Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tools of the Trade

There was a time in my mothering career when I had baby wipes in every possible location: my purse, the car, the diaper bag, and throughout the house. Baby wipes could eliminate sticky fingers, erase spit-up drips from my shoulders, and of course, clean up the inevitable baby and toddler messes.

Baby wipes were completely indispensible.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I have a new indispensable tool in my box: Krazy Glue. This tiny tube fixes toys, games, wheels on matchbox cars, and any other myriad of “oops” created in a household with two young, active boys. I am on my third tube this year. There are days I would not get through without this trusty little tube of gluey-goodness.

But of all the tools that help me in the raising and rearing of three children, none is more valuable than the Sacrament of Confession.

I’m pretty all-powerful as mom. (At least, I am these days; I’m sure the teen years will take care of that). Seriously, though, I have the bulk of the power in the relationships with my children. I decide when we will eat, and for the most part, what we will eat. I assign the school work and the re-dos when it isn’t done well enough. I am the last word on play dates, activities, chores and outings. These three little people spend a lot of their day working on my agenda.

So, it’s particularly important for me to take time, regularly, to step back, look directly at my life, and humbly ask forgiveness for all the times I misuse this power.

I do a short examination of conscience every night before bed, looking back over my day, what worked, what didn’t. But this quiet conversation with God in the privacy of my mind isn’t quite enough for me. It’s like trying to cut fabric with safety scissors: the job may get done, but not as well as with a good pair of Fiskers. I need the Sacrament to get the full benefit.

My regular confessor is also my friend. He comes over for dinner once a month. We compete on trivia teams together. He’s seen me on good days, bad days, and lots of ordinary days. He knows me nearly as well as my husband, and certainly better than anyone else.

It is extremely hard to sit with him and name all of my wrongs. Humbling doesn’t quite cover the emotion. And yet, I do it, every single month, because I need it. Without the Sacrament, I know my mothering would be so much less than it is. I know that my ego, my agenda, and my controlling personality would reign supreme. I need to be humbled. I need to recall my failures, and to recognize my great need for mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

Like any trusty tool, Confession surprises me with its usefulness. It doesn’t just fix the obvious problem (my sinfulness); it shows me how to be a better mother. By humbling myself, I learn to be gentler with my children when they make the wrong choices. Because I’ve received God’s mercy and compassion, I am reminded to treat my children with mercy and compassion. In learning to apologize well and often to God, I am learning the importance of apologizing well and often to my children.

I can foresee a time in my future when the tube of Krazy Glue will dry out before I can use it all. Like the baby wipes, this tool will serve its time, and be replaced by something else. But I cannot see any time in my life when the Sacrament of Confession will have lost its usefulness to me. This is one tool that has a permanent spot in my toolbox.

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