Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Don't, ahem, Go in Your Sister's Teapot

If you want intelligent, pithy, and honest writing, head over to Betty Duffy's corner of the blogosphere. If I had the time, I'd link to a post or two or ten. Her take on the sheer craziness that is sometimes (oftentimes) motherhood leaves me saying again and again, "Yeah! What she said!"

Here she writes about discerning a motto, a motto that would capture life as a busy mom and inspire her in her vocation.

We are a week and a half into summer. The transition has been the smoothest one yet, this despite the fact that I'm up to eyeballs in various pursuits and that a fever/sore throat virus is slowly winding its way through the ranks.

But the weather has been blistering hot. And we've had a few memorable moments -- among them, Ainsley staring with delight as she squeezed every last drop of baby shampoo onto the good couch and an unidentified toddler peeing in Ainsley's teapot. Yes, that's right -- peeing in Ainsley's teapot.

If you haven't read Rachel Balducci's book How to Tuck in a Superhero, get yourself a copy. Among the many messages that are both funny and spot on is her list of Rules I can't believe I had to make. Rules 1, 2, and 7 are classics:

1. Boys, you must never crawl into the trunk of someone's car.

2. Never shut your brother in a refrigerator.

7. Do not hogtie your brother and drag him across the yard even if he claims he is having a blast.
Of all the rules I never imagined I would be forced to enact, Don't pee in your sister's teapot has to take the cake. Before I had kids, I never even said the word pee. I remember having fits with my high school students, especially the girls, when they'd use the P word. "'Mrs. Dolin, can I go to the restroom?' is perfectly acceptable," I'd tell them. "Nobody needs know what you're planning to do in there." Eventually this became something of a joke. A few of my favorite students adopted the English slang and would ask, "Mrs. Dolin, can I go to the loo?" We laugh about it to this day.

But then along came my four cherubic children. It's an earthy, earthy life with diapers and potty training and boys who just plain love potty talk. All the synonyms and euphemisms for, ahem, going to the bathroom suddenly seemed a bit cumbersome and just plain fussy. Go to the bathroom didn't quite cut it when a third of the family was in diapers and some nameless male members of the household found an inexplicable thrill in using the great outdoors. Half the things one customarily does in the bathroom didn't, in fact, get done anywhere in the vicinity of the bathroom.

So now I occasionally say pee. But I still never thought I'd be talking about it with regard to my sweet daughter's tin teapot with the painted pink flowers.

Don't pee in your sister's teapot. Oy vey. OY VEY! Reminds me of the day not so very long ago when I barked at one of the kids for using bad words and the word in question was mustard.

Oh, the depths to which we descend.

A month or two ago -- during those unendurable weeks when Catechesis was in high gear and soccer and baseball were overlapping -- I had a long conversation with my friend Amy. Our talk boiled down to one pivotal question: Why is it all so hard?

I'm not lazy, I shared. But I just wonder why it's all so hard.

In Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, we close each year by celebrating Pentecost. We review the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We light a candle and discuss each gift. The children choose which gift they want to receive. For the past several years I have asked for fortitude.

Our family in on day four of the Novena to the Holy Spirit. Today we read about fortitude:

By the gift of fortitude the soul is strengthened against natural fear and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which moves it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation.
In Betty Duffy's search for a motto, she writes:

"We serve others especially if they didn't do it for us, because that is what Christ does."

And at first it troubles me, because Christ and his ways are not always on the tip of my tongue. Jazzy slogans are easily recalled and easily dismissed, but Christ, and his ways, are a challenge to recall, but impossible for me to dismiss.

At the same time, with a little reflection, I can see that, yes, years have passed, and I have been doing the service, because it's my duty, for people who don't really return the favor. And I have done it, at times well, at times poorly, for one reason alone: because I love Jesus. I really do ...
Betty describes a type of martyrdom, sometimes called white martyrdom. We don't die, but we die to ourselves again and again. That's motherhood. That's sanctification. That's fortitude.


Anonymous said...

Oh what a laugh! Thank you for that - and for the serious reflections about "dying to oneself" in motherhood. "Going in your sister's teapot" is too wonderful not to adopt as a code phrase!!

Kelly said...

If I didn't laugh. I'd cry!