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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Kasey Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth Vocations

Perfection or Perdition

We were sitting at the dining room table when it happened.

I was reading one of our homeschool books aloud while my older son was fumbling around with a pair of scissors- awkwardly trying to cut out puzzle pieces to glue to a frame.

Predictably, he was doing an inexact job.

In a sudden fit of frustration he threw down his project, crumpled it up in his tiny fingers, and screamed, “If I can’t do right then I don’t want to do it at all.”

I was shocked.

First of all, this is a child who spilled an entire bag of flour over my kitchen table and added spoonfuls of water to make pancakes. When it didn’t work, he simply sprinkled sugar all over the mess and licked it.

“Tastes the same, Mama.”

::insert eyeroll::

But more importantly I was shocked because, only the night before, I had said this exact phrase to my husband.

“If I can’t do it right then I don’t want to do it at all.”

Perfect.

Or nothing.

It was particularly memorable because I was soaking wet at the time. I know, sounds thrilling. Truly, it was just because my baby puts me in chokehold any time water runs out of the bathroom faucet.  

The phrase would have been lost to time.

Except it wasn’t.

It was sitting on the lips of my five year old.

Perfect.

Or nothing.  

I called “time out” and decided that we needed to regroup. Something about my son had changed- I was sure of it. I decided to spend the rest of the week carefully watching him. And what did I conclude?

Well, my son is a sponge. His mood is immediately lifted when we are laughing. He is concerned when his brother cries. He has memorized several well-worn books on his bookshelf. He pouts when he doesn’t get his way. In short, he currently (and accurately) reflects the world around him.

He hadn’t changed.

I had changed.

And he was reflecting that back to me.

Perfect.

Or nothing.

I can’t speak for everyone but, in my life, personality changes tend to take the scenic route. It’s only after years of journaling and reflection that I can see the boulders that moved my boat into different, and sometimes difficult, waters. But in this particular case, it was glaringly obvious.

My increased need for perfection started the moment my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our children during their early years. I can remember the immediate sense of duty and weight that accompanied our decision. I had a new hat.

Teacher.

And I wanted to wear it with pride.

I was excited.

But with that excitement came a tinge of uneasiness.

I have worked in public schools.

I have worked in private schools.

I have worked outdoors with children, in camps, at libraries, and in museums.

I know what the general population thinks about homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers are unsocialized.

::beats dead horse with another dead horse::

Homeschoolers are weird.

Yeah, probably. But weird kids are weird- no matter what four walls you drop them into.

Homeschoolers are behind.

You know, except for all the stupidly evident examples of homeschoolers who excel at the same rate as their peers.

The funny thing is- people don’t seem to often question your decisions and motives when you take the “traditional” education route.

They don’t assume that you are anti- “whatever the other person is doing.”  

SPOILER ALERT- we’re not.

They don’t assume your house must be a wreck.

They don’t assume that your children are being socialized improperly.

They don’t hold your life up under this tiny little microscope and say, “Oh that weird behavior- IT MUST BE THE HOMESCHOOLING.”

Unfortunately- even people I generally adore in every other realm of my life have not always been accepting concerning this particular choice.

And instead of letting that go, I decided to show them up.

I know, how gracious and Catholic of me.

Homeschoolers are dumb.

Fine- then my kid is going to read classics ONLY. We are going to have a rigorous curriculum, never mind that he is in kindergarten!

Perfect.

Or nothing.

Homeschoolers have messy, unorganized lives.

Fine- then my house is going to be immaculate!

Perfect.

Or nothing.

Homeschoolers aren’t socialized.

Fine- then we are going out every day and I will show you just how motherlovin’ friendly my kids are!

Perfect.

Or nothing.

Clearly- this had become a little demon foothold. It was not only perfectionism but pride. I now carried the weight of everyone else’s opinion on my shoulders. I had fooled myself into believing that I could be a perfect Catholic and a perfect mother and a perfect teacher and a perfect homemaker…

Clearly I forgot- perfection is not a part of the human condition.

It’s a part of God’s condition.

I need supernatural grace.

I cannot get to heaven by myself.

I need the church.

Moreso, I was robbing my children of a parent who was pushes down into the grittiness of life so that I can grow, confess, and be changed by the gospel. Who needs confession this week? I have this life handled!

I was robbing my friends of true intimacy that is built on a foundation of understanding and service. Instead, I built up walls of judgement and resentment. You don’t like what I am doing? Well, look at how more put together and calm I am? You wish you were like me!

I was robbing my spouse of opportunities to serve our family. He will just mess this up anyway! I need to do it!

I wasn’t just setting a bad example for my son- I was slowly curling my fingers around the fruits of original sin.

Perfect people don’t need God.

They don’t need the sacraments.

They have this life thing handled.

Perfect.

Or nothing.

I wish I could have some incredible conclusion to this cautionary tale. I wish I could say I “figured it out.”

I don’t have very many lightning in the sky moments.

The people who thought we were crazy- still think we are crazy.

But should I be seeking their approval? Should I be worried about debunking their stereotypes? Or should I be concerned about the particular stewardship that God has given to me and be seeking His approval?

For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” -Galatians 1:10

I don’t have it figured out.

Maybe all my critics will be right and next year we will be putting our kid on a bus to public school.

Maybe all my critics will be wrong and my family will homeschool everyone until they are brooding, smelly high schoolers.

Maybe, as a Catholic and a homeschooler, I just need to focus on my particular children and ask myself every day, “What’s God’s story for us? What does He want our particular situation to look like? What will bring Him glory?”

This week- it meant something real simple.

I sat down next to my son and I took out the coloring book. I grabbed the markers and I scribbled outside the lines.

