parenting in ordinary time: a new series

First, a disclaimer. Yes, I am breaking my own “gentle guidelines” for Sabbath by posting this today. (I told you they weren’t hard and fast rules!) Yes, this is coming later than I would have liked, ideally several days before Sunday to give enough time for reflection.

But that’s ok. The whole point of this new series – parenting & Scripture – is to offer busy parents of young children a chance to reflect on the Sunday readings outside of Mass (often known as a three-ring-circus-of-Cheerios-and-cry-rooms).

Something small to chew on as we’re chasing the little ones and wondering, “Did I even hear the readings today?” Or, in today’s case, something to muse over after we’ve put the babies to bed. 

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (click here for the readings in full)

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking,”Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

My toddler tests me all the time. Tests my patience. Tests my boundaries. Tests my parenting techniques and my very confidence that I should have procreated in the first place. (I kid. Kind of. Depending on the day.)

The twos are a time of testing, to be sure. The books tell me that; fellow parents-of-toddlers confirm it. The emergence of a will and the language to express it are wonderful developments in the unfolding of a child’s personality. But for those who have to live with them, day in and day out, the tantrums and testing can push us to the limits.

We often read about Jesus getting “tested” in the Gospels. Tested by those tricky Pharisees. Tested by wary scholars. Though he was never a parent with a toddler testing his patience or a teenager testing the boundaries, Jesus was tested by friends, followers, and foes alike.

Sometimes I imagine Jesus growing as weary with the testing – the incessant badgering, the obvious set-ups, the conniving questions – as I can become with the toddler’s constant whines and questions. Why? Why? Why? How? How? How?

But today’s Gospel offers an example of testing as teaching moment. Jesus turns the scholar’s question into an opportunity to speak profound words on the nature and truth of love: how we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourself.

Jesus doesn’t roll his eyes at the question. He doesn’t sigh at being tested yet again. He doesn’t fly off the handle or lash out in anger. Every time he is tested, he rises above any selfish motives the tester might have and responds with love, giving the benefit of the doubt.

How do I turn the testing moments of parenting into teaching moments? How do I respond with patience and kindness? How can I see the times of testing as opportunities to rise above and grow in love?

How about you: what tests your parenting? Your patience?

How do you respond?

5 thoughts on “parenting in ordinary time: a new series

  1. What a fabulous idea for a series!

    What tests my patience: oof. When my older son keeps getting out of bed, every ten minutes, just when I finally have a little quiet time alone (or with the hubby).

    What helps is to think about how much I adore that little boy, even if that feeling is not uppermost in my thoughts at the moment. I dealt with two very painful pregnancy losses, and I prayed like mad to become a mom, and I was eventually given two beautiful little boys. I am not sure what I ever did in life to deserve such a gift, you know? That helps me keep the perspective.

    1. Such a good example, Ginny. Thanks for sharing a beautiful perspective.
      You made me think of how mealtimes are becoming my least favorite times of day – seems like all I do is yell at my little guy to stop standing up on his chair or banging his fork on the table. After too many lost tempers, I’m now trying to do what I can to create a calmer atmosphere (mostly for me!). So I turn on the classical music station instead of trying to get my news from NPR over breakfast. And at dinner we’ve gone back to lighting candles at the table to mellow the mood.

  2. My 15 month old loves our swiffer. Loves it! He wants to push it around the kitchen and the hardwood floors of our old home. The catch is that he also wants to hit our two dogs with it, and crawl up the stairs with it. That’s where the biggest tantrums have erupted as of late. He doesn’t respond to a sharp “no” or “stop” so sometimes we have to just say byebye to the swiffer, “apologize” to the dogs, and he cries for a while as I go about the day in the kitchen or wherever. It is very vexing that he doesn’t get the correlation between no-hitting and loss-of-swiffer privileges!

    1. Great example! Dog + toddler = chaos in our house as well! Sometimes their antics are funny; other times I want to when he won’t stop pulling the dog’s tail! It is frustrating, as you say, when little ones don’t get the connection between actions and consequences. But today I heard someone speak about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and she said that parents often frustrate children by not communicating their expectations or having expectations that exceed the child’s developmental capacities. I am guilty of this on both accounts! So it made me think that maybe I need to remember this when I’m on the verge of losing patience – is a 2 year-old really capable of what I’m expecting of him? Often not. 😉

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