chance to become the perfect daughter of Christ by sacrificing my sleep in order to get up early and become better at prayer and conversing with the Lord. But, I believe He wanted to mold me this Lent through another way: through lessons in humility.

Instead of puffing myself up and seeing myself as this great renewed pray-er, I learned during Lent to accept my failures as reminders of my own weakness and imperfections and of my total dependence on God in everything. And this lesson carries over, of course, into my motherhood.

When things go well, I find it’s easy to become prideful. Like when I don’t forget that it’s share day at school, or when I remember to wash my son’s favorite shirt – again – so he can wear it for the third day in a row. When we have these days where we remember it all (gasp!), we’re understandably inclined to pat ourselves on the back. But, let us not forget to thank the Lord for helping our forgetfulness that day, for gifting us these successful moments as encouragement and support to go on.

And let’s thank Him for our failures, too. For neglected Science Fair days, missed deadlines, and unwashed favorite pajamas. For it is the humble, not the proud, who grow closest to the Lord. And if He allows us these lessons in humility, then surely, through them, He wants us to grow closer to Him.

Meeting Christ in Our Mess

adoration2

Last Friday at noon, I finally accomplished the unthinkable: I sat with Jesus for an hour at Adoration.

Now, it wasn’t the peaceful hour I’d hoped for. I’d envisioned that my one-year-old daughter, who had to accompany me, would take her nap during that hour. That I would be able to hold my sleeping baby girl in my arms as I gazed at Jesus and did nothing but contemplate him. That, as sometimes happened at visits I made to Adoration before I had children, I would feel graces pour upon me in that hour.

Maybe grace did fall upon me, but if so, I surely didn’t have a chance to feel it. Because my daughter didn’t sleep. At all. Despite being tired, and despite it being her normal naptime, she stayed awake. Wide awake. And I entered the chapel wide-eyed myself. Only my wide eyes were from fear. Instead of contemplating thoughts of our Lord, I contemplated a more pressing thought at that moment: How would we get through this hour?

Maybe you’re wondering why I decided we had to stay a full hour. Couldn’t I have put less pressure on myself? Commit to staying only as long as my daughter could last? Jesus would understand, after all, if I had to exit the room with a screaming toddler in tow.

What led up to that moment of entering the chapel was another unthinkable act I’d done a few days prior. In making a move toward Perpetual Adoration, my parish increased its hours of Eucharistic Adoration and was looking for people to help out by dedicating an hour each week to sit with the Lord. When I saw the notice in the bulletin, I felt called. Ludicrously (since I’d have to take my daughter with me), I called the parish and committed myself to an entire hour…every week.

“How will you do it?” family members asked. My mother offered to send my dad to relieve me for the second half hour. I thought, however, of my sister-in-law, who has five kids and who, with her husband, has towed all of them to an hour of Adoration on more than one occasion.

“I can do this,” I answered those concerned. After all, if other moms could do it with half a dozen kids, I surely could do it with one.

So, as I approached the chapel with a wide-awake toddler, I prayed, “Dear Jesus, I want lots of people to spend time with you in the Blessed Sacrament, but, umm, today, could it just be me? Please?” I was sure he’d be so grateful for my commitment to be with him, that he’d answer my prayer.

And then I opened the door to a room full of adorers. People kneeling in deep, silent prayer. People sitting quietly, reading. And me, pushing in a stroller full of books and dolls and coloring pages and markers, and one eager, bright-eyed (and potentially loud) little girl.

I took a deep breath and pushed forward, making my way to the back corner of the room, where I could unload my daughter onto the floor with a slew of items I hoped would keep her quietly entertained for an entire sixty minutes.

The amazing thing is that though my request for an empty room wasn’t granted, another, unspoken prayer was. My daughter was good. Really good. Sure, I had to color with her (so much for cracking open my copy of Divine Intimacy), and silently play dolls with her, and show her pictures in books, and fill her with food and drinks when she began to get noisy, but we did it. We lasted our full hour until the next committed adorer arrived.

My pride in making it through, however, waned when an hour after arriving I packed up and looked around the room. People were still kneeling in silence. They were still reading. They were still sitting, engaged in silent conversation with our Lord.

I’m sorry, I silently told Jesus on my way out. I came to be with you but spent the entire time engaged with my daughter. Did this do any good?

See, in my plan, this was a time to draw closer to my Savior. In my plan, I would do all the things that my busy life as a mom didn’t allow me to do. I would read books I had chosen to bring along, books that would inspire me in my faith. I would talk to Jesus about all sorts of things that had been on my mind. I would pray a rosary, or at least a decade. I would do so much to show Jesus just how much I love him because, often, in the busy-ness of life, I feel like I don’t get to prove that to him. And I would be able to do this because, in my plan, my daughter would nap and I would make the time fruitful.

Instead, I did none of that. The thought crossed my mind that once again I’d neglected to really make strides in my relationship with Christ.

But then another thought came to me. You did nurture this relationship. After all, though I didn’t busy myself with doing for Jesus, I did busy myself with being in his real presence. And in his presence, I busied myself with caring for the child he gifted me. He did tell us to “let the little ones come to” him, which I assuredly did that day (Mt 19:14).

I thought, too, about the fact that Jesus longs to be intimate with us, even more intimate than we are with our spouse and children. And some of the most intimate moments in my relationship with my husband occur when we don’t talk. When we just exist together, side by side, living our daily lives. When doing things like playing with our children, cleaning the house, or cooking dinner beside each other. There’s a comfort in being at a point in a relationship where you don’t have to talk, where you can just be content existing in the same space.

And if our familial relationships are meant to image our relationship with God, then surely being directly in Jesus’ presence was enough to draw us closer. A shared experience of witnessing the beauty of my daughter playing, coloring and, at times, looking up at the monstrance and gleefully saying, “Jee-suh!”

And perhaps there existed the greatest fruit of my hour with Christ: that I’d exposed my daughter to her exposed Lord. Right there in the middle of her mess. The way he wants us all to come to him.

