With the Lenten Season upon us, I had my annual talk with the kids about what our Lenten Sacrifices are going to be and why we do this. For anyone not familiar with Lent, Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. It starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter, lasting for 40 days (not counting Sundays). We prepare for Easter by fasting and practicing spiritual discipline during this time. Now, you must keep in mind that my children are rather young (eight years…wait.. he’s NINE years old now (yikes!) and 5 years old) so these talks are quite simple and often become slightly comical because of the perspective young children bring to the table.
So I started off talking about Ash Wednesday over our morning routine, as we were going to attend church that evening to get our ashes. The last few years I didn’t take the kids to Ash Wednesday services for various kid reasons, so this seemed like their first time since they don’t remember their younger years when they did receive them. Anyhow, they looked at me funny when I explained that the Priest would dip his thumb into ashes and make the Sign of the Cross on their forehead. “Why?” asked my oldest. “It is a ritual that we do to show God we are sorry for our sins.” They pondered that for a few minutes as they ate their cereal. “What are the ashes made from?” asked my youngest. “They are burnt palm leaves from the previous year’s Easter celebration.” I said. Again, another pause. After a few more minutes, my oldest looked worried. I asked him what was up. He sighs and says, “Mom, I’m worried the ashes are going to burn my skin!” Oh my word, you can imagine how surprised I was because as a “mature” adult, I know these ashes are cooled off. But to my little children, they associate ashes as the hot burning ashes that come from the coals out in the grill when Daddy cooks steaks or hamburgers. So naturally they would assume that I was going to march them into church and let the Priest put hot, burning ashes on their heads! I immediately told them not to worry, that these are cold ashes and anything we do at church wouldn’t cause physical pain to their bodies. I was very thankful that I had decided to talk about the process so I was able to discover this hidden fear and squelch it.
Once we got to Church, the kids were amazed with all of the beautiful architecture and the stained glass windows. This was the first time we had been to this parish, as we just moved and are exploring different Catholic churches to find one that is a right fit for us. So, as we waited for mass to start, we took in our new surroundings. I noticed that there were kneelers in each row, something our California church did not offer. So I explained to them that instead of standing for some of the service like we did in California, that we would be doing a lot more kneeling. As I suspected, my son was very interested in these kneelers and fiddled with them most of the mass.
“Why do they do things so different at all the churches, Mom?” my youngest asked me at one point. That was one question I do not know the answer to, but would love to find out. If anyone out there has a perspective on why some catholic churches change up the phrasing or switch a routine, I would love to understand that so I can give my kids a perspective. Before we started moving around the country, I was clueless that not all Catholic churches do their mass exactly the same. It is a bit daunting as a visitor to the church to try and follow along when the responses are different and things like that. One thing I loved about this church was that there was a Choir balcony, just like my home church where Chrissy remembers seeing me for the first time. She talks about it in our first post.
The next day the kids and I were talking about what our Lenten sacrifices were going to be. This topic always amuses me to see what they are going to give up. Now, I’m not quite as strict as some parents may be. I don’t expect perfection from my kids and I know they will not necessarily follow through with what they are sacrificing, especially my youngest. However, I’m trying to instill the idea in them and get them into the habit of trying their best. My oldest is getting crafty. He started coming up with ideas that were ridiculously easy. “I’ll give up playing “Sponge Bob” on the Wii.” He hasn’t played that game in 4 months. Nice try. “Sweetheart, it is supposed to be something that you do or eat somewhat regularly so that is is a true sacrifice.” After several other attempts, he finally landed on ice cream, along with his sister. I told them I would try to give up soda. (This was going to be a tough one for me!) So we went off into our day with our decisions made.
Little did I know that a mess of worries had accumulated in my daughter’s mind throughout the day over this subject. That evening she started crying, “I am going to miss having ice cream!” I was trying to calm her down but there was no having it! “It’s been nice having ice cream and I just will miss it forever!” she cries in that little dramatic voice! “Sweetheart, you don’t have to give it up forever!” Sniff, sniff….huh? She thought that this sacrifice meant that never again would she be allowed to taste the cold, sweet goodness of ice cream! I hate to laugh at her worries but this one gave me a good chuckle! I told her she could pick something else, it isn’t supposed to be so traumatic! She said, in a very stoic voice, “No Mom. (Sniff..) I can do it. (Sniff) I’m fine. But…can I have it tonight for one last time just to get me through it?” I chuckled and said yes, she could.
So those are my stories of the perspective my kids gave me on some of our Catholic traditions. It’s funny how I started the week planning on teaching my children about sacrifice and penance and their take on it was hot ash torture and life long mourning over the loss of their favorite things. I used to feel really bad years ago when this sort of thing happened but I’ve learned that kids just have a different take on life than we do. They are more simple and honest and they don’t hold anything back!