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My Broken Rule

October 4, AD 2012 5 Comments

I cried so hard on the drive home. I probably should have pulled over. Or figured out a way to hold back the tears. But I didn”t fight it, and I always fight it. This time, I gave myself permission to dwell in my tears a little. A little carried well into the afternoon, and I’m certain I’ll be “ugly crying” by the end of this post. But that’s OK. I can feel God working. And I’m OK with dropping the “strong mama” act for a bit.

A couple of days ago, I once again pulled out my copy of “A Mother’s Rule of Life”. It”s a book about prayerfully discerning a rule, or schedule, for your life, but doing so through the lens of your vocation as a mother. It’s such a gem that I”ve gone back to it 4 or 5 times over the past 6 years. That”s something I can only say about a handful of the many books scattered throughout our home.

I”ve always struggled to stick to set schedules. However, the more I”ve grown into my vocation of Motherhood, the more I have welcomed having this sort of guidance. Regardless, I was once again feeling called to take a serious look at developing our rule.

After writing down the time you get up and bedtime, the very first thing you schedule is prayer time. I felt pulled to try and add in daily Mass. Our older boys have been doing well with church. And though our younger girls can be a challenge due to their ages, they have also done fairly well lately. I talked with the kids before hand, and they were very receptive. I really thought it could work!

Well, we got there early enough to visit Jesus in the tabernacle. After that, things immediately started going downhill. We sat on the left side of the aisle, and the other dozen or so adults that came to Mass sat on the right. Our church is a bit “in the round” so, without much effort, they could see all of our chaos.

Going in, I was aware of how utterly quiet church seemed with so few people in it. But I had totally underestimated the extent to which even the smallest whisper would echo through the church. Definitely loud enough to feel disruptive.

Then, they turned on me.

The first reading hadn”t even begun, and we were already circling the drain. The baby discovered that, with so few people at Mass, her voice was capable of the most “beautiful” echoes. She was determined to share her song with all of us. And instead of being my helper, my oldest boy decided, with all of his 6 ½ year old wisdom, that it was a good idea to mimic the baby. He tested out his own voice, officially making her laugh. In that instant, she realized that screaming in church was clearly a really fun game. And as the online casino big kids wanted to play with her, she was all-in. Even my three year old chimed in because, well, who could blame her?

There I was all dressed up in my best “Good Parents Raise Good Kids Who Sometimes Inexplicably Act Like Rabid Lemurs” outfit, and I was defeated. It was like one of those slow motion falls where you see the pavement barreling towards you, but can do nothing to stop it from smashing your sweet little face in. Sigh. So, we left.

I held on to a sliver of hope as I dragged my circus into the gathering space. Maybe we could observe Mass from there. But the sound system was off. We couldn”t hear anything. In addition, my kids somehow assumed that leaving church meant it must be time to start racing up and down the hall! When has that EVER been OK with us?

In that moment, I gave in to the tears. I knew going in that this may be a long shot. I expected the little girls to be a challenge. But the boys behavior was what pushed me right over the edge. I so badly wanted Mass to be a “for more than just Sunday” thing. And I wanted the boys to get to participate in the Mass without all the distractions that come with a busy weekend service. But, I think God had a different plan when He asked us to Mass that day.

I let the tears come, loaded the kinds into the truck, and started the drive home. The boys suddenly knew that this was a really big deal. They knew they had hurt Mommy in a way that hadn”t before been considered possible. Our younger boy started sniffling, and cried quietly along with me most of the way home. Our oldest got very quiet, clearly upset by it all.

When we arrived home, our oldest went straight to his room. As I put our shoes into their bins, our younger boy suddenly turned around, and ran to me. He wrapped his arms around my waist with the most genuine hug and apology. His kindness made me tear up all over again.

My oldest came out of his room a while later, but things were different. I don’t think he knew quite what to do. He started making jokes, trying to get me to laugh. I still was feeling very down, and tried to put on a good face, but was clearly not as receptive to him as he had hoped. About 20 minutes later, he was out of eyesight, but I heard him take a deep breath, and say “I’m really sorry mom.”

We had another good hug, and talked. His sincerity was very touching. And then he said something that clearly showed me God’s hand working within the chaos of our morning. Almost whispering, he said, “I”ve never seen you cry before. I’m sorry you didn”t get to have the Body of Christ today.” In that moment, I realized the impression my emotions from that day had on the boys. Their first experience with me being emotionally shook was in response to us having to leave Mass.

It’d be easy to say it was all just a bad day. A frustrating experience waiting to happen. I mean, I did try to take four children ages six and under to Mass, on a weekday, by myself. How could I possibly have expected a different outcome? But I prefer to believe that, when God called us to Mass that day, it may not have been to actually GO to Mass at all. Our little family learned some good lessons through that trial. The importance of the Mass and the Holy Eucharist was impressed on my boys in a way my words never could have accomplished. For that, I am so very thankful.

About the Author:

Kristin Detloff is a married, homeschooling, mother of four, loving life in small town Iowa. When not immersed in the unpredictable adventures of motherhood you can often find her chatting it up with the girls at Living The Sacrament: A Catholic NFP Community, an online, Natural Family Planning support forum she founded in Jan of 2010. Kristin is deeply invested in the future of the pro-life movement, currently working as a member of the The Guiding Star Project Board of Directors. Read more of her thoughts by visiting the LTS blog and connect by following her on Twitter!

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  • I loved this post!!!! Thanks for sharing. I just got home from going to Daily Mass with 4 girls 9, 5, 2, and 6 months. Also a disaster! Yet there were some very special things that happened during this Special Feast Day for St. Francis of Assisi. I like the idea that when I go to Mass–my plan is for all kids to sit perfectly and reverently–but His plan when He calls us to Mass might be something far bigger and far better!

    • Thanks for reading and sharing about your experience today! I focus much to much on “my plans”…the kids always seem to have a way with reminding me of who is really in charge (Him!!) 🙂 Blessings!

  • JMJ

    Ha! I understand. But I’m a homeschooling Dad of 3 boys and I can say, now,….they will do it again and again! (Kids’ Motto: find a crack, make it a hole, make it bigger, and make it bigger. Parents: plug it, plug it before it becomes a crack or plug the hole, it’s always smaller now than it will be tomorrow). And some priest’s will point during the Gloria for you to leave and some old or middle-aged folks will tell you afterward to never do that again and Jesus will scream THANK YOU for suffering for Him. It is not missed by God nor wasted experience.

    Try doing it occasionally – as Jeremiah Denton said in “When Hell Was In Session”, “Bounce Back” as soon as you can muster the strength mentally again.

    You might try Mass on EWTN (TV or Computer stream) on occasion as a way for you to correct or guide them without worrying about loudness and you can walk around to the seat on the far left – again, as you can mentally bounce back from even THAT.

    We have been going to adoration on Sundays when folks have to be missing their regular times (surgeries and such) and we pound into the small chapel like football players and we sing a few songs and we guide the boys to stop leaving and coming and switching seats….yea, it’s no fun when there might be another person who is visiting that really needs silence, but that’s when I take one or two out with me for a walk. It’s such a wonderful thing to do on Sunday that I miss it when we have an off week. Bring song books, nobody leaves them there (I make my own with my favorite songs, adult and kid). Again, it’s not going to be the experience for you that it will be for the kids and it may not seem like a religious one for the kids, but it will be at their level. Pray the prayer for “Spiritual Communion” in place of the Eucharist. Or go to an empty church – but the large size will inspire energetic legs again.

    Homeschooling is exhausting and teaches me that teachers work hard and it’s not fair for parents to dump their unprepared kids on a teacher – but as my wife can’t, I will, for them and God. It’s a rough going, but the nice thing is like a Captain of the ship, with their every failing I recall GK Chesterton: “What’s wrong with the world? I am.” AND YET! God loves me all the same and even more, for our newfound recognition that we really can do nothing without Him, and it makes Him happy that we love and in so try, and for Bouncing Back with the Virtue of Hope (in earthquake and eclipse, as GK says), maybe the next day. The Little Way, from a Book Report!

    The rule didn’t break, you just took your kids out early to allow the rest of the “attended enough quiet Masses” folks to have a quiet Mass. Some appreciate the effort you did and would muscle through for the sake of your darlings’ holy future and the Church. Some wont. Some make it to heaven, some wont.

    • Thanks you for your beautiful testimony! So many good thoughts to ponder! I do love EWTN and the options for prayer it gives assistance to throughout the day. I’m always amazed at how captivated the little ones get when the rosary is on where I’d expect them to be antsy and bored. And they grow so quickly. I’m already seeing hope for a return attempt…and maybe I’ll see if we can’t have the sound on in the entry as a back up this time. 🙂