Image courtesy of catholicireland.net

Feeding the Kids with My Eyes Closed (and Other Reasons to Love Co-Sleeping)

cosleepingNot long after my first child was born, I found myself in a discussion with another new mom about how (not so) well our babies were sleeping. Really, what else do new mothers talk about? It was inevitable that the topic would come up. What wasn’t so obvious to me – though perhaps it should have been – was the discouragement I’d be met with when I confided that my six month-old son slept in bed with my husband and me.

Other moms at the play-date soon dropped their conversations and joined ours. I was grateful for the increase in numbers. Surely, one of them would defend the choice my husband and I had made, offering further assurance that yes, it was possible to sleep peacefully with a baby at your side, and no, we didn’t stay awake all night, petrified we’d roll over on our children.

But, it seemed – at that particular play-date, anyway – that I was alone. The other moms were sincere in their disbelief and peppered me with questions. Back then, I lacked confidence in my answers. After all, I hadn’t intended to co-sleep. I didn’t even know there was a word for it. I just knew that although I’d intended for my son to sleep in his crib as my pediatrician advised, I found it didn’t work. My son hardly slept, but I got even less shut-eye than him. When I wasn’t tending to my crying infant, I lay in my own bed, down the hall, watching my son on the video monitor. I listened to his breathing patterns and watched his chest rise and fall as I attempted to will myself to take my eyes off the screen.

After a few nights of this nightmarish pattern, I flicked off the monitor, grabbed my son, and lay him beside me. The next day, I bought Dr. Sears’ The Baby Sleep Book and read up on how to sleep with your baby safely. I bought a guardrail for my bed, and placed my son between the rail and me at night (since my husband is an incredibly heavy sleeper and actually did worry me that he might roll over on our child). And, then, only a couple nights into this new way of doing things, both my baby and I got a good night’s sleep.

Those sleep-filled nights continued (barring a middle-of-the-night illness  or teething episode), and many years and another co-sleeping child later, my family was well-rested.

It’s been six years since we first let a child into our bed, and now, as I lay next to my snoozing twenty-month old, I think of all the benefits of co-sleeping I wish I could go back and share with those innocently incredulous women. I can’t repeat history, but I can share with a different audience some joys my husband and I have found in co-sleeping.

1) Emotional closeness. When my son was an infant, I joked that he was a heat-seeking missile. In his sleep, he would inch closer, eventually nestled right up against me. As he grew, he searched out my arm and used it as his pillow. Now, at six years old, he sleeps in his own room (what six year old wouldn’t prefer Star Wars bedding to a rose covered quilt?), but occasionally enjoys climbing into my husband’s and my bed when I’m putting his little sister to sleep. He rests his head on my shoulder, sweetly rubs his sister’s arm, and falls asleep right along with her.

2) Setting a precedent for our relationship. The door to the room my husband and I share is an open one for our children, just like our relationship with them. Co-sleeping has taught them that we are always accessible rather than “off limits”. It’s a lesson that translates into other aspects of their lives and that will continue to do so. Because we’ve listened and responded to their needs by allowing them to sleep beside us, our children understand that we are always approachable and available, that they can come to us, and that we will not turn them away.

3) Happy bedtimes. Because bedtime is a chance for us to settle down, cuddle and feel that awesome feeling you get when you’re snuggled up close to those you love, bedtime in our home is rarely a fight. I’ve been in homes where parents (and their kids) dread bedtime. Where kids cry and resist going to their rooms to sleep. Once, when I witnessed a particularly bad tantrum, it hit me that our children love bedtime (unless we’re having a sleepover at their grandparents’ home, where the love to stay up late). My one year-old usually goes to the steps by 7 p.m., and requests sweetly, “bed”. My 6 year-old son often bounds up the stairs to his room, then snuggles up close in his bed, where we read his chosen bedtime book.

4) Nearness in the not-so-healthy times. Co-sleeping offers the ability to read your child’s body language and respond accordingly. Many nights, because of my nearness, I discovered a fever early, before it had a chance to rise uncomfortably high. I could tell when a stomach bug was about to strike or when my son needed to use the bathroom, and in both instances, my closeness often helped my kids to avoid accidents. I soothed them through teething pain without them waking up. And on more than one occasion, I nudged my children back into a regular breathing pattern when, as infants, they had elongated (though usually normal) gaps in their breathing.

5) Less interrupted sleep. I’ll never forget the first time I woke and found my infant son had helped himself to nursing. I was initially confused. Had I fallen asleep nursing him? Obviously, I had. Had he never stopped? Being that it was hours later, obviously, he had. Had he really rolled back over and latched himself back on without me knowing? Yes to that, too. And then, once my perplexity faded, I felt relief that I hadn’t needed to get out of bed to feed or coddle him. As I drifted back to sleep, I wondered why I had ever attempted to put him in a crib in the first place.

6) Peace. It’s what all these other benefits lead to. The peace in knowing your children are safe, healthy, and nearby. The peace of feeling their bodies rise and fall with each breath they take. But, most important, it’s about the peace co-sleeping brings them. The comfort and security they gain from having their parents so close at hand. And, really, that’s the best benefit of all.

Image credit: kdshutterman (freedigitalphotos.com)

The Little Way of Lunches and Laundry

“The world lies to us so readily, telling us that the work of God is outside our homes. That the Lord’s work is gloriously big and newsworthy. That to find those who need us, we must look elsewhere. But, the reality is that the work of God begins inside our homes, for those who need us most are those we share our homes with. Because our spouses and our children go out and face the world armed with the same charity we’ve given them at home.”

“A toddler makes it difficult to do God’s work,” I lamented to my husband not long before Christmas. Our parish offered ID-100264365several opportunities to grow closer to Christ during Advent, and with Christmas around the corner, it seemed I’d be unable to attend a single one.

I’d specifically been planning to attend nighttime Adoration, but our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter needed me. She was still dependent upon me to nurse her to sleep, and though I very much wanted to sneak out the door, I could hear the exhaustion and desperation in her cries. I sighed and slipped off my coat, picked her up, and cuddled her in my arms. Instead of consoling the heart of Jesus at Adoration, I consoled my baby girl. Instead of getting spiritually fed by our Lord, I fed my daughter as she drifted off to sleep.

