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Spiritual Practice of Parenting: Getting Involved

April 10, 2013

DSC_8286By nature, I am an introvert.  Now for those who know me well, that may come as a surprise, but it’s true.  I am a loud, silly introvert, but I am still an introvert.  Being a stay at home mom has been wonderful for me (once I made that rough transition).  I can spend as much time as I want at home–especially now that I have two in elementary school and one in preschool three days a week.  I get the interaction I need through volunteering at the elementary school (granted, most of that volunteering involves working with students, not with adults) and the occasional girls night or time with my dear women.  I am happy staying at home by myself.  It’s almost perfect (especially since I’ve kept that pesky acedia at bay lately).

However, I have children.  That’s the reason I can be a stay at home mom.  Without kids, I couldn’t justify hanging out at home all day.  And as anyone with children knows, kids change everything—especially if you have more than one and especially, especially if you have more than two.  By the time I had that third child, I had accepted I was in control of nothing and that home was where I should be–in part, because at the time, it was just easier to stay at home rather than get an infant, a two year old, and a four year old out the door to go anywhere.  I was good at waiting for “Someday,” using someday in the best sense of the word (not a wanderlust/grass is always greener sense).

In the four years since my baby was born (making him not so much a baby any more), I’ve reveled in my introvertedness.  It’s easy for me to stick to my comfort zone and not get involved.  Madeleine, however, has different plans for me.

We were camping last weekend, down along the coast.  (Side note–if you don’t know the Texas coast, it’s a bit different than the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.  Most of the Texas coast is protected by a wonderful barrier island that is known to house the Kemps-Ridley sea turtles, among other things.  When we went to the coast, we were not on the Gulf, we were on one of the smaller bays that border the mainland).  Camping is a relaxing time for me–a time to move slowly, sit some, hike some, eat a lot, but not do much of anything.

While we were at the coast, we stumbled upon an environmental service project that was taking place.  Oyster shucks had been collected from local restaurants, were being bagged, and then placed in the bay to create new oyster beds.  This area of the bay was particularly muddy so oysters often didn’t have the space needed to reproduce and grow without getting smothered by mud.  We noticed the bright yellow t-shirts of the volunteers while we walked to the end of the fishing pier, but were content to walk by and not get involved.

Not Madeleine.  She wanted to stay and help.  Because there were four adults and three kids in our group, I stayed with Madeleine at the pier while the rest of our gang headed back to a relaxing morning at the campsite.  We signed waivers, got our bright yellow t-shirts and helped bag the last few bags of oyster shucks.  I thought we were done, but Madeleine wanted to stay to put the bags in the water.  We hung around until the assembly line was formed.  She made her way to the water with another mother I had met, while I stayed on the pier.  She handled around 300 or so bags of oyster shucks, and the bags weren’t light.  I handled about the same amount on the pier.  We left when all the bags had been placed in the water and headed back to the campsite to eat lunch.

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Without Madeleine’s encouragement, I may not have gotten involved (I may have, depending on my mood, though).  With kids, it’s hard to stay on the sidelines and not get involved with life and helping others, especially if those are traits you want your kids to learn.  It’s easier for me to just sit back and let other people sign-up and do things, using lots of excuses–“I’m not comfortable” being the number one excuse, closely followed by “I don’t have time,”  “I don’t know enough,” and “I may get dirty” (dirty being used both figuratively and literally).

If I don’t get involved though, I miss out on many new opportunities in life.  My fear and insecurity keep me from growing and learning new things.  Sometimes, getting involved ends up providing outlets for me to do things I love, that I had forgotten how I much I love (teaching in particular).  Sometimes, I make new friends after I get involved and lots of time I get confidence and fulfillment.  It’s just that initial first step is sometimes hard to take.

I am sure, as the years go by, there will be more and more things for me to get involved with–some that I dread and am hesitant about (like John’s baseball love…).  I hope I can say yes to the child that is encouraging me.  I hope I can say yes to the God that asks me to be actively involved in the world I live in.  As Joan Chittister said in one of her reflections about prayer:

God is the fullness of life, the magnet of our heart s, the model and purpose and end of all our actions.  We are here to continue what God has begun:  the growing of the garden of life.

Children aren’t so cynical that they accept things because that’s just how things are.  Children struggle with why people are homeless or don’t have enough to eat or aren’t taken care of.  When our children ask questions, we need to listen to them, and find ways that we can get involved, whether it’s through little spontaneous things like creating oyster reefs or bigger things like feeding the hungry.

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