When your Children are your Cross

7

When Your Children are Your Cross

I had hardly put my kneeler down when I had to sit back and separate my six-year-old and three-year-old who were fighting over a book and then give my nine-year-old the “mommy eye” for giving his brother the stink-eye. Mass had not even started and I already wanted to leave.

Since we had a few moments before Father would begin, I took each kid out and had a little pep talk about why we were there and how I hoped they could behave…or else.

I spent most of the first part of Mass shushing, eyebrow-raising, and whispering “reminders” to each child about appropriate behavior in Mass. I was feeling frustrated and emotionally exhausted as I tried to listen to the readings and focus on the prayers but all I could think about was how distracting and annoying my children were acting.

Why, Lord, why does it have to be like this? I mean, I do love them and all but why do they have to be so difficult?

These were my inner thoughts and prayer as we stood up to hear the Gospel reading for that day from the book of Matthew:

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Ahhh, ok, ok I hear you, Jesus. Thank you….but, well sometimes it sure doesn’t feel like my burden is light and when exactly does the “rest” part come?

Then, Father started his homily and I almost laughed out loud when he said, and I paraphrase,

“Sometimes, we may feel like our cross is too heavy, we may wonder why? Why, Lord, did you have to give me this cross?”

Ok…apparently Father has the gift of reading minds now!

He went on…

“We may look at other’s crosses and think they would be easier than ours and wish we could trade. But…in the end, we would probably come back to our cross and realize he gave us our cross to us for a reason. ”

Ok, ok, I hear you LOUD and CLEAR now God. 

I smiled to myself knowing that Father was right. He gave these children – as challenging as they can be – to my husband and me because he knew we would be the best for them and that they would, in turn, be the best for us.

All children bring different challenges and different gifts, some days it’s just really, really hard to see the gift part hidden behind the challenges. 

It’s easy to look around at other moms and families, at their children and think that maybe they don’t have it as hard we do. Sure, it’s true there are some children who may have more obvious – or not-so-obvious challenges than others, or at least their challenges may seem more intense than others. But the truth is, every child has their own struggles and their own strengths.

Every parent also has their own weaknesses they are trying to overcome with their own unique strengths and, like a good friend reminded me later that day, we all have our good days and our bad days.

The thing is, we are all very, very, good at hiding our weaknesses and struggles to the point that others may have no idea what we struggle with or that we even struggle at all with our children or with ourselves.

So when Jesus says that he will give us “rest” and make our burdens “easy and light,” why doesn’t it feel that way?

I think one reason is that we misinterpret his meaning. (No one ever does that, right?)

Maybe we think he means He will come and take away all our challenges and make our children magically behave perfectly and listen and obey us always and basically just do parenting for us so we can catch a break…or at least a nap.

We think Jesus is going to come and take our cross away from us, when in reality, what he’s offering is to help carry our cross with us…not just for us. 

God did not give us our children so that we could see them only as a “thorn in our sides,” who only exist to make our lives difficult. He gives them to us as gifts for us to LOVE. By loving our children – their strengths and their challenges – our hearts stretch and expand and, when that happens, God is able to fill us with more LOVE and more Grace.

This can be so much easier said than done, especially in moments of extreme emotional distress. But, pay closer to attention to what Jesus says in the Gospel,

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart… (emphasis mine)

The answer is in the humbling action of asking – ask for help. Not asking for the cross to just go away, not asking for our kids to just “be good” all the time, or for our lives to be painless and without challenge. Jesus comes to us and offers us His help. All we have to do is accept that help and let Him help us carry the cross we have. And then…we “will find rest” for ourselves.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, 

Thank you for these children you have given to me to care for and to love. Help me see their gifts and their strengths. And when I can’t, help me love them anyway

 

Copyright 2016 Erika Marie
Image copyright 2016 Erika Marie. All rights reserved.

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About Author

Erika Marie is a simple Catholic, Wife, and Mama. She relishes snuggles and free time with her family and enjoys reading, writing, blogging, and has a slightly obsessive addiction to creating Canva graphics. Enjoy more reflections by Erika at her personal simplemama blog.

7 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this! This article was the perfect article for this day for me, especially for the evening I had with one of my challenging children. I feel the Holy Spirit’s guidance through this.

  2. Thank you this article was a blessing. I have had a hard year of trying to be a good mommy. I needed this.

    • Hi Elizabeth,
      Thank you for your comment. I understand and I will pray for you! I want to offer you encouragement, know that you ARE a “good” mommy because you love your children. I’ve had to start learning that my children’s behavior is not a direct reflection of me or how “good” or “bad” I feel like I’ve been as a mother for them.
      Yes, we, as parents, have a great influence on our children. However, they also have their own wills, personalities, and temperaments that differ from our own. And sometimes, there are even special circumstances that, by no fault of their own or yours, make it harder to regulate their behavior.
      Hang in there, Elizabeth, you are a “good mom”!

  3. Just another mom on

    Struggling here with accepting my cross. It is so difficult too look around and see everyone else. Seemingly loving Motherhood. Called to it. I feel like mine is a mistake. This whole life is not what I had planned. And I do look at myself and wonder where on earth that person I knew as myself went. She is gone. And from the looks of it for a very long time perhaps forever. I used to be happy. But then So much giving up. And I don’t feel like I was prepared for motherhood by my own mother. I met my husband in my mid twenties. I was living my own life always independent. 9 years later with 4 kids ages 8 & under and one on the way I struggle with despair. I hate my cross. Yes I love my children but I hate my cross. I don’t know how to accept what is joyfully and joyfully carry my cross. I have no identity mySelf. Everything I enjoyed doing there is no time for. The hopes and dreams I’ve had are seemingly impossible as every attempt gets my face slammed in another door. Every dream I had has had to be relinquished. My choleric nature struggles with letting go of all this. I have no choice. Its my job. It’s my life. It’s my cross. But why can’t I let it all go and just ask God for help carrying my cross joyfully and not look back at what could’ve been, what used to be? Why can’t I feel content with this call? Why am I so selfish? Why do I fight my cross so? I am really struggling. It’s more than fighting kids… it’s the death of self and the struggle of letting go of everytHing. Sorry. It’s been pretty hard here these past few years.

    • Dear “just”, you are in my heart today in a huge way. While I can’t offer much consolation because I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I want you to know that there is an older mom in California lifting you up in prayer. I am well beyond your phase of life, but I can absolutely recall moments where I wondered, “Is this all there will ever be for me?” I had given up career, seemingly squandered my education, and felt out of sorts with my domestic responsibilities. I wish I could give you some mystery solution that could ease some of your burden. My only offering is HOPE. This is your current “Yes” to God… it is beautiful and worthy and precious. Fully engage in the now, confident that God has amazing things in store for you in the future. I would love to send you a few of my books as a gift. Could you please email me privately at [email protected] to discuss this? hugs from afar!

    • Dear “Just Another Mom”,
      Thank you for bravely sharing your struggles here. I know where you are, or at least I have been in a similar place as you. Like Lisa, I will be praying especially for you and offering up my difficult moments for you as well.
      I often have felt like Motherhood is like one big “Identity Crisis”. With each new child, we have to “lose ourselves” as we know ourselves so that we can make room not just for one more person but also for a bigger understanding of who WE are – who God has made us to be. I fought against this for so long, welcoming the new child but repelling who I thought I had become because of it. My heart was hard and God could not mold me, could not fully show me who he was making me.

      Maybe I’ll work on another post for this but here are some practical suggestions that have helped me get through these “Identity Crisis” times in my motherhood and life in general: Get a journal or a piece of paper and write Who Am I? at the top in big letters, with maybe a few more question marks 😉
      Then, think about Who you are – what makes you who you are?
      Spouse, Mom, Daughter, Friend, Sister (?), Neighbor, Worker, etc.
      Then, in those categories, on separate pages, think about what you DO as a spouse, mom, etc…
      For example: As a Mom you feed, clothe, clean, coach, referee, teach, discipline, etc….

      Then, what are you involved with and committed to as a Spouse, Mom, Daughter, Parishioner, etc?

      Lastly, what would you LIKE to do, what talents do you have that you’d like to cultivate better, what’s an area in your life you’d like to improve on? (pretending for a little bit that you have nothing holding you back.)

      Now, look at what you’ve written down and see if you can find a way to see how all these different parts of you come together to make up who YOU are right NOW.

      Then, look at your goals and what you WISH you could do/be. Pick one of those things and see if there is a way you can work on JUST ONE this year, one day at a time.

      I hope this helps, I know it’s not well organized but I hope it can give you a start! Know that you are not alone and you WILL find who GOD has made you to be now. And pray that when you find that out – you can have the grace to embrace yourself and love yourself! ~ Erika feel free to email me to continue our conversation privately whenever you need!

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