I’d like to say I did these things for my daughter with the love and compassion of our Blessed Mother, but I’d be lying. On the contrary, I did these things reluctantly and begrudgingly. I did these things for her with a quiet resentment.

Isn’t this always the way of it? So often I desire to find silence so I can pray, and yet, with children running around the house, silence is nowhere to be found. Many times I wish I could take a half hour to read a snippet of any of the myriad spiritual books lining my shelves, books that I’d long ago planned to crack open, and instead I see them boasting their perfectly un-creased spines. I’ve told my husband on at least a few occasions that I was going to take some time to go to the local soup kitchen to feed meals to those in need. I’ve yet to find the hours to go. And for all these things I counted as spiritual losses, I have looked at my children at some point and thought, “Yes, children indeed make it difficult to do God’s work.”

But, then, early this morning, as I attempted to get up to begin my day with some quiet prayer, my six year-old son came into my room, snuggling next to me to get warm, and whispered, “I want you.” Internally, I sighed, Even at 5 in the morning, I can’t steal some time alone. And though my body was tense, my son relaxed into me. He put his arm around my waist and I noticed a smile on his lips.

This is God’s work, I heard from somewhere within me. This is God’s work, came the whisper again. Because I needed the repetition.

My mother had been trying to tell this to me for quite some time. Always when I lamented that I felt the desire to be at church, she reminded me of my need to be at home. But my stubbornness had blinded me to what she wanted me to see for so long:

That to do God’s work, we must be content to do His will, even if that means being at home to tend our families instead of at church to tend to parishioners.

That raising our children and taking care of our families is God’s work.

That while facilitating a Bible study might be God’s work, telling our children the stories of Noah and King David and St. Paul is God’s work, too.

That while working at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless is certainly God’s work, standing in our own kitchens, feeding our families, is God’s work, too.

That while praying before the Blessed Sacrament is God’s work, praying with our children is God’s work, too.

As parents, we do God’s work in so many little ways.

A few years ago, when I read a book about Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta and of the volunteers who left their First World riches behind to tend to some of the poorest souls on Earth, I felt I’d missed my opportunity. After all, I was now a mother of a young son. There would be no Calcutta for me. No chance to bathe those who couldn’t bathe themselves, to feed those who couldn’t feed themselves, to clothe those who couldn’t clothe themselves.

But the irony of it is that while I wondered when I’d be able to do these works, I was actually doing them already. After all, aren’t I up early each morning, packing my son’s snack and lunch to nourish him during the school day ahead of him? Don’t I spend hours each week, cleaning endless piles of laundry so my family is appropriately clothed? Don’t I change diapers several times a day, and bathe the children every night? Don’t I clean the house constantly throughout the day so that my husband, who works so hard for our family, can come home to a place not of chaos but of peace?

The world lies to us so readily, telling us that the work of God is outside our homes. That the Lord’s work is gloriously big and newsworthy. That to find those who need us, we must look elsewhere. But, the reality is that the work of God begins inside our homes, for those who need us most are those we share our homes with. Because our spouses and our children go out and face the world armed with the same charity we’ve given them at home.

Blessed Mother Teresa knew this well. She instructed, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home, and love your family.”

Doing God’s work, I’ve realized, really is as simple and as important as that.

image credit: “Happy Mother and Son Playing” by photostock (freedigitalphotos.com)

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day Remind Us to Be Saints, Not Stars

“What if we took all the money and time we put into tutors and coaches and private lessons, and invested instead in making our children holy? Not well-known and praised and celebrated for what they do, but humble and meek and truly holy in who they are?”

halloween image

The other day, after volunteering in our son’s kindergarten classroom, my husband came home more anxious than when he’d left.

I expected to hear about the challenging craft he’d been directed to help with, or about the stress of leading five kindergarteners at once, or even about scissors or glue mishaps. But, no. My husband’s unease stemmed from none of this. It was, rather, the result of reading.

As a high school English teacher, leading a reading center should have been in my husband’s wheelhouse. And it was. What left him perturbed was what he witnessed.

“Did you know how well some of the kids in that class can read?” he asked.

“No,” I responded.

“Well, they can, some of them,” he answered.

I saw where this was going. It was headed down the road of concern about the fact that other kids were succeeding at something and our son was lagging slightly behind. It was aiming in the direction of talks we’d had about the successes our son’s peers had enjoyed in a variety of sports while we’d not yet signed our child up for even a single organized activity (because he didn’t want to).

The worry my husband was experiencing wasn’t unique to him. It is, I fear, an anxiety most parents today share: the need to have our kids succeed. And not just to succeed but to stand out in even the most successful crowds. To be stars.

We see it in the flourishing tutoring industry, with education centers popping up on nearly every street corner. We see it in the need for more sports centers, recreational teams, and travel leagues, increasingly sought out when our kids are still at remarkably young ages. We see it in the popularity of reality entertainment shows like American Idol and The Voice, where contestants give up nearly everything in their lives for a chance at fame and financial freedom.

But, while we see and hear a lot about encouraging our kids’ academic, athletic and artistic prowess, we hardly hear much about their spiritual growth. While we hear a lot of concern for our children’s bodily wellness and financial security, we hear very little about the wellness and security of their souls.

Oh, sure, we say, of course I want that, too. But, it comes as an afterthought. As a runner-up desire to the first place hope of forming our kids in the way of fame and fortune.

And that’s what worries me. I am deeply concerned about the tremendous importance we, as a society, place on our children’s earthly glory and what little importance we place on their eternal glory. The priorities we have for our children couldn’t be more backwards, and for me this came to light as I participated in the Halloween weekend.

For the past two years, my parish has hosted a Back from the Dead cemetery walk. Along the graveyard path, attendees “meet” saints like Edith Stein, St. Gianna and St. Therese of Lisieux. They also “meet” souls who are in Purgatory. This single walk brings together Halloween (graveyards, the dead), All Saints’ Day (the saints we meet on the walk), and All Souls’ Day (the stories of the souls in Purgatory). And this year, on the walk, I met the faults of my own soul and began to think deeply (or more deeply than usual) about the souls of my children.

