On the day God gave out personalities, He made sure to give my 5-year-old, Mary Bernadette, a big, beautiful one. She is so full of life and spunk and heart, I find myself constantly conflicted. One minute, I’m yelling, “Mary Bernadette, stop —— jumping off the bed,
picking up the baby and carrying her downstairs,
climbing on the counter,
sneaking unapproved snacks and giving them to everyone, etc..
While the next, my heart is exploding because I just witnessed her effortlessly perform some thoughtful act of kindness, her one deed easily surpassing any good I’ve ever accomplished in my entire 35 years.
Trying to describe a kid like Bernadette is like trying to nail a cloud to the ground.
She never walks, but runs everywhere and because she must constantly be in motion, even watching television becomes tedious. After about 30 minutes, she starts hopping from one foot to another and pulls out her toys to keep busy.
She’s enchanted by the world and everything in it–she wants to see it, explore it, and experience it. She’s spent the last two afternoons digging in the mud for worms and putting them in a fluorescent pink bucket. Kneeling on her hands and knees, moving rocks, and digging at the soft, wet mud looking for cold-blooded wiggly things–this is what she loves to do. Once the wild, bold child scrounges up 50 of those squirmy things, she thinks nothing of dragging her dirty, old pail filled with yucky worms into her room to live with her.
I know every parent thinks it about his or her kid, but Mary Bernadette is as sharp as a tack. Unfortunately, though she’s capable of doing very well in school, it’s absolute misery for her to sit and work when she could be out playing and romping and exploring. This, of course, makes giving her instruction challenging, as does the fact she has a mind of her own. For instance, this morning, I asked her to tell me her favorite color.
“Pink,” she replied.
“OK, I want you to use the crayons to color this star pink.”
But instead of using only the pink crayon, she used pink, green, red, and blue to color the star.
Instead of one shade, she used 10.
“But I told you to use pink and color it,” I said.
“Yeah, but I don’t like just pink; I like all the colors. Doesn’t it look pretty?” she grinned wide, proud of her multi-colored masterpiece.
Later, I asked her to tell me her favorite song so I could write it on her assignment.
“God Made The World,” she said.
“I’ve never heard that song before,” I said, hesitant to write it down.
“Well, I have,” she said emphatically, as if to imply Who cares if you haven’t heard the song, Mom. I have and it’s my favorite. Can we get on with it already?
And so it goes with Mary Bernadette.
She so badly wants to help but sometimes her efforts aren’t really helpful. Like when she overfeeds Patrick’s new tadpole–a job that wasn’t assigned to her–and almost kills it. Or when she fills Christopher’s sippy cup to the brim almost emptying the $5 jug of orange juice, though I explicitly said to use water! Or when she sneaks Camille outside and down the steps and into the wagon to pull her up and down the street, even though I’m not there to oversee her.
These are the kinds of things she’s famous for–none of them evil, just constant and pesky and yes, disobedient.
My interactions with her constantly require me to refine my rules because some of them are just plain stupid and some are necessities (i.e. “Knives are never OK to touch” and “You can never go down to the creek by yourself”).
Despite her tendency to try my patience, of all my children, it is Mary Bernadette who has taught me the most about our own Blessed Mother. Since she was a toddler, I’ve often thought that interacting with her is a glimpse into what the human person of Mother Mary was like. Since they share the same name and the same birthday, I’m convinced they share at least some of the same personality traits.
After parenting a kid like her, I’m convinced our own Mother Mary was a straight shooter– that she didn’t mince words. I know she told people the truth in love, just like my MB does.
I also think Mother Mary was the strongest woman ever to walk the planet, and I believe my own MB has some of that same fearlessness. She’s tough, bold, and unafraid. And like Mother Mary, she understands people in a way that’s almost otherworldly; she seems to innately know whom she can trust and whom she can’t.
But perhaps the way she’s most like Mother Mary is her generous demeanor.
Yesterday, I went to pick MB up from her religious education class. The teacher met me at the door, holding Mary Bernadette in front of her.
“Mary Bernadette received the light of Christ award today!” the teacher announced.
I arched my eye browns in surprise and said, “Really? How?”
“I was handing out bubbles and Mary Bernadette received a blue container. A little boy in the class started crying because he really wanted that color so Mary walked over to him and gave him hers,” the teacher said, tears forming in her eyes.
“It was so beautiful it makes me want to cry,” she finished, fanning her face to keep the tears from spilling over.
After I congratulated MB for her heroic deed, I turned back to the teacher.
“You can’t teach that kind of generosity,” I told the teacher. “I can’t take credit for her behavior; that’s who Mary Bernadette is. If you needed a shirt, she’d give you hers.”
Just like our Blessed Mother would, I think.
Copyright 2012 Colleen Duggan