Categories
Ink Slingers Krista Steele Series The Ask

Dear Distracted Mom of Littles

The Ask

Welcome to this installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.


How do I keep toddlers behaved during Mass while still maintaining some semblance of prayer and worship for myself? – Distracted Mom Of Littles

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Dear Distracted, 

 

My immediate response? Lower your expectations. 

 

After further thought and reflection? Lower your expectations. 

 

In all seriousness, though. You have toddlers! Toddlers are only going to behave so well at Mass. Since I’m not sitting next to you at Mass every week, I have no idea where your kiddos sit on the spectrum of “quiet angel babies” and “tiny barbarians destined for sainthood”. I do know, though, that anytime my kid is anything to the right of angelic, I start to panic. Not only do I want to avoid judgey looks from fellow church goers who have: 

 

  1. Never had the pleasure of bringing a squirmy child to Mass 
  2. Forgotten what it’s like to wrangle tiny humans in pews 

 

I also don’t want to interrupt anyone else’s prayer. I don’t want my child to inconvenience or burden other people. And then I have to stop and check my heart for thinking that my baby being a baby is burdensome. Heaven forbid my words or behavior around her in Mass suggest that she is a burden to me or anyone else. 

 

In my 28 years of going to Mass, I cannot pick out a single family in a crowd and say “Gosh, these people really shouldn’t be allowed to have kids, let alone take them out in public.” Before I had a baby myself, the sound of kids crying, talking, playing games or fighting with their siblings was simply part of Mass. It was background noise. Sometimes it was really high pitched background noise, but it was never more than background noise. 

 

It wasn’t until I had a baby that I became hyper vigilant about every squeak and squawk she made from the moment we walked in the Church doors to the minute we stepped back through them into the sunlight. I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel like a “good mom” when our baby is quiet and happy through Mass and that I sometimes feel bad about my mothering skills when she’s fussy or unhappy. 

 

We need to remember that our kids are kids! And that they’re behavior in Mass will depend on several factors including their stage of development, their energy level, whether they’re healthy or maybe coming down with a cold, etc. 

 

Now I’m certainly not saying we don’t have high standards for our children, but I am suggesting that we set reasonable expectations for their behavior and separate their behavior from our sense of worth as parents. 

 

If your toddlers are just being toddlers and someone is looking at you disapprovingly, that’s on them, not on you. If your toddlers are having a dumpster fire style meltdown, maybe try calmly removing them from the sanctuary for a few minutes to assess what’s causing the mayhem. 

 

When toddlers throw tantrums, they need extra love from us. Tantrums are a way for kiddos to express feelings they don’t have the words for yet. When toddlers are melting down, a snack and a snuggle go a long way. Isn’t that true for most of us? 

 

Outside of major tantrums, let your kids be kids. I remember spending much of Mass sitting on the kneeler, absentmindedly responding “thanks beady God” and watching my dad sit, stand, kneel, fold his hands and receive communion while I colored or read books. I learned how to go to Mass by observing. I bet those Masses weren’t all that prayerful for my dad. I bet he spent a lot more time than I realize keeping me from coloring in the missal or decorating the back of the pew with my Lisa Frank stickers. Looking back, though, I think his approach to bringing me to Mass as a small child is why I feel so comfortable in my Father’s house as an adult. 

 

Instead of feeling like I’m walking into the stuffy home of a mean and distant relative where I have to keep my hands in my pockets and smile politely, going to Mass feels like going home. I can breathe deeply, come as I am. Isn’t that how we want our kids to feel? 

 

It may seem counterintuitive, but maybe try sitting up front so your littles can see what’s going on. If they ask what’s happening during Mass, tell them! Try keeping some special books, coloring books and toys that you bring out only at Mass. There are several Etsy shops that sell fun Mass toys! It’s important that our kids have positive experiences in Church if we want them to grow up in to faith filled adults. Right now, that looks like playing with special toys, eating snacks, snuggling with you and looking around. All the while, Jesus is holding them close, and he is happy they’re there. Jesus sees your littles crawling up and down the pews, giggling and goofing off and it makes Him smile. 

 

As far as making it more prayerful for you, maybe squeeze in a solo daily Mass if you have childcare during the week. If you have relatives or friends who go to the same Mass, sit together and share the toddler love. Many hands make light work. And know all the while that you loving your babies is a prayer. 

 

Jesus still says “let the little children come to me!” Our children belong at Mass because they are both the present and the future of our Church! Keep going mama! You’re doing great! 