Because I’d been slowly starting to veer from the narrow way. The start of my son’s elementary school years saw me stepping out on the popular path of worrying about earthly gain and successes. (My husband wasn’t the only one sizing our son’s skills up to those of his peers). We were in danger, I realized as I listened to the stories of saints and sinners, of taking our kids along for this ride.

As I meandered through the graveyard, I pondered more deeply on a question my pastor had just posed in the day’s homily: what would happen if we sacrificed and suffered for our children’s eternal glory instead of their earthly glory? If we took all the money and time we put into tutors and coaches and private lessons, and invested instead in making our children holy? Not well-known and praised and celebrated for what they do, but humble and meek and truly holy in who they are?

I left the walk grateful that we have a time of year such as Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to remind us of our mortality and the afterlife. To call us to meditate not on the things of this world but to meditate on those of another, more permanent world. For by thinking of the next world, we can better live in this one.

There Goes My Baby Part 2: How to Cope When Your Child Leaves for School

first day of school fancy

It’s inevitable. Our children are going to grow up. In a previous post, I shared my own mixed (okay, pretty sad) feelings about my oldest son starting kindergarten in just a few weeks. And, although he’s ready for it, I’m not so sure I am.

Perhaps you’re going through something similar. Maybe your youngest is ready to start kindergarten in homeschooling and you’ve just realized you have no more babies coming up after this one. Maybe you have a child starting middle school, high school, or – gasp! – college. How did we get here? More important, how do we make it through these exciting, bewildering, and, yes, heartbreaking transitions?

Here are some ideas to help us – and our kids -to make it through:

Share our children’s excitement. No child wants to (or should be made to) feel guilty for looking forward to the next chapter of her life. Sure, our inclination might be to freeze time and keep our kids right where they are. But, since we can’t really do that, our next best bet is to have fun with our children as they get ready to turn the next page in the book that is their life. So, have fun together shopping for a new backpack and lunch bag, or decorating school folders. Kids heading off to high school might more so enjoy shopping for new clothes. And any child leaving for college would be happy to stock up on everything essential for dorm living.

Stay rooted in old rituals. As I think ahead to the long days my son will be spending at school (and away from home), I quickly calm my sorrow with reminders that we’ll still enjoy nightly family dinners, weekend outings, and long holidays and summers uninterrupted by strict school schedules. When I think back to my own transition of leaving for college, I still remember that the knowledge that I could return home on weekends or that I’d be home for a long winter break before I knew it helped ease my homesickness. If your child’s only mildly excited about her upcoming milestone, try reminding her of all that’s going to stay the same in her life so she realizes her whole world isn’t being turned upside down.

Enjoy new ways to bond with your child. As parents, we’ve been doing this one from the start. With every new development in our children’s lives, we’ve had to rediscover our relationship with each other. This new milestone asks the same of us. I look forward to the new conversations my son and I will have as he begins the school year. Already, we’ve played on his school playground and chatted about my own school experiences. If you homeschool a new kindergartener, look forward to this new dynamic of your relationship with your child. If your kid’s off to college, send him care packages, cards or letters just to let him know you’re thinking of him (what college kid doesn’t love getting mail?)

Enjoy what this milestone means for you. With every transition our children face, we, parents, experience a transition ourselves. Though you may be saddened by your child starting kindergarten, middle or high school, or college, don’t feel guilty for appreciating the increased one-on-one time you might get with a child who’s still home, or for feeling mild excitement at the thought of taking up that hobby you always wanted to master, or for looking forward to more quality time with your spouse.

When life isn’t constant, remember that God is. Times like these, when it feels like our children are slipping from our grasp, it’s easy to feel uneasy. But, recall that even when we’re shaken, God isn’t. We may be tempted to worry or fear, but the Bible reminds us not to give into it but instead to trust in God, “with whom there is no alteration” (James 1:17). And nothing should bring us more peace in these quickly changing days than our Father who, thankfully, never changes.

There Goes My Baby Part 1: Sending My Son to School

 

first day of school fancy

I always knew there’d come a day when my son would be ready for something that I am not.

Like all parents and their children, he and I have been through a lot of firsts together. I’ve witnessed and guided his transition from infant to toddler to preschooler, from a nursing baby to a boy who devours everything in the fridge, from a Sesame Street fan to a Star Wars buff, but none of it has affected me like the transition we’re about to encounter: the move to kindergarten.

The funny thing is that I used to hear other moms dread the start of kindergarten, and, to be honest, I used to consider them, well, a tad melodramatic. After all, it’s only kindergarten, not college. There are still so many years ahead; they’re still so young.

But that’s what causes the sadness in me. The panic that maybe he’s not ready. Or, more likely, that I’m not ready.

Because he is so young. Just six years old and in two weeks he’ll spend the bulk of every Monday through Friday somewhere else, outside this home. He and I won’t be able to lazily make our way to the breakfast table each morning, to slowly make our way through French toast or chocolate-chip pancakes. We won’t be able to take mid-morning jaunts to the park or take all day to make a plaster-cast volcano and finally, after the paint’s dry, watch its food-colored baking soda erupt all over his tiny dinosaurs waiting at the bottom. I won’t have his eager help washing windows or changing laundry or baking cookies.

He’s still so young and there are so many years ahead of us before college or career or life takes him away from me for more days than I care to think about. So many years, and how many days of those years will he spend the majority of his waking hours away from me? Still so young, and I still have so much that I haven’t taught him yet. So much more shaping and molding of character to do. Can it all be done in a few hours each evening and on weekends?

Thoughts like these take me back to my desire to homeschool (if only my husband would get on board; but, we’ve debated it and, for now, that topic’s a sleeping dog). But, even homeschooling would leave me with a pang in my gut. Because, as a homeschooling friend shared with me, there would come a day when my youngest would be starting kindergarten and I’d realize that all my babies were quickly growing up. That there are no more diapers to change or bottles to feed. That there’s no one else to teach to use a fork or spoon, or to teach the movements of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to. The teaching now would be all reading, writing and arithmetic, and I’d miss those baby days.

