During the genesis of our marriage, Dylan and I moved around a lot. When we closed on our first home, our oldest two daughters were preschoolers. While a short time in retrospect, moving around was an act of trust. It felt as if we had been wandering the desert for forty years, waiting for manna to fall from heaven. When we closed on our first home, it felt like we had finally reached the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. Stability at last.
Our home was beautiful—shiny hardwood floors, a fireplace, a four season porch, a laundry chute. Big new windows throughout the home and a large sliding door in the back brightened the mood of home. We had great neighbors that cared for us, and we met some of our best friends to this day in that neighborhood and during that time period.
When Dylan was home (and not away with the military), we would often have friends over for last-minute beergaritas after the kids were in bed. Longing to give our kids the gift of family traditions in the comfort of their own home, we tried to host as many holidays as we could. I adopted my mother-in-law’s theme party idea, and she helped me out with the menu on multiple occasions. We had everything from Roman Holidays to International Navidads. We ended up with a hodgepodge of people at Christmas every year—and it was beautiful. Friends became family.
We made a tough decision and bought a different house not long after Dylan came home from a deployment to Kuwait. That was nearly five years ago now. And recently, our “old” house went up for sale again. Same beautiful house but with another bathroom.
I feel like I should mention that we love so much about our current home–the financial stability it gives us, the friends we’ve made, the access we have to get anywhere in the Cities by foot or bus. But in spite of everything we love, eight people, a dog and two cats in a 1300 square foot home with one bathroom can be a real challenge at times. I mean, can you imagine? There are definite upsides. For example, my kids know how to share. They are keen negotiators, and have excellent conflict resolution skills. If your family of eight shares one toilet and just finished your Chinese takeout, trust me, you need tip-top negotiating skills. It’s great and all but to be totally transparent, it’s not always fun parenting while they are “resolving conflict,” even if we stay out of it and let them work it out. A small space is sure to be a loud space, even if they are using their inside voices. Our old house being on sale combined with the first world inconvenience of our current home’s size has prompted a lot of conversations about home and the idea of moving lately.
As we were talking about “home” the other day, our six-year-old, M4, interrupted us during dinner, “I never ‘weally’ feel at home,” she stated matter-of-factly.” She captivated all of our attention. All of us. Even our nine-month-old looked at M4, confused by the sudden silence at the dinner table. In a home like ours, there are often multiple conversations happening at once. Silence never happens. All eyes were on M4 and she grinned as she confidently shared, “Because my weal home is with God in heaven,” and then she repeated, “so I never weally feel at home here or anywhere.” We were so taken aback that for a moment, you could have heard a pin drop. It’s so easy for grown ups to focus on the material, the literal, and what we can control. We have our own ideas about what our children’s basic needs are and what’s best for them. Often we think they need more things than they actually do. In reality, children need less, and they need love more than anyTHING. Children have a closeness to God that has not been corrupted by earthly desires or measures of status.
As a Catholic adult, I went through the motions of Lent this year. You maybe know how it goes. I fasted a little, prayed a lot, attended Mass regularly, even attended Adoration. I tried to offer up my suffering without complaining. That is hard, by the way! I thought I did pretty well. But my kids were more reverent at practicing Lent and are much better at celebrating the true meaning of Easter—the resurrection, eternal life and the excitement of our eternal home. We always go around the table before every family meal and each person says what they’re thankful for. At our house, it’s a requirement for those that want to eat.
I think I said I was thankful for the beautiful weather yesterday. But my kids each said, “I’m thankful for the resurrection” or “I’m thankful Jesus is risen.” And they said it with deep joy and unprompted sincerity.
If you ask me what I’m thankful for today, I am thankful for them. As their parent, I am their steward and it’s my most important job to teach them about their faith, but it seems they are constantly teaching me about mine. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “Let the children come unto me” or that “You must be like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven.” I’m going to work a little harder to see the world through my children’s eyes and live as an authentic Christian.