 

Love In Christ,

Krista


Extra Reads

The Frazzled Catholic Mom’s Guide to Getting through Mass (Mostly) in One Piece

An Average Day in the Pew

20 Habits You can Cultivate Now to Help Your Children Stay Catholic

My Kid Drinks Juice during Mass – Sorry (not Sorry) if that Offends You

Dear-Distracted-Mom-of-Littles
Categories
Ink Slingers Krista Steele Series Spiritual Growth The Ask

Grumbling Mass Goer

The Ask

Welcome to the next installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.


My child doesn’t like going to Mass. How can I help him/her to love and appreciate it? How important is my child’s attire for Mass? Should I just be glad that he/she is going with me?

– Grumbling Mass Goer

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Dearest Grumbling Mass Goer,

Every Saturday, at 3:30 p.m., my siblings and I grumbled our way into my dad’s pick up truck for the 4:00 vigil Mass. It didn’t matter what else we were doing, we were going to Mass. We left parties early more times than I can count. I did not appreciate this as a kid. My siblings and I dragged our feet every week, protesting with complaints and half hearted (at best) effort at dressing appropriately for the occasion.

I should mention that I was an altar server, on a serving “crew” that was often called upon for funeral and wedding Masses. I went to a summer camp for Catholic youth every year, had a holy water font in my room, and regularly rearranged and organized the bookshelf that held my sacramentals and spiritual books. I only ever got in trouble at school three times. Once was for refusing to take off a purity ring that was “against dress code”, and once for “skipping art class” because I stayed in the sanctuary for a few minutes to pray after serving the 8:30 am Mass. Our principal laughed and apologized for giving me the two days of detention she was obligated to dole out.

I loved Jesus and had a deep devotion to our Holy Mother. I loved being Catholic, and yet I absolutely hated going to Mass. However, that didn’t last forever. I did not attend Mass during my college years unless I was visiting home. In my early twenties, I wasn’t so sure there was a good God at all. I was working on a master’s degree before I started going to Mass occasionally on my own, and slowly came back to the faith as an adult. If I’m being completely honest with you, I still don’t always love and appreciate the Mass the way it deserves to be loved and appreciated, even though I still walk through the doors every Saturday evening. All too often, attending Mass is another thing to do, not the source and summit of my happiness.

So, yes, celebrate the fact that she is going with you! Every time her butt is next to you in the pew is a win. As a kid, my dad’s devotion to getting us to Mass was annoying. As an adult, I’m in awe of his faithfulness and beyond grateful for the example he set for us. It was his actions, not his words that taught us the importance of going to Mass.

I’m sure you know the parable of the ten virgins, right? All ten of them went out to await the arrival of the bridegroom. The wise ones brought their lamps and extra oil while the foolish ones brought only their lamps. Scripture says the bridegroom was delayed and the foolish virgins asked the wise virgins for some of their extra oil. The parable says that the wise virgins basically said “get your own.”

I always thought that was harsh until it was explained to me this way. The bridegroom is Jesus, and the oil is our relationship with Him. We can’t give anyone our relationship with Jesus. They need to cultivate their own relationship with Him in their own way and their own time. You are doing the best thing you can by providing your daughter access to the sacred. Rest easy, mama. Jesus is pursuing your baby’s heart every moment of every day and He will never stop pursuing her. Her relationship with the Lord and with the mass will almost certainly look different than yours, and that’s exactly how it should be. Your desire for her to love the mass is good. Continue to surrender the logistics at the foot of the cross, trusting that we serve a God who holds back no good gifts from His children and the ultimate gift is Himself.

Categories
Ink Slingers Krista Steele Series The Ask

Loving My Husband

The Ask

Welcome to the next installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email KRISTA to submit your question.


Hi Krista! My husband and I have small children and it’s hard making time for each other. We know it’s important, but it’s a big struggle – not gonna lie! Do you have any ideas for us that would help us connect better?   

~ Loving My Husband

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Dear Loving My Husband,

What a time to be alive. The little years bring so many unique joys and challenges. All too often it can seem like the challenges outnumber the joys. I love that you and your husband desire to connect more deeply. It’s easy in this season of life to believe the lie that your primary vocation of marriage can be put on hold. I’ve seen the damage and destruction that can cause in a family and your question makes it clear that you are committed to navigating the challenges of this time that get in the way of connecting with your husband.

When they were parenting two small girls, my grandparents had an evening ritual that worked well for them. They taught my mom and aunt early that the first 30-45 minutes after my grandmother got home from work, they were expected to entertain themselves while my grandparents sat down at the table or on the patio with a glass of wine or a cocktail and talked. My mom is about to be a grandmother for the first time and clearly so much has changed about the pace of our culture since she was a girl, but I think a rhythm like that is within reach if we’re willing go against the crowd.

Perhaps start by picking a night this week to sit down after the kids are in bed and take inventory of everything that is taking your time and energy as a family and make some cuts, a “not to do” list if you will, so that you and your husband can have some set time every day or at least every week to connect before you’re not too exhausted from the hustle of everyday living to do anything more than stare blankly at the television while one of you scrolls through facebook on your phone and the other one dozes off, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

I don’t know if you have family close by and if you do whether or not they are a supportive resource for your family. If so, take every advantage of that blessing! As a kid, I spent a significant amount of time with loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends, both near and far. Those experiences gave me memories, confidence and a sense of adventure that I treasure now as an adult.

When those same grandparents I told you about earlier were young parents without family close by, they traded babysitting hours with several other couples. They called it the “babysitter’s club”. On the rare occasion they had a few extra dollars to go on a date, they would cash in a few babysitting hours with one of the other couples in their group. They got a night out, able to rest easy knowing their daughters were in the hands of trusted friends and my mom and aunt built healthy relationships with a community of caring adults and their children.

My husband and I are getting ready to meet our first child in the next couple of weeks, so we are in a different stage of life than you. I won’t even pretend to know what’s going to work for you this week, this month, this year, because I’m not living your life. Anyone but God Himself who positions themselves as an expert on your life should be promptly ignored unless they’re offering to take your children and pay for a long weekend away for you and your husband. That is my prayer for you — an all expenses paid weekend away with free childcare. It’s easy for people to offer “solutions” from the outside looking in, but that suggests that you aren’t smart enough to have considered those same options yourself.

John Gottman recently wrote a book called “Eight Dates” that would be worth checking out. He offers great resources for married couples to continue to grow and improve their relationship. Also, if you haven’t done so already, check out Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. Knowing each other’s love languages is so helpful in connecting in a more meaningful way. My husband knows that a clean kitchen, hidden love notes and a foot rub go a long way to make me feel seen and loved and I know that initiating sex, speaking well of him in front of our friends and family and packing his lunches makes him feel respected and appreciated.

The voice that says there is no solution, no extra time or money or energy for you and your husband is the voice of the one who seeks to divide. The Devil hates strong marriages, hates that you want more time with your husband, and he’s going to work hard to convince you that getting that deeper connection is impossible in this season, of how selfish you are for wanting that in the first place, that your marriage can wait. The Devil is lying. Your marriage is your primary vocation. Your children are a miraculous product of your vocation. I heard Fr. John Ricardo say once that children need to know that their parents love each other even more than they need to know that their parents love them. By prioritizing each other, you are giving them an incredible gift.

God has put the desire on your heart to connect deeply with your husband and He will provide the resources and village of people to make that happen. Trust and seek His guidance as you and your husband explore your options for getting the quality time you want and need. Kudos to you for continuing to seek your spouse during these chaotic little years. It matters more than you know.

 

All Love In Christ,

Krista


RESOURCES

For inspiration – pulled from CS archives

Loving My Husband

 

Categories
Ink Slingers Krista Steele Marriage Parenting Vocations

The Ask: Struggling with NFP

TheAskWelcome to the first installment of The Ask – a series devoted to taking your questions rooted in Catholic living and providing solid, orthodox advice you can use in your everyday. How does it work? We take questions from you, our readers, and Krista marries the spiritual and practical to give you ways to apply the advice given to help you walk with Christ. Have a question? Email Krista to submit your question.


I’m a cradle Catholic and I truly love the Faith, although I definitely need to work on my commitment in my daily life. My husband and I welcomed our first child last January and she is very loved. However, I have had a very difficult, at times heartbreaking journey with postpartum anxiety and OCD. It’s been one of the hardest times in my life.

I know the Church’s teachings on birth control and vasectomies and I think they’re beautiful teachings. My husband and I practice NFP, and because I am currently terrified of having another child, we are only intimate a few days each month. It’s definitely put a strain on our relationship. Although we follow the rules of NFP, I am plagued with worry that God will give me another child while I’m still very much struggling. I don’t know if I would be a healthy mother to more than one child. The temptation to ask my husband to have a vasectomy (as the health risks of birth control scare me) is a strong one. Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

Thank you and God bless,
Struggling with NFP

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Dearest “Struggling With NFP”,

The week before I got married, my dad picked me up and took me out for sushi, something we’ve done hundreds of times since I was a kid tasting a California Roll for the first time. On the way back to my house, he asked me if I was nervous. I told him I wasn’t and I meant it. After a few minutes, though, I told him how afraid I was that I might get pregnant on our honeymoon. At the time, my husband had 6 months left of undergrad and I had two months left of my masters. We had no money and our time together was already limited. Throwing a baby into the mix seemed like a recipe for disaster. Also, I was excited to establish myself in the career I’d worked so hard toward and the thought of throwing maternity leave in the mix less than a year after I started just wasn’t in my plans.

