What The Children Already Know

"I don't want to be Mary Bernadette anymore," she exclaims with frustration.

We're laying in her bed together.  I'm trying to make up with her for loosing my patience because she goofed off during the family rosary.

(Doesn't yelling at your kid during prayer time defeat the purpose?  I think it does...)

"Why don't you want to be you," I ask, secretly hoping she's not serious about wanting to be someone else.

"I always get time-outs and stuff.  I wish I were Patrick and Meaghan."

Ugh.  She means it.

'But if you were them, then I wouldn't have you.  I love you..." I trail off.

She leans over and kisses the baby.  It's obvious she's not listening to me.

After I tuck her in, I wander downstairs.  I'm alarmed by her statement.  Is this her way of telling me she knows she isn't as well behaved as the older two children? That she's tired because she tries and she tries but she still gets into trouble? That she wants to be good but she doesn't know how, that her efforts are never enough for me?

I think it is.  I fear it is. I reflect on these things until bedtime and then again for the next few days. 

By Sunday, I've worked myself up into a full-fledged panic.

As I'm getting ready for Mass, I'm wondering: Does Mary Bernadette want to be someone else because then I'll be happy with her?

Do the other kids feel like she does?

Do they know they are more than the sum of the good things they do?

That they are more than a good grade that earns praise?

That they they are more than pious children who say their prayers and go to church?

Do they know they are loved because

they are not because they do?

Toiling, earning approval, working, pleasing, good performance...it doesn't fill from the inside.  It may get you noticed, it may get you praised, but it's not true love.  It doesn't fill. What if my kids' insides don't match their outsides?

Tears start down my cheeks.

"What if their insides don't match their outsides?" I silently pray.    "I don't want them to do in order to be filled. They are enough; they are good! I want their insides to match their outsides!  Help me to teach them something I still don't get!"

"Colleen, it's almost 10:30," John yells downstairs.

"I'm coming," I shout back.  I wipe my tears.  "I can't even get to church on time.  How am I supposed to raise five kids AND teach God's loves. I don't feel it either."

"Patrick, Meaghan, let's go," I yell as I grab the van keys.  "We're late."

Buckling into our seats, Meaghan asks, "Mom, why isn't Dad going to Mass?"

"He's sick, remember, Meaghan? He can't go to church because he hurt his eye.  But God knows; He understands."

"I know, Mom," she says.  "He loves Dad, it's just Dad can't go today."

"That's right.  He loves those people who don't ever go to church, too.  He loves everyone, even people different from us like drug addicts, and drunks, and murderers. Did you guys know that?" I look into the rear view mirror, my sunglasses shielding my eyes.

"Yeah, Mom," Patrick chimes in.  "We know.  It's just those people, like the people in jail--their outsides don't match their insides. Their insides are good but their outsides aren't."

I stop cold.  Did he just say that?

Their insides are good but their outsides aren't.  He says what I still don't know, what I still don't live, what I've been so worried they didn't understand.

But they do.

I begin to cry again.  My sunglasses hide my tears.  This time I'm crying tears of joy.

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Genesis 1:27 God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1: 31 God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.

---Another one from the archives. I'm always surprised the way the summer heat and the summer pregnancy leave me wiped out.   Years have passed but I'm still learning this one.