Thursday, June 5, 2014

Catholic Insults and Public Children

For the last three and a half years, we have been on the move. Even when we lived near family, it was difficult to get help with childcare that was not paid. Now that we live states away from family and friends, we just have to find a way to make it work. 

A big part of this means that I run errands with one, two, three, and soon to be four persons in tow. I must accept that it will take thirty minutes to get out the door. I must accept that I will be having a ninety minute conversation (while grocery shopping) about keeping your body in the cart, not touching your siblings, who needs to go potty, who is hungry, where dad is, and what kind of food is on the list. (Seriously, God forbid I do not bring a list.) It means I will be mindlessly putting the contents of my purse back in place while Frank takes it all back out again as I try to remember where to find the jam I like. It also means my introverted self is forced to interact with strangers, and those interactions often involve talking about my children as they are hard to miss. 

I have my game face on when I am running errands. One of the rules of advocacy is that you do not acknowledge clients in public places unless they approach you first. It works splendidly with my natural inclination to avoid talking to people, but it is also a hard habit to break. It is a wonder so many people approach us at all. 

Maybe I am just always in a bad mood, but I am far more likely to rage on about how a twenty-something male cashier informed me my children are a hassle. I am also more likely to feel the urge to play the drinking game "How Many People Will Tell Me My Hands Are Full?" err when I am not pregnant (but really, that is pretty much never in the last five years. Hence the shirt I just bought.*

*Yes, I bought this short-sleeved. No I do not drink whilst pregnant.

If I am being particularly honest and fair about people, I am approached JUST AS OFTEN to be told how amazing/beautiful/well-behaved/smart/verbal/funny my children are. Elderly individuals come and tell us our children are great when we are eating at restaurants. Today, a woman with a very full cart touched my shoulder just to give me a giant smile and say, "Your children are beautiful." (Then they were completely quiet for two aisles while I tried not to cry. When Hattie and Calvin began to fight over the steering wheel and Frank threw a Qdoba rewards card at me, I snapped back to reality.) At Mass, nearly every week we are greeted by someone praising our children, and often it is an older woman with her son that just can't wait for us to sit down next to them. 

My Grandpa and my brother are sailors, and I curse like one. I deflect any awkwardness with humor. I am blunt or silent, and come across as the ultimate Catholic insult: uncharitable. (Thanks to Sarah for making me laugh with that one!) 

I bet I need to work on all of this, but it is also who I am. Sometimes I am not the picture of what a Catholic woman should be, so I am also not always the smiling happy portrait of how great life with young children is either. Plastering on a smile when I spent the entire morning cleaning up a breakfast mess somehow feels fake, but I will continue to do my best. Thank you to those of you out there that stop to give a mom a little encouragement and ask for nothing in return. A big smile and kind words from someone that does not need a mom to clean a mess, change their clothes or diaper, put them down for a nap, or run an errand for them goes a really, really, really long way. 

"Act like you live in the 1800's and the camera will steal your soul."


  1. you do a GREAT job! and I love the's a hoot :)

  2. Jess, it is really, really hard being a mother of young children, and a mother of older children, and a Catholic on top of all that makes life nearly impossible in moments, and beyond blissful in others. It is worth it, but I understand your struggles. I have had them and still do. I, too, am not a perfect Catholic mother by any means. Somehow, I think I've settled into that reality. All we can do is our best each day, and sometimes that even means fake smiles, but sometimes that's okay too. as long as the real ones eek out from time to time too. Blessings, Roxane

  3. I am pretty happy not being perfect. It ends in some fun along the way that we may have missed out on otherwise!


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