Donald looks fabulous.

And when my son freaked out and told me I was doing it wrong I simply said, “It’s okay, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be something beautiful.”

Categories
Ink Slingers

Catholic Mom Squads

I didn’t realize that squad envy could be a thing until I watched Taylor Swift’s infamous “Bad Blood” music video.

(I know, what a profound statement for such a lovely Catholic blog.)

When the video first came out, I was sure my fascination with it was primarily rooted in its sensationalism. It was hyped for weeks. It had a model in *literally* every frame. It was glamorous. It was an anthem.

All fads pass.

But this feeling sat with me for awhile.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

This was secular media.

It was adolescent music that I occasionally (okay, all the time) turned up in the car as a guilty pleasure.

Why was it striking a chord?

My strange epiphany hit me like a tornado of preschool vomit.

As in, my preschooler vomited all over my clothes in a public restroom (in a hipster coffee shop) while my baby was screaming at the top of his lungs because they had one of those terrifying hand dryers called an “XLERATOR.”

As I carried my screaming children through the coffeeshop, I caught the eyes of two women in crisp clean clothes sitting over delicate lattes discussing projects and work events. In my mind the young couple nestled together in the back seat of the cafe was swearing to themselves that they would never have kids. A barista kindly opened the door for me but didn’t really look me in the eyes.

I felt like such a loser.

I felt very alone.

And then I realized- that dumb music video was bothering me for one very basic reason.

Everyone in that video looked like they belonged.

Sure, they belonged to a super secret spy society that was headed up by Cindy Crawford but even in real life- they mean something to people.

I was going to need to come to terms with the fact that in the secular world at large- the vomit covered, Catholic, homeschooling mother doesn’t always belong.

I don’t belong to a world that constantly pushes up against my fundamental beliefs.

I don’t always belong in the same circles I used to run in before I had kids or reverted back into the Catholic church.

Heck, I don’t even feel like I belong to my own body at times.

In that small moment, I discovered that my need for Catholic female support had grown from a small desire into a parched and hungry thirst.

I needed someone.

To cry with.

To laugh with.

To pray with.

To belong with.

And so I prayed.

And God answered.

God answered abundantly.

And now I am here because I want to encourage others to pray for the same thing.

Pray for a Catholic mom squad.

Pray for a friend.

And if you already have one- give an offering for thanksgiving.  

Don’t believe me? From experience, here are a few reasons why I think Catholic mom friends will truly enrich your life.

I think the most obvious reason Catholic moms should find time to band together is for the very real need to lift one another up in prayer.

Real.

Catholic.

Prayer.

A candle lit on a family altar during a friend’s labor.

A novena said during a particularly trying time in your marriage.

A rosary said for the momentary alleviation of depression.

A communion dedicated to your particular struggles in motherhood.  

Truly, what an honor it is to receive so many graces from women who can empathize with your vocational weariness. My friends who have stayed close to the sacraments are my friends who have helped me endure many of my own tribulations.

Having friends that are oriented towards the altar and rooted in prayer also means having friends that share in some of your foundational beliefs about the purpose and calling of motherhood and marriage.

To be fair, this doesn’t mean that you will be BFF’s with every woman you meet at church. We all have our particular interests and tastes. But it does mean that your Catholic squad should be filled with people who believe what the church teaches and want to raise their kids in the faith.

In my experience, as the world seems to fall apart before my very eyes, it is so important to have allies, sounding boards, and shoulders to cry on as I drag my kids to mass each week. If only to say to my children, “Look! How lucky you are to have friends that are learning about Jesus too!”

On a deeper level, Catholic mom friends will be able to help you shoulder burdens that others might just consider “trash.” For example, Catholic friends have a context and language for marital struggle. Instead of hearing, “Well, if it isn’t working, you should just divorce,” you can find a deep reservoir of experience, resources, and help.

We know that our suffering makes us holy.

Our Catholic friends can help us embrace the soul forming pain that walks hand in hand with our glimpses into true charity, joy, and love.

Simply put- Catholic mom squads will fall into a common culture.

I know, “diversity” is the buzzword of the year.

(Possibly the decade and millennium as well)

And I don’t think Catholics are promoting a world without differences.

We are an international, global entity.

Diversity is inevitable.

But how can my family add to global diversity if we are not grounded in our own Catholic identity? How can we be a light and salt in the world if we are not properly celebrating who we are?

For argument’s sake, isn’t culture a shared experience?

There are parts of being Catholic that bind us to one another-

Sacraments.

Celebrations.

The Saints.

A liturgical year that covers the entirety of salvation history over and over again.

We are the church militant and together we stand!

Down on the ground, I am so thankful for the mothers in my life who don’t just tolerate my son having to praying before meals but encourage it. They teach it. They say, “We are going to pray the rosary before dinner, please sit down and join us.”

Surrounding my family with other families who embrace our common culture has solidified our identity. It has made me more confident in my parenting. It has helped me shoulder the burden of catechism, daily devotions, and celebrations.

It has brought into our home an unspeakable joy.

A breaking of bread.

And a hope that we are bound to one another in experience and love.

Pray, my sweet sisters, for friends and for your friends.

I do not have a direct line to Our Lord and Savior and I know that God answers prayers in ways that help shape us into saints on the ever narrow path towards heaven.

Humbly, I must admit that loneliness can certainly have a role in God’s plan for your life.

But from experience, praying for cohearts has pushed me to embrace my Catholicity, ask other mothers to join me in liturgical celebrations, and to honestly pray for others.

Magically (or maybe not so magically) it has attracted like minded women into my life.

The friendships have made me a better Catholic.

The prayers have made me a better person.

And truly, what a beautiful thing.