Humility: A (painful) blessing

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A few years ago, when my boys started getting a little meat on their bones, I got a dose of reality: this is not quite what I was expecting. I went from having “babies” and “toddlers” to “four boys” – a crew, a foursome, a handful. In a really marvelous way of course.

In my mind, when they were very little, I saw a family of boys as meaning lots of organized sports and a basket in the laundry room for ball caps and soccer cleats. In between trips to ball games, we would sit together and read books about chivalry. And we’d pray.

My expectations, I am finding, were partially correct — there is sports and there is a hat basket, there are errands and prayers. There are also books, but mostly about weapons and pirates and large boats loaded with weapons and pirates.

Unfortunately, when I predicted my future it was skirmish-free, and it was on mute.

One of my first tastes of the reality of Life with Boys was a few years ago, when Augie suddenly became mobile and able to keep up with his three older brothers. We were borrowing Paul’s dad’s truck for the day and the four boys were outside playing. Sometime in the afternoon, I got a call from a friend, a father of four girls. When I picked up the phone I heard him laughing.

He explained that he had just driven by our house and saw the boys on their grandfather’s truck, swarming the vehicle like flies at a picnic. Two of the boys were in the truck bed, one was on the hood and the fourth little boy was standing on the roof of the cab. He was perched on the top whacking it frantically with a plastic baseball bat.

I looked out the window to verify the scene. It was like monkeys on speed, but somehow worse.

I tried to explain that we had never discussed not attacking a truck, but we soon would have a rule about that very thing. And I didn’t realize this at the time, but we as a family would soon have rules for a whole host of random issues that I could never have imagined.

Upon being asked what was the greatest virtue, St Augustine replied, “The three greatest virtues are first, humility, second, humility, and third, humility.” The thing about my boys, I’m finding, is that they desperately want to get me into heaven. They love me that much. And they’re going to use the gift of humility to help me along the way.

I have taken these words of St. Augustine to heart. It’s not that I necessarily enjoy working on humility, but as a mother I am offered so many opportunities to cultivate that virtue in my life. I have to grow in humility as a parent whether I like it or not. And it’s a lot less painful when I like it, or at least work to embrace it.

Meetings with teachers, dealing with playground tiffs, relationships with friends and other parents — these are all opportunities to grow in humility. As parents we certainly need to stand up for our children when we should, but we also have to consider that they might need correction or direction or perhaps a loving chide.

With boys, I can’t even hide under the façade of “perfection.” They let it all hang out – good behavior and bad. And I’m finding that being willing to admit I don’t have it all together (as a mom and as a human being) is an important facet of my happiness. I want to admit when I’m wrong, and then redirect my focus to spiritual perfection and a closer union with God. 1107″ .


Scientific Terminology

Elliott: I think a great science experiement would be to take a bunch of ants, put them in a glass jar and then cause an explosion.

Me: But what would the point of that be?

Elliott: It would be cool.

Ethan: Science isn’t supposed to be cool, Elliott. It’s supposed to be awesome.

Wedded Bliss

1105 1105_ () 1105 1105 This weekend, we traveled across the entire state down to the bowels of Georgia, which as I type that sounds like a good name for a rock band, to the wedding of Paul’s sweet sister Anna. Congratulations Anna and Thom!

The wedding was in a small town in southern Georgia, and we knew we were going rural when the directions included instructions like: go left at the silos, and then turn by the farmhouse. I would say “just joking, not really” but I’m actually totally really. That’s almost exactly what the directions said. And we followed those directions which took us exactly where we needed to go. “Careful,” said our neighbor Etta when she heard where we were traveling, “they don’t take kindly to foreigners down there.”

The drive was about five hours on two-lane highways, which was quite an adventure. Lots of horses and cows and goats. And plenty of silos. And also, the further south we drove, the more Love Bugs, and not the kind made by VW. At first,when we stopped for lunch, I thought I happened to catch a fluke sighting of two bugs mating. And then, when we stopped again later, I realized there were thousands of these same bugs also mating. And that there were thousands more of these bugs stuck to the grill of our Suburban. And also our windshield. That’s life in South Georgia, I suppose — you use your wipers when the layers of bugs get too thick to see.

Ethan and Elliott were the official ushers for the wedding, an intimate gathering of 50 (including Henry). The Mass was in a beautiful church built in the late 1800s, and fortunately for my boys, a very cozy little church. This took some of the edge off being nervous, I think, because the boys did their job beautifully. I was so proud.

Last week, after Mass, I worked with the two of them on what it means to be an usher, and how that definition does not include grabbing ladies by the arm and then shoving them into the pew you see fit. We talked about things like making eye contact and extending an arm and how they should ask “bride’s side or groom?” And darned if they didn’t seem to remember it all.

The highlight for them, of course, was the weapon they each received from Thom as a gift. Ethan and Elliott saw their pocket knives before the wedding started, and maybe that had something to do with their stellar performance — the thought of that glorious beaut waiting for them when all this pomp and circumstance was over. I caught the two of them trying to open their knives at the reception dinner, and was able to tell them to wait until we weren’t around anyone wearing a priceless dress of satin and lace and a mother-of-pearl comb imported from Spain. Those kind of people don’t want to be around an open pocket knife that includes seventeen bonus blades (party poopers.).

So one wedding down, and two more to go. My sister gets married in January, my brother in April. The good news is that the boys are now very excited about their participation in the upcoming nuptials, and also hoping to get more sharp objects to add to their arsenal.

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Same way Paul’s grandfather wore his pants

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