Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pagan Babies

Sometimes I think my dog is Jesus. When I was growing up in my semi-sheltered Catholic extistence, we were told that Jesus is everywhere. Back then, it was said to help us avoid sin, and, of course, scare the hell out of us. Don't even think about trying to get away with something. Jesus is watching. Well, as much as I like to think I've evolved as an adult and a Christian, there are some things that have just stuck in my subconscious for all these years. Lately, I've noticed that my dog Millie watches my every move. She follows me around in that loyal, "I adore you" kind of way and is the only one in the house that really listens to me. (I notice this because it's exactly what my kids DON'T do.) Some mornings, when I'm drinking my coffee and reading the paper, I'll angrily jump up from my chair to wipe up what she spilled on the floor after drinking her water. I'll clench my teeth and say in a frustrated voice, "Why are you so messy?" Then I'll look into her soft, yearning eyes and think, "Damn, I just yelled at Jesus."

Right now, we're in the middle of Lent, the religious "season" of the year when Catholics give up doing things that they really shouldn't be doing anyway. The idea is that Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 40 days. So for 40 days, we should be giving up things we like or doing special things and offering them up as a Lenten sacrifice. We're really supposed to keep it a secret, but kids have a hard time with that. Many a Lenten promise has been broken and renegotiated throughout the 40 days. My daughter's resolve weakened upon seeing a pan of brownies that I baked. "Yeah, I pretty much decided that I'm doing something else instead of giving up chocolate," she said. I didn't really respond, knowing that like her mother, chocolate is practically a religion in and of itself.

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, Lent was a time of darkness and suffering. You gave things up and people knew how hard it was for you. Most of all, every Friday you went to Stations of the Cross, which consisted of Monsignor O'Rourke mumbling while durge-like music played in the background. Then during school, we'd bring in spare change or money from piggy banks to buy Pagan babies. These were poor, unfortunate children from some far off country that hadn't been baptized. Our coins were gonna save their souls! We also collected money in cardboard rice bowls to feed the starving children that we were reminded of when we didn't eat our lima beans.

Today, Lent is a much more introspective and sometimes productive time. The kids are left to their own creativity to decide what they'll do or not do. However, it's not unusual to hear parents exclaim in shock how suddenly their children are doing dinner dishes or making their beds every day. Too bad it only lasts 6 weeks. And apparently, it isn't even every day during Lent. By some bizarre loophole, you don't have to do your Lenten sacrifice on Sundays during Lent. How come we didn't know this back in the 60s or 70s? I wonder if I can get extra credit for all of those Lenten Sundays that I wasted...

And so, I go through my days, trying to be a decent Christian and a decent mother - both equally challenging. OK, OK, I'll admit it, I've played the Lenten card when disciplining my children: "Can't you just be nice to each other for Lent?!" or "How about if you clean up your room every day during Lent." Generally it's for naught. Hmmm....I wonder if I should start saving my loose change to save my kids' souls. It's a thought. Meanwhile, watching over me, is my own personal savior, Millie. Look dog, give it a rest! It is almost Sunday!


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