But, for all my sadness as these final weeks of summer vacation wind down, the Lord is good. Because these transitions don’t completely take away the normal we know. Slowly, life ends one routine at a time so that we almost don’t notice the change. Nursing days end, then rocking to sleep, and without realizing it, we suddenly have a child who puts on his own pajamas and reads us to sleep.

Sometimes, though, the ended routine is a big one, and even then, even when it’s noticeable, God ‘s goodness helps us through. For me, it’s in the eagerness of my son to start kindergarten. His excitement – for new friends and playgrounds and a sense of independence – simmers down my sorrow and helps me to wear a smile for him.

Because though I’m sad for me, I’m happy for him, too.

And it helps to know that even in this big transition, we will have some semblance of our old life together. We’ll still have lazy mornings every weekend, and long days of “Well, what should we do now?” to fill each holiday vacation. We’ll still have family dinners around the table and cuddling with each other and books before bed. We’ll still have time for crafts (though likely more guided by school assignments). We’ll still have time to learn from each other as we pore over homework, and just when we’re tired of all the rigidity of tight school schedules, we’ll still, thank God, have summers.

Until the next one arrives, then, we need to get by. We need to find ways, when the going gets tough, of learning to enjoy this new normal. For our children who may not be excited about the change. For our kids who are excited but still harbor some hesitation. And, certainly, for ourselves. I’ll offer suggestions to help us through in the next post.

Image credit: vitalinko for dreamtime.com

Educational Options: How Your Catholic Faith Can Help You Discern the Right Choice for Your Child

 

Editor’s note:  In case you are staring at the start of the school year and feeling anxious about it, here is a re-print of Michaelyn’s wonderful article on school options which she wrote for the spring 2014 issue of Tender Tidings magazine.

educational options

My mother always said I wanted to be in two places at once. Every time I had to choose between two (or, God forbid, more) options, I’d be stumped. “I want this, but I also want that,” I’d complain. And then I’d proceed to hem and haw until I pretty much drove everyone around me crazy.

I learned early on in life that choices cause me a lot of stress. When my son was born, I found that decisions only cause more tension when they affect the life of your child. Now that he’s beginning his school-age years, the stress and choices, I realize, only grow more serious.

Once upon a time, children reached the age of five and, as long as they made the cutoff, they were enrolled in their local public school. When I had my son, I envisioned the same simple experience. But, now that he’s about to turn five, I have discovered that the next big choice my husband and I will have to make in his life is a big one: how to approach his academic education.

I didn’t expect to have to make this decision. It wasn’t until I discovered that our local public school only offers full-day kindergarten that I realized I would have some pondering to do. See, I’m not eager to send my son to school for full days yet. He only started preschool this year, and that’s just three brief mornings a week. So, it seemed like quite a jump to throw him into a large public school for six full hours each weekday.

And I had another concern: how would the choice we make influence the Catholic faith we are trying to instill in him? Would a particular academic option pull him from everything we’re teaching him? Could we make a “wrong” choice and end up with a grown son who spurns his faith because of what he learned at school?

I turned to family and friends, who have chosen different paths for their children’s education, to settle my nerves. I talked with them about their feelings about their own choices, hoping that hearing them out would help my husband and me make a decision we could feel comfortable, even happy, with.

My husband and I aren’t alone in this struggle. Across the nation, more and more parents are facing the same decision: how to give their children the best education possible. And for strong Catholic families beset by increasingly secular public school systems and decreasingly Christian local communities, the choice is all the more weighty. For such families, our question isn’t just how to provide our children a solid education, but how to do so while still encouraging and supporting the Catholic values we foster at home.

We wonder, we question, we worry. But, at some point we have to take a leap of faith. At some point we have to think and pray more deeply on each choice, and then we have to make one.

The Catholic School Option

For a Catholic family concerned about the direction our world is taking our children, Catholic school seems the go-to path.

Jill, a mother of three, explains her and her husband’s own experiences in Catholic education. In college, she says, “I loved that religion was part of my everyday life both in and outside of class.” Her husband enjoyed more years of formal Catholic education when he attended a Jesuit high school and college. “He felt that his faith was strengthened” in these schools and “wanted the same for our kids.”

Though Jill spent years as a public school teacher prior to being a stay-at-home mom, when it came to her children’s education, Catholic school was a natural fit. Now, she and her husband see the rewards of the choice they made.

“I love that our boys go to Mass every week as a school community, that they begin and end their school days in prayer, and that our values are reinforced at school and at home. I enjoy going to church on the weekends where the boys see their classmates doing with their families what we do with our family.”

Families’ motives for choosing a Catholic education vary widely, however, and some of those motives offer some insight into why some children leave Catholic education less grounded in their faith than when they began. Indeed, Jill states she was surprised that some families chose this path so that their religion would be “taken care of at school.”

It’s a point to consider. While Catholic education offers us the opportunity to interweave our faith in all aspects of our children’s lives, it also offers us a temptation to let ourselves slip at home. While it might inspire us as parents to grow stronger in our faith, it also gives us excuses to pray less, or to miss an obligatory Mass now and then. After all, it’s easy to think, my child already went to Mass at school today, so do we really need to go again as a family?

Choosing Catholic school, then, can present an unrealized challenge to us parents to stay strong in our faith; however, it is a challenge that we should recognize and rise to, and one that we could look forward to benefiting from in our own faith journey. The example we set for our children in doing so might be the spark that ignites a religious flame in them.

The Public School Option

For many families, Catholic education, while appealing, just isn’t feasible. Indeed many families express a desire to send their children to Catholic school, but admit that the financial burden would be too great.

Shannon, a mother of three, is one such mom. She admits that while it was important to her and her husband to have their children in a school setting outside the home, they were torn between Catholic and public education.

When it came time to enroll their eldest, she says, “my husband and I wanted her in a place that would complement the religious foundations and principals we are trying to instill in her at home.” But the cost of putting three children through school was a concern that ultimately led them to choose public school.

Their worries about whether the school environment would support their religious values, however, were lessened thanks to their community. “We are in a rural, mostly Christian area. So while our children may not be getting a Catholic education, they are getting exposure to Christian values,” Shannon says.