“You talk about trusting God” my dad said, “Here’s a chance to practice what you preach.”  

Sometimes I wish my dad wasn’t so good at his job. He was right, of course. It’s easy to talk about trusting God, trusting that He has a plan for your life and that it’s good.  It’s something entirely different to put that into practice when it comes to the big things like family planning.

For you, now is not an ideal time to have a baby. Postpartum mood disorders are very real and they’re not something you can just pray away or suffer in silence to work themselves out. One of the lies anxiety tells us is that things will never get better. It is that lie that makes a permanent solution, like a vasectomy, to a temporary problem, postpartum anxiety,  seem like the best, perhaps only, option.

I can feel the weight that this burden has placed on your family. In the words of Coldplay “nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard.” None of us imagine this kind of suffering when we’re playing house in our daydreams, and yet we all suffer and we’re left wide eyed and confused and a little offended because this isn’t what we signed up for. Except it is. This kind of suffering is exactly what we signed up for.

There is no easy answer that will make your anxiety go away overnight. A good therapist will help immensely, also a date night with your husband where the phones are away in a restaurant with a cocktail menu and candles on the tables. If that seems out of reach, an afternoon with a close friend and a date night in with the tv off and a bottle of wine maybe.  That’s a start, and that’s all we’re looking for. Mama needs some self-care!

I cannot recommend highly enough the value of a good therapist who respects the teachings of the Church, even if they aren’t Catholic. The best part about therapists is that there are a lot of us, which means you never have to settle for someone you don’t click with. Going to therapy might seem like the last thing on your list of priorities right now when life already feels like more than you can handle, but it’s a valuable tool. Therapy gives you the space to see the big picture when most of your mind and heart space is overwhelmed by the details. If the idea of finding a therapist is overwhelming, try asking trusted friends and family for recommendations. You can also do a google search in your area based on specialties like “postpartum mood disorders”, “faith-based” and “life transitions”. While there’s so much in your life postpartum that you can’t control, you can gain control over your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Your doctor may or may not recommend medication as part of your toolbox for a while and that is another valuable tool.

If you’re not already working with an instructor who specializes in your NFP method of choice, now would be a good time to find one. If there isn’t one in your area, there are practitioners who work remotely. This can be incredibly helpful for gaining confidence in your ability to use NFP effectively! Ask around your church or search your location here to find a professional. In the meantime, using an ovulation monitor like this one, or one of the other awesome options out there may bring you some peace of mind. Is it foolproof? No, but it’s nice back up if you’re not feeling confident in your own tracking ability.

Spiritually, there’s another woman I know who found herself pregnant in some seriously less than ideal circumstances. Mary, Mother of the Living, Queen of Heaven. Perhaps this is a good time to walk more closely with Mary by reading the gospel accounts of the Annunciation through to the Nativity. This is something I did this Advent using the study “Rejoice!” From Ascension Press. Mary was anxious and afraid. The stakes were impossibly high. Her very life was at risk. When it comes to deepening our trust and surrendering our plans, Mary is our girl.

If you’re looking for some good reading as you walk through this season, I recommend “Life Of The Beloved”, “Be Healed”, and “It’s Ok To Start With You”.  

Anxiety doesn’t go away overnight. It just doesn’t. With prayer, therapy, and honest communication with your husband and closest friends, though, it will start to fade a little bit at a time. Perhaps one day you’ll notice that sex is no longer panic inducing, but something you want again. Perhaps you’ll look at your growing girl and think “I kind of want to do that again.” Maybe it will be something entirely different, I don’t know. What I do know is that you won’t feel this way forever and I don’t want the lie that says you will lead you to make a decision you might regret later.

My advice is this. Think carefully before making a permanent decision out of fear only to wish you could take it back in a few months, a year, even several years. The fact that you’re taking your mental and emotional health seriously is a sign of a healthy mother. Your daughter and any future children the Lord has in store for you are blessed to call you “mom.”

Jesus loves you and He is with you, pursuing your heart every day, every moment. More than working on your commitment to your Catholic faith in your daily life, now is the time for you to understand and rest in your belovedness as a daughter of the King of the World, fearfully and wonderfully made. He is for you and for your healing, and He is with you every step of the way. He has beautiful things in store for you now and in the future.

 

All love in Christ,

Krista


RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

A FRIEND ASKS – FREE APP (Jason Foundation) – helps provide information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be in danger of committing suicide

ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA

AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION

NATIONAL EATING DISORDERS ASSOCIATION

MENTAL HEALTH AMERICA

The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty