Friday, September 14, 2007
Friends on Friday
Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with another Catholic Mom blogger, Alice, at Cottage Blessings about our kids and our devotion to them. We talked about feeling sad for the Moms who miss out because they have bought into the world's allurements. We shared our joys about mothering. Alice shared a beautiful reflection with me that I would like to share with you! She said...
A Promise Kept
Two bright-eyed girls whirled round the dance floor at the Knights of Columbus St. Patrick’s Day Party last night--one a slim and lively eleven year old, the other a dimpled baby. The baby squealed delightedly with each bounce and bump, the deep burbling sounds of a well-entertained nine-month-old. The older girl twirled as if she would never stop, spurred by that irresistible laughter—more musical than music itself.
Watching these two girls—my own daughters Theresa and Eileen—it struck me how unusual a thing it is these days to see sisters a decade apart. My mind wandered back to a time in the almost forgotten past:
My fiancé and I are leaning over black and white composition books, comparing the answers to questions asked of us at the Cana Conference Retreat. We are completing an exercise meant to ensure we each know the other’s plans for married life. The first question reads:
“How many children do you hope to have?”
An optimistic “At least eight” appears in my feminine slant, and in my fiancé’s masculine scrawl, “About half a dozen.”
We both want a large family. So far, so good.
The next question continues:
“How soon do you want to start a family?”
A confident “Right away” appears plainly in the feminine slant, but this time the masculine scrawl is nowhere to be seen.
What is the meaning of this, I wonder. Aren’t we both ready to start a family?
My fiancé looks at me seriously and explains, “I would love to begin a family right away, but my fear is that, years from now, you will remember the career you left behind and feel sorry. I don’t ever want you to have any regrets.”
“I will never feel that way,” I assure him with confidence.
“How do you know?”
“Because I know myself. It would not be possible for me to feel that way.”
And that was that.
I woke from my reverie to find my husband motioning something to me, his eyes twinkling meaningfully—our little boy was on the dance floor attempting the “Cotton Eye Joe” in awkward, oversized red snowboots (none of us had noticed his unconventional footwear until we arrived at the party). We laughed as only two parents, united through the Sacrament of Matrimony, but also in infinite love for a child, can laugh. Sitting there at that table, with our children dotting the dance floor like violets in a May meadow, we shared another moment among millions to remember the undeniable Truth of the Catechism: “Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.” [CCC 1652.]
And I secretly gloated thinking upon my own prescient words of self-awareness, “It would not be possible for me to feel that way.” Indeed, I never have and never will.
Years ago, I remember telling a dear friend and former classmate of mine we were expecting our first child. She responded as our culture has taught her, and, as she heartily believed even without any real life experience, “What a waste!”
Please understand, as I repeat these words, they held no sting for me then or now. I know, in fact, she meant them as a backhanded compliment, a tribute to my “worth.” Her sensibilities were steeped in society’s pervasive notion that children should be, particularly for the educated woman, an afterthought, best left until prominence, profit and partnership are all checked off the to do list. My heart went out to her in honest sympathy, as I imagined her wearing her youth away, perhaps never tasting the joy I was already feeling just knowing a precious heart was even then beating beneath my own.
And what of that to do list? What price would have been exacted for prominence, profit and partnership?
Prominence would have required my twenties. The children of my twenties were Agnes, Theresa, and Margaret.
Profit would have sought my early thirties. The children of my early thirties were Marie and Patrick.
Partnership’s capital investment would have been paid during my late thirties. The children of my late thirties were Maureen and Eileen.
Somehow, I think I would have been working off the wrong list.
Is it any wonder I reaffirm today, but with even greater fervor and emphasis, that promise, spoken all those years ago: “I will never feel that way. It would be impossible for me to feel that way.”
But this time, I am uttering a heartfelt Deo Gratias to go along with it.
[As I post this piece, I want to include a note to make sure it does not have the unintended effect of hurting any women or mothers who work outside the home, particularly those who strive to make a better life for their families. My reflection is meant as an affirmation that children are a greater source of joy and fulfillment than unnecessary ambition.] This piece above was written by Alice Gunther and appears at her blog, Cottage Blessings.