Despite this, she recognizes it is still a public school that follows a secular curriculum. As such, she realizes the need to remain vigilant. “A Catholic family that chooses public school,” she says,” must continuously monitor what is being taught.” When something is presented that goes against Church teaching, she explains, she is fully prepared to take action by pulling her children out for such lessons, addressing her concerns with the teacher, or going to the school board, if necessary.

And if she doesn’t catch such lessons ahead of time in order to properly protect her children? Well, such experiences offer teachable moments. Our children, she says, must learn to live in the world, but not be of it. A public school education offers our children the chance to learn how to do that while still nestled securely under the wing of a strong Catholic family for guidance.

Additionally, Shannon finds that because she knows her children aren’t having their faith routinely reinforced in school, it has caused her and her husband to live their faith more actively in other ways. Her children attend CCD regularly and participate in their parish Bible school every summer. She also recently involved her daughters in Little Flowers, a Catholic girls’ club.

Public school doesn’t mean parents must compromise their values; rather, it invites us to work a little harder as a family at making sure our faith is a very vivid, daily part of our children’s lives.

The Homeschooling Option

An increasingly popular educational option is one that doesn’t involve an outside school setting at all. In a world that tries daily to steal our children’s minds, bodies, and souls at shockingly young ages, the choice to educate our children at home is ever more appealing. Of course, for many, this is not an option. Parents’ work requirements and schedules might not allow for a parent to be at home to school the children. But, when homeschooling is an option, it is an appealing one.

For my husband and me, however, homeschooling was a last resort for a different reason: we have an only child. As a teacher turned stay-at-home mom, I understand that children learn valuable lessons from both teachers and peers, and that sometimes they might actually learn better from other kids. I felt it important that my son not only learn the three R’s, but that he also learn how to navigate various relationships. I wanted him to learn lessons he couldn’t learn as a single student educated in our home: how to work as a team, how to share, how to wait his turn. Lessons, in other words, that would help him to realize that it’s a big world and he’s not the only one in it.

But when I found out this past fall that my husband and I are finally expecting a second child, my mind about homeschooling changed. Those worries, I found, wouldn’t be such concerns anymore. And so I turned to Jamie, a stay-at-home mother of four who homeschools her children.

While Jamie and her husband knew they didn’t want their children in public school, they attempted an outside academic setting first by sending their eldest son to Catholic school. However, the stress added up quickly.

“We had struggles with our son leaving for school, dealing with the work that was required of him, and handling the strict policies of the school,” she explains. In the afternoons, “he came home tired, worn out, and with a backpack full of homework. Toss in siblings waiting to see him, and it was a recipe for disaster.”

She and her husband decided the stress was too much. After a good deal of prayer and discernment, they turned to homeschooling. Now, she says, “I don’t have any stress in the mornings. When there is a math problem that needs more attention, I can focus on helping right away to work it out and listen to my son’s cues if he needs a break. We can also spend hours on experiments in science. We’ve been able to move over material that the boys grasp quickly to keep school interesting.”

That’s not to say homeschooling is without its stresses. “My kids are always home,” Jamie reminds me. “If I’m feeling under the weather,” or other emergencies occur, “school isn’t productive.” She cites her recent bout with morning sickness during her current pregnancy as one such example.

And what about juggling a toddler, a preschooler, and two school-aged boys? It’s a challenge, she admits, but one that can be overcome. Jamie explains the importance of being able to keep to a basic daily schedule but also being comfortable with changing it up should things go awry.

As with Catholic and public school, homeschooling parents who hope to raise children to be strong in the Catholic faith are equally challenged. Even if a Catholic curriculum is chosen, parents need to take extra steps to ensure that the Catholic lessons being taught are also being lived on a daily basis.

And what of my worries about homeschooling an only child? Jamie put those to rest, too, explaining it’s possible to over-socialize your homeschooled child. “Between co-ops, sports, and other community activities,” she explains, you might find you actually need to rein your children in a bit. Though perhaps it requires more active searching of your local community for such resources (or starting some yourself), homeschooling an only child can be just as successful as homeschooling half a dozen.

What to Do?

Though all three options have their distinct differences, every mother I interviewed offers a common thread of advice. Each child is unique; what is best for one might not be best for another. As such, they stress the importance in considering each child’s individual personality, needs and desires, and being willing to tailor their education accordingly, even if that means that each child follows a different educational path.

From my end, I noticed another common thread. No matter which option a parent chooses, the decision need not be set in stone. Each mother I interviewed was willing at any point to alter her child’s educational path if needed. They take their children’s education year by year. It’s a way, really, to remain closely attuned to our children, especially at ages when their increasing independence makes it easy for them to slip away, however slightly.

In the end, I’m not sure my interviews helped me move closer to a decision just yet, but they did something better. They helped me reach an encouraging realization: our educational choices are not going to make or break our children’s steadfastness in their religion. What’s more important in keeping our children steeped in their Catholic faith is a strong Catholic family. And that is knowledge that in the midst of this decision-making storm offers great peace.

When “Me Time” Becomes “You and Me Time”

Last week, I was given a rare opportunity to drive alone. Yes, alone. I could hardly wait. I only had to pick up dinner and stop by the post office, but it would be a half hour to treasure.

But as I opened the car door, I heard the front door to the house open, too. “Mommy, where are you going?” my five year old asked.

“Just to pick up dinner,” I called back.

“Oh, is it quick?”

“Yes,” I reassured him, assuming he just wanted to make certain I wouldn’t be gone long.

“Oh, good,” he answered. “Can I come, too, then?”

Mother and Child, Picasso (1922)

Mother and Child, Picasso (1922)

Oops. Question misunderstood. So, he’d been hoping to come, and was merely ensuring I wouldn’t be dragging him on an endless run of errands. I hesitated. This was the only “me time” I’d had in the past week. My quiet-in-the-car, no-kids, “me time”. As with most moms, I sorely needed it. I only have two children, but one of those is a ten-month old who’s still pretty much glued to my body. Though I love her immensely, I looked forward to just a few stolen moments alone. Just a little quiet time to recharge. After all, during His ministry, even Jesus sought a little time apart from the crowds (Mt 14:13).

