Catholic Spirituality,  Parenting,  Suffering,  toddlers

Heinous to Humorous

During our evening prayers last night I believe I hit a new all-time parenting low when I earnestly asked God for the grace to view my children’s behaviors as humorous rather than heinous. Dave has now been texting that as a response to my daily smoke signals today, so I think we have a winner.

In all honesty, pre-school and toddler aged boys are varying shades of heinous on a regular basis. There is lots of (naturally, inexplicably present) bathroom humor, there are multiple episodes of public humiliation per week involving somebody screaming about farting in the grocery store, and let me not get started on the colorful language. While I’m hoping, as promised, that my kids are more ‘abuse-proof’ for knowing the proper names of any and all genitalia, I am also super pumped about all the times Joey has screamed ‘penis’ in mixed company. (Don’t bother praying for humility, just pop out a couple of young male children and let your life circumstances round off your sharp, prideful edges.)

Insisted on wearing a woman’s fedora. I don’t know.

I was visiting with a friend this morning and she was talking about her childless sister’s plans to summer in Paris with her husband and I felt a pang of ‘wouldn’t that be nice?’ and then, upon further reflection, I realized how very, deeply necessary it has been for me to have these children. Because I am selfish, prideful, small-minded and stingy by nature. In other words, I’m a fallen human being.

Redeemed, yes, but not all at once, and not by some magical divine intervention that has rendered me gentle, compassionate, and humble. Nope, not this girl. It’s more of an arduous, day-by-day struggle to choose them – and in so choosing, to choose Him – over myself.

At 5 am when somebody is crying to eat. At 6:40 am when somebody is kicking the frigging closet doors hard enough to rattle the house because ‘the sun is almost up!’ At 10:56 when it’s apparently already time for our first lunch of the day. And more than any other time, at 4:00 pm when all hell hath been loosed upon this house and tempers are flaring and patience is wavering and so.much.screaming. Mostly mine. But increasingly, I’m trying to keep my voice out of the cacophony and to just smile and maybe even laugh at them. Because why the hell not laugh at them? They’re ridiculous. I’m ridiculous. This life in its present state is ridiculous. I acknowledge this fully. Having a baby every 19 months for 4 years is insane. Staying home with them is a huge investment in time and energy – and at no little cost to my own mental health. But what’s the alternative? Summers in Paris?

I mean, we did 3 seasons in Rome. And let me be the first to confess it was less than glamorous. Without kids? It would have been so different. But so would I.

Meaner. Smaller minded. Less fun. Less fulfilled. Maybe a little prettier, but not on the inside.

I’m not saying having children is the solitary path to goodness and holiness. By no means. But it’s my path. They’re not a means to an end, either, though, these children of mine. They’re irreplaceable, incorrigible, immortal human beings with unique personalities, desires, and preferences about public urination. And they are testing the hell out of me.

Heinously, humorously, one awful, triple, 90-minute pediatrician visit at a time.

So if my life sounds like hell, it’s because that’s surely where I would end up, were it not for all the daily, hourly opportunities for sanctification this child army provides me with. I had this epic revelation the other day while I was wiping a snottysnottysnotty nose for the millionth time and much to the dismay of the nose’s owner and, well, maybe I went in a little too enthusiastically, a little angrily even, with my diaper wipe. And it occurred to me, unbidden: you’re wiping the wounds of Christ.

Immediately my hand went limp, and I was honestly ashamed of how vigorously I’d been attacking those innocent boogers.

Would I treat Jesus this way? Even when I found Him to be inconvenient, disgusting even? Would I ever use this much force/this tone of voice/this disposition of heart?

Game-changer, that moment.

Even though they don’t much look like Him, not when they’re covered in ketchup and vomit, anyhow, they are my little, living icons of Christ. And how I love themโ€ฆit’s a direct reflection on the sincerity of my love for Him.

God help me love them better. Help me love You in them. And for Your sake, give me some divinely inspired potty training wisdom. Because there’s a heinous shitload of diapers in my trashcans right now.

Pun intended.


  • Holly

    Love this! You were paying attention to the Gospel readings recently :-).

    Also, I have dealt with waaaay nastier things in Paris than I have ever had to experience with my kids.

  • Kris

    My daughter, in her lovely teen years, was my path to learning compassion. My 4 boys are definitely my path to ALL sorts of virtues that I need to learn. Patience, humility, perseverance, etc., etc. Mostly, though, I think they have helped me not to be so uptight and rigid about everything needing to be “my way or the highway”. Sometimes, I just have to let go and embrace the chaos.

  • Our O'Leary Clan

    Beautifully and humorously written! I especially love how you mention that “life circumstances round off your sharp, prideful edges.” So true! We removed the Litany of Humility from our wall after our babies were born. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It seemed that our wonderful children are amazing at helping us live it out on a daily basis.

  • Families Following Christ

    Well-written! I prayed that prayer with you at the end (minus the potty training help, as my kids are older than yours). I have a prayer book that was given to me when we adopted our first child, called “Mothers’ Manual”. I absolutely love it, and it shows–it is 10 years old now and well-used–dog eared and coffee stained. In one of the prayers, it reads, “Give me patience–a wise, courageous, firm patience…a tender patience, that will help me gently and realistically to assist my child in fulfilling your plans in his/her regard”. Before reading this prayer, I had never heard of patience being described in such a way, with all of the different adjectives, but I have found in my motherhood that all of those types of patience are necessary in carrying out this job well. And I am not capable of generating that kind of patience without an abundance of grace! Thanks be to God who so generously gives us what we need when we need it (and ask for it)! Keep up the good work and graced writing… ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Bonnie

    I strongly identified with 3 parts of this:
    Being a little prettier but not on the inside, how vigorously I wipe my kids’ noses, and now many poopy diapers are in the trash.
    Lord have mercy.

  • Heather

    Oh, Jenny! You’re doing a GREAT job! And recognizing Christ in your children is such a blessing! It’s so hard, this lifestyle (we had 5 kids in less than 8 years), but so worth it! I won’t proclaim that you will miss these days of diapers and sleepless nights and mountains of laundry and incessant demands on your attention, but I will say it is so worth it – both for you and your children! Keep doing what you’re doing – you won’t just survive, your entire family will thrive!

  • Kelly M.

    Depending on your actions, the path to heaven, or hell, is paved with 90 minute triple pediatrician visits. How you react in the instant that they stick a waiting room toy in their mouth is the ultimate test.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *