Yesterday after supper, the 6-year-old squeezed himself into the space between me and the back of the couch while I tried to catch up on reading. He does this often, using me alternately as pillow, footrest, jungle gym or whatever else suits his mood and restless muscles. It’s like having a cat except mine’s heavier, not furry, and talks. And doesn’t cause fits of sneezing. Usually he reads while I work, but last night after several minutes of performing his usual acrobatics beside, on, and around me, he got serious.
“What if I don’t remember my sins, Mommy?”
It took me a second to focus on what he was saying and recall that we were doing a bit of sacramental preparation the last couple of weeks, specifically Confession. To keep it simple, I had summarized it as “remembering your sins and telling them to the priest who is Jesus’ representative here on earth”. (It will be a while until his First Confession, so please pray for him.)
“I can give you a little notebook, and you can write them in there at night before we pray.”
“Can you write them down for me?”
I started launching into an explanation of why it’s a good idea to recall our sins at night, so we can pray about them, ask God’s forgiveness, and ask for His help so that we don’t make the same mistakes the next day… but I hadn’t quite finished when he interrupted me, tearing up a bit.
“Kuya and I had a fight last night.” (Kuya = Big Brother in Filipino)
“Yes, you did.”
“I spat at him,” he said, looking very remorseful and sad.
So we covered apologies, and forgiveness, and trying again. And I told him about a close relative who used to do the same thing because it was one of the things he could do when he got into a fight, since being little meant being unable to land punches as effectively as a big person can.
We laughed a bit, but then he got serious and teary-eyed again.
“What if someone always makes you mad? And what do you do when someone kicks you?”
As I probed further, I found out that he had a fight with a friend on a recent camping trip, and the friend kicked him, and he kicked the boy back. Dad joined us briefly to discuss things in more detail, and to plan what needs to be done next: he will sit down with the boys face to face and get to the bottom of things, and give them some instruction so it doesn’t happen again. The boys had been roughhousing at the campout, as boys are wont to do, and there were adults around, but I guess no one noticed much that was of concern to them.
Except that my boy is a sensitive soul and he thinks about these things long after they’ve happened.
There’s the concern, of course, that the boy is a bit older and bigger than him, but I didn’t want to use the word “bully” because I didn’t want my child getting locked into labeling someone who, most likely, is also still learning how to manage emotions and control impulses. That the child belongs to a strong Christian family, friends of ours, puts our minds at ease too.
Beyond this, though, my child was concerned that this friend seems to know just what buttons to push, and that he often ends up getting angry.
I explained how certain people just manage to rub us the wrong way at times. And how there are things that need to be brought to the attention of adults right away, BUT that there are also things that we can choose NOT to get upset or offended about, and that there are unpleasant things in life we can learn to just let go, or avoid altogether if avoidance would be best for everyone concerned. I gave him suggestions on healthy ways to express anger that doesn’t hurt him or someone else. And we talked about how being angry or offended about too many things isn’t a good formula for happiness.
A few more minutes of hugging and reassuring and he was back to making fart jokes.
I’m sure my son doesn’t realize it, but as I’m shepherding his heart and soul, he shepherds mine. He has such a simple and profound way of looking at the world and the bottom line of things. It’s almost heartbreaking to see him grapple with these thoughts and concerns at such a young age, but I am also deeply, infinitely blessed by his musings. What a privilege and a responsibility to tend to the little ones in His flock. I am awed at the wonder of it, and humbled and grateful that God saw it fit to make me his mother. Thank You, Lord.
Today, as we celebrate the canonization of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, I pray that we parents take inspiration from them as we grow our own families. Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us!