I was at Mass surrounded by five other friends, all of us “older moms” with kids in school, able to sit in peace. Midway through, a woman walked in, and stood at the back. She was wrangling two very small children while balancing a very large diaper bag on her already burdened shoulder. As a once-younger mama who would attempt daily Mass with an active young one, I understood her. When a mom brings small children to Mass alone, she needs to be there.
And her children ran up and down the aisle.
They walked out of the church.
They dangerously played with opening and closing doors.
They did not let their mama sit.
She ran. She followed. She protected.
I wondered if she looked at us: older moms, hair brushed, outfits coordinated, tiny purses, no small kids to chase, light loads. Because I used to do that. I used to see them . . . the moms who looked so free. The moms who were so put together. The moms who could sit and enjoy and be fed. And I wondered . . . would that ever be me?
And the great irony? It will never be me. And it was not any of us sitting there that morning at Mass.
We may no longer carry visible bags that weigh us down, but trust me, we carry them.
Because a small running child grows up into a big running child.
As moms, we really never stop chasing, running after, steering them from danger.
We may get to sit, and we may appear to be alone, but that child? The one we used to swaddle, and nurse, and rock to sleep? That child is still right there. And we carry them still. We carry their growing pains, their frustrations, their anxieties. We worry if they are drinking, abusing drugs, hanging with the wrong crowd. We mourn their lukewarm faith, their lack of empathy, their self-centeredness. We fear this is not just a stage.
We fear they may run, and we never catch up.
This morning I saw her again. The young mom.
And instead of taking my usual seat (because we Catholics do that-we love to sit in the same spot week after week, don’t we?) I sat with Mary. In the crying room.
Her toddler put rosary bead after rosary bead around his neck, while she shared how hard the days can be. I nodded, and looked her in the eyes. and said, “I totally get it. My kids are grown now, but trust me, this mom gig? It is still hard.”
She looked at me with a smile and said, “You do so much, you have such faith, and you are always so together . . . I would never think you would have any doubts or hard days.”
You know, we need to do this.
We need to be honest.
We need to be real.
We need to share our hearts.
Really share them. The entire heart. Not the cleaned-up, acceptable version, but the real deal. The filth and the shame and the honest truth.
We need to stop comparing and begin sharing.
And we all need to take a moment, and sit with Mary in the crying room.
Copyright 2017 Laura Phelps