Sunday morning I bundled up the kids & headed to Mass solo while my husband worked his 8th day in a row. I asked my oldest to help me wrangle the littles & prayed that things would go smoothly. Mass has been an exercise in humility lately trying to keep my 18 month old boy from bouncing out of the pews & not having my husband there as usual meant I was on my own this time.
I spent much of my time the previous week wrangling him & worried it’d be more of the same as we helped out with kid’s church during the homily. By God’s grace my teen was helpful & the little ones were (mostly) angelic. The Children’s group is held in our parish library & since the narthex is decorated for Advent at the moment, with a grand, sparkling “giving tree” presiding over tons of donated gifts & a beautiful nativity scene, some of the usual decor was stored there including my 3 year old’s favorite statue of a smiling Madonna & Child. As soon as she noticed it was there she gasped in girlish wonder saying “Aww Look Mommy, it’s Mawwy & Baby Jeeesus!”, to which I replied “Yes it is!” Then she pointed to Mama Mary, one arm outstretched in welcome, the other holding her divine son & said, “Look Mommy, it’s YOU!”
It’s something she’s said before. In fact every time she walks by this friendly depiction she says so. The first time was when I had excused myself from adoration to let my toddler get some of his squirmy energy out & my first reaction to her sweet comparison was to say “Well, I don’t know about THAT!” I felt less than reverent & holy as I both continued the rosary I’d started in the chapel & followed him around in quick circles.
The second time she said it we were sat on some armchairs waiting for Mass to begin. I was bouncing her brother on my knee, holding out until the last moment to enter the quiet sanctuary. I’d spent that morning rushed & desperate for coffee but this time, as not to discourage her tender heart, I took her hand & told her, “That’s so nice of you to say!” Though inwardly I groaned.
I knew I had to check this bristling of my heart. Why was I reacting to my precious daughter’s sweet exclamation with exasperation? It wasn’t because I resented the comparison but because I know that I fall short of the goodness she sees. I know I’m not the perfect Mom I’d like to be. The one she thinks I am. I know I’m flawed beyond measure, in no way resembling Our Lady in all of her spotless glory (I even wrote a blog post about it!) But when I brought this to Jesus in prayer he whispered to my soul, “You’re closer than you think.”
So when she said it again on Sunday I didn’t sigh or roll my eyes. I knelt down to pull her close so she could hear me over the joyful noise of our little group. I whispered a simple “Thank you.” into her ear before she giggled & skipped back to her coloring page. I looked up at the icon, into the eyes of Mother & Son, & smiled back at them.
Yeah, I could have attributed my dear girl’s comparison to the statue’s brown hair or the fact that Mary always had her baby in her arms but the persistence of my sassy princess (even after many corrections) made me wonder if there was more to it. I believe it was God’s way of reminding me of what he sees in me. Of encouraging me in my vocation through the heart of my precious child. Even though I’m not a perfect mother, I am the perfect one for them & my messy heart is the perfect place for God to perfect his work in me.