Teaching a Little Heart How to Keep Warm: A Mom’s Great Privilege

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I remember when my oldest had just turned three. We’d just moved to Ottawa so that my husband could study canon law. It was fall and the leaves were turning. They seemed to me more special and colorful because they were Canadian leaves. The maple leaves seemed somehow more authentic.

It was a frosty morning as we headed out to one of the neighborhood parks with the stroller. My daughter was complaining about having cold hands—I’m usually a few weeks behind in getting out appropriate seasonal clothing—and since I had nothing to put on them, not even stray socks from the bottom of the stroller, I told her to put them in her pockets.

She turned her sweet little face to me, astonished. “You mean, I can put my hands in there?” she said, thinking that pockets were only good for toys and tissues. Her surprise made me want to laugh, but the sensitive, cold little soul in the front seat of the stroller would’ve bristled at my amusement, so I said very seriously, “Absolutely. I do it all the time. Why don’t you try it and see if it works?”

She knit her brows and tried to push her baby hands in the pockets but her ring and pinky fingers kept getting caught on the material of the pocket. “Can I help?” I asked cautiously. “Yeah,” she said and I bent down and tucked all the fingers inside and waited.

She sat still for a moment. She straightened up. “Mom! It works!” she said and giggled with glee. “Good,” I said and pushed the stroller again, smiling. I watched as she practiced putting her hands in and turning her fists inside the pocket. She giggled again.

I walked to the park with a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I’d just taught someone how to put her hands in her pockets. I’d gotten plenty of things wrong that day, but I had gotten that right. My daughter would now know how to warm up her hands in the event of being without mittens. I exhaled–my goodness, what if I’d never taught her how to do that? She could’ve gone for who knows how long without knowing that pockets are good for cold hands.

Over the next year she’d also learn that prayer is good for a cold heart. Her three’s seemed to bring with them steady bad dreams at night. A new routine began: her little voice would ring out at night for me to come. I’d stumble into her room—the sight of me and my bed hair and mismatched pajamas probably more frightening than her dream—and I’d kneel by her bed. She’d recount the dream in awful detail, down to the last scary witch and unwelcome cat, and I’d trace a little sign of the cross on her forehead. We’d say a little prayer to Our Lady, asking for sweet dreams for the rest of the night, and I’d leave her as she’d snuggle again under her covers clutching her rosary. In the morning I’d come back into her room and she’d smile as she realized that the bad dreams had indeed gone away for the night. Our Lady would quickly win over my daughter, just like she had me when I was little.

My daughter learned to turn to Our Lady and Our Lord in good times: at meals, parties, fun adventures; in sad times: during bouts of sickness and through deaths in the family; in emergencies: help us find Mom’s car keys!; and for no particular reason at all: thank you, God, for our neighbor’s sunflower that’s grown taller than their roof, and please help my mom learn how to garden.

She’s now six and Jesus and Mary have faithfully remained by her little side, their friendship helping keep her warm inside during the ups and downs of growing up. She knows that she can turn to them in prayer at any moment of the day and to have been able to have taught her that as her mom has been a great privilege indeed, warming my even my own soul.

Copyright 2013 Meg Matenaer

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