But, how could I look at my son and tell him no, that I didn’t want him to come along? He looked so hopeful on the front step, cradling his shoes in his little hands. And, though seeking a little alone time, wasn’t Jesus still interrupted in order to care for others? And didn’t He oblige? (Mt 14:14)

“Sure,” I answered, “Go tell Daddy you’re coming with me.”

“Goody!” he yelled gleefully.

I was happy for him, but what had I just done? Why can’t I ever just allow myself some time alone? As a stay-at-home mom, I parent 24-7. With a husband who’s at work from before the sun rises until about an hour before the kids’ bedtime, I parent alone for much of the day. I should have suffered no guilt for giving myself a half hour of silence.

Instead, here I was, no longer alone but with a little boy in tow. And that little boy was anything but quiet. He was in a questioning mood. A talking mood. And without his little sister babbling, squealing or crying away in the seat next to him, I understood why he was so giddy and chatty.

Because, for him, this wasn’t “me time”, it was “you and me time”. For him, it was a quiet car ride where the only noise was of a conversation between himself and the mom who is always so busy with another, needier child. For him, these were moments when he had no one to be second to, no one to talk over, no one to compete with for Mom’s attention.

And he soaked up these moments. He chatted about things we’d never talked about before. Nothing substantial, just little talks about why it’s good to get a low score in golf (a question that arose as we passed a golf course), or what type of swing set Daddy should build in the backyard (a thought that occurred as we passed a yard with a really great swing set), or musings on what exactly God does in heaven all day (prompted by my remark on the beauty of the sun rays streaming through the clouds).

Seconds into the drive, I was glad I wasn’t alone. Because though I hadn’t realized it, I needed this time, too. I needed to reconnect with my son who’s always such a great helper with his baby sister, but who doesn’t get much time alone with me anymore. I needed to return, even for a few moments, to the days when it was just the two of us for much of the day. Because he’s getting older and slipping a little further away from me every day, and these uninterrupted minutes together are growing rarer.

Because motherhood, I’ve learned this past year, is such a delicate balancing act. We juggle everything from time with our husband, to time with each child, to time tending to friends and relatives. We balance schedules and checkbooks and appointments and meals. And in this daily juggling act, we risk making our loved ones feel less set apart as someone truly special to us and more like an item to be taken care of on our checklist.

Or, worse, a hindrance to our “me time”.

My son and I needed our simple half hour together. Though it was nothing exciting, we had fun buying stamps, mailing letters, and waiting for our order to come up at the pizza place. In these moments, we were blessed with something we both desperately needed. Not “me time”. It was something better. It was “you and me” time.

Mary Moments

Michaelyn quoteIf you’re like me (and I think most moms are), you’re always doing. Doing laundry. Doing dishes. Doing dinner. It’s our vocation, and it’s beautiful. Because, by its very nature, it requires us to serve. And while serving certainly demonstrates love, there are times we need to stop the doing. There are times we need to show our love by doing something else.

Like last week, when I was smack in the middle of washing the bathroom sink. I’d only just begun – right after the baby finally fell asleep. There were still a toilet, bathtub and tile floor in need of scrubbing, so I worked quickly but diligently. Who knows how long a baby will sleep? So, I cleaned with an ear waiting to be interrupted, which I was. Only, it wasn’t by the baby. It was by my five year-old.

“Mommy, play with me.” Inside, I groaned. Not that I didn’t want to, but this bathroom had been neglected for too long, and I was sure I didn’t have much time to give it the attention it sorely needed.

“In a minute,” I responded, rinsing a bit more quickly now.

“Mommy, you always say in a minute.” My son waited in the doorway, but I kept scrubbing. Sink done. Onto the tub. Might as well get the big job done before the baby wakes. In the mirror, I saw my son, his hopeful smile quickly disintegrating into a frustrated frown.

“Fine, I’ll play by myself.” I watched the superheroes in his hands droop and then hang, nearly slipping from his grasp as he walked away.

Oh, to be Mary. To neglect the housework in order to love by simply being with the one desiring our attention. But, today I was Martha. Too much to do.

Yet, I couldn’t get those falling heroes out of my mind. ‘Which is the worse to neglect,’ I thought, ‘the housework or my son?

With a sigh, I put down the rag and shut off the bathroom light. “Honey,” I called, “I can do the bathroom later. Let’s play superheroes now.”

When I was a teacher, before becoming a stay-at-home mom, we called such moments “teachable moments”. It was some of the most valuable time in a classroom. It was the time when you, the teacher, stopped your planned lesson to instead teach something you hadn’t intended. Something that interrupted your lesson, something a student brought up that you realized was more important to address or clarify at that moment than what it was you had planned. Sure, the lesson you’d stayed up late drafting last night might not get done, but your students would learn something they needed to know, something you weren’t aware last night they would need to know.

As a mom, I see these as lovable moments. They’re the moments that interrupt our plans of cleaning or cooking, that make us stop the things we need to get done in order to tend to what we hadn’t anticipated our kids or husband would need more.

They’re Mary moments, the times when you know that the house needs tending to, but so do the people you love. They need your undivided attention, your focus to be solely on them. And though the work calls, their voices ring more loudly in your ears.

So, you put down the rag and pick up a superhero. Or a doll. Or you take a seat by your husband on the sofa while the dishes stay piled in the sink. Because the work will always be there, but this precise opportunity to give yourself fully to the people you love won’t.

It took me a while to be okay with a pretty regularly messy house. But once I noticed that my relationships with my kids and my husband were what stayed in good shape, my home’s untidiness suddenly wasn’t so noticeable.

Explaining Lent to Our Children

As a new mom, I used to look at my sweet, innocent pre-school aged son and wonder how to explain this Lenten season to him. Would I wait for him to ask me questions? What if he never did? Or worse…what if he did? How would I answer?

While the Christmas season found me gushing to my young son about the Christ child and a humble manger and that beautiful star of Bethlehem, Lent left me speechless. How was I to describe this very difficult part of Jesus’ story, of our story, to him?

crown of thornsThe day when I had to answer that question came before I was ready. We were at church, lighting candles in the chapel when my then three-year-old looked at a particularly bloody Jesus nailed to a cross. “Mommy,” he asked me, “how did Jesus get up there?”

“You mean, how did that cross get hung up there?” I teased him towards an easier question to answer. He didn’t take the bait.

“No.” He pushed further. “Who put Jesus on there?”

Cue butterflies filling the stomach. Had I been wrong in not bringing it up to him first? Was this going to be a shocking blow? My mind scrambled for the right words. How much should I say? How deep into the story should I go?

Before I opened my mouth to speak, I thought of all I’ve learned from my mother, a woman who, with my dad, pretty successfully raised six children. Once, when my sister’s daughter began asking questions about death, I overheard my mom’s advice for handling the situation: “Let your daughter lead these difficult discussions. Too often, we explain these things to kids at a level too deep for them to understand. We forget that it’s children, not adults, asking these hard questions. And we end up answering them as if they’re adults. You’ll be surprised to find that the simplest answers are all they’re usually seeking at the moment. No more. So start simple and let them lead.”

Start simple. I thought of what my son’s three-year-old mind understood. Peter Pan and Captain Hook. Cops and robbers. Good guys and bad guys.

“Well,” I began carefully, “there were bad men who didn’t like Jesus…”

“…and they hurt him?” my son finished.

“Yes,” I answered. I waited, wondering if I should elaborate but willing myself to follow my child’s lead.

“Oh,” he said easily. “I don’t like those bad men.”

I searched my son’s eyes for tears or anger. Instead, I saw compassion as he stared at the crucifix.

“Mommy,” he asked, “can I kiss his boo-boos and make them better?”

“Of course,” I whispered.

As I watched my child approach the crucifix, leaning to kiss Jesus’ nailed feet and reaching up to kiss his bloodied side, my fear and anxiety were replaced with love and peace, and gratitude for my mother’s shared wisdom.

“Let’s go find Daddy,” my son exclaimed, bolting into the church. I almost stopped him. I was ready now. I could do this. I almost wanted to go into further detail about just how much our Lord suffered for our sins, but my son was already at my husband’s side, choosing a pew for Mass.

As usual, my mom was right. My child asked what seemed like a big question, but all he wanted was a simple answer. The difficult details, I know, will fill in as he grows. As his mind gets bigger, so will the answers. But, for now, he’s satisfied.

And so am I.

Blissful Breastfeeding? When Nursing Isn’t as Easy as It Seems

“Still, the truth remains that for some of us, nursing doesn’t come so naturally. It can be work – for our children and for us. But, it’s work that yields great rewards if we can stick it out, if we’re willing to discard the not-so-realistic standards we’ve been holding ourselves to and if we adopt, instead, the techniques that work best for us as individuals, that will allow the type of feeding relationship we want with our child rather than the type of relationship other moms have.”

The first time I had a baby, I was fooled.

After days of induced labor, half a week riding the roller coaster of contractions, and three hours of pushing my boy into the world, I believed the struggle was over. The bliss of motherhood could begin.

I cuddled my baby close to my breast and waited for the magic of nursing to start, for my son to latch on and for the two of us to begin to bond in the way I’d always heard breastfeeding would bring.

But this little person who for nine months had been nourished by my body seemed to want nothing to do with being nourished by me now. After all, in the womb, it was easy. This nursing business, though, was hard work – for both of us.

Madonna and Child, DaVinci

Madonna and Child, DaVinci

Two weeks after giving birth to my son, I sat in our living room recliner, crying. While it could have been the little sleep I was working on, my tears also stemmed from the fact that there I sat, pumping milk, while on the sofa, there my husband sat, feeding our baby a bottle of my milk.

“I’m supposed to be the one bonding with him while he eats,” I lamented as my husband gave a weak, sympathetic smile. He offered that I could give the bottle, but I wanted to keep my body on our son’s feeding schedule, to keep up with his demand. So, my husband fed while I pumped.

To say nursing didn’t come easily for me would be an understatement. And I’ve found since then that we don’t often hear the stories of struggle that come with breastfeeding. We see blissful moms wearing sweet smiles and taking selfies as they nurse their newborns, a trend especially popular in the celebrity world lately. Since giving birth to my second child seven months ago, I’ve taken more notice of these peaceful pics because, though encouraging, they also run the risk of being terribly discouraging.

It comes so easy for them, we might think. Nursing just isn’t for me. And really, it’s okay if it’s not. But, what if it is? What if we really, really want to breastfeed our child but it’s surprisingly difficult, and our disappointment at our shattered dream breaks our hearts?

That’s where I was at five years ago. In the end, it took the first full month of my son’s life to get him to nurse at all, and the second full month to get him to nurse well. For the majority of that first month, my son subsisted on bottles of pumped milk, and I kept trying, day in and day out, to wean him from them and onto me.

After four weeks of persisting, it worked. Not because my son suddenly and miraculously figured out how to work for his food, but because I finally abandoned the myriad words of advice I was given, particularly the advice to avoid giving into the use of a nursing shield (“He’ll never get off it,” I was warned). For me, the shield restored my dreams of a happy breastfeeding relationship with my child. I let go of the chidings of others and embraced what would allow me the bonding I’d been hoping for.

Medela breast shield

Medela breast shield

After a week or two of nursing with the shield (which my son took to immediately), I began to pull it away halfway through feedings. In time, he latched back onto me without it as though it were the most natural thing in the world to do. And, eventually, it was. We enjoyed a full year after that of the type of peaceful, easy breastfeeding I’d envied other moms.

Still, the truth remains that for some of us, nursing doesn’t come so naturally. It can be work – for our children and for us. But, it’s work that yields great rewards if we can stick it out, if we’re willing to discard the not-so-realistic standards we’ve been holding ourselves to and if we adopt, instead, the techniques that work best for us as individuals, that will allow the type of feeding relationship we want with our child rather than the type of relationship other moms have.

Because parenting isn’t about comparing. It’s about every mother doing what’s best for her unique child and accepting that what comes easily to one parent/child relationship doesn’t always come easily to another.

If we trust in that, then no blissful picture of perfection will ever discourage us again.