There’s nothing like Christmas to bring out my latent Catholic tendencies. All those Ave Marias flowing through the speakers, all those Christmas pageants with beatific Marys gazing down at baby
dolls Jesuses. Martin Luther didn’t do us any favors when he suggested we stop venerating Mary. After all, mothering is hard work, and if nobody looks up to the Mother.Of.God, what chance do the rest of us have?
Anyway, I’ve been listening to the radio and reading my kids books about the first Christmas, and obviously, that’s got me thinking about that poor unmarried pregnant teenager and how scared she must have been. I certainly remember how terrified I was as a new mom. My baby cried all the time, or at least anytime it was dark, which of course, felt like all the time. I worried that she’d never sleep. That I’d never sleep. That I was doing absolutely everything wrong. I’d been given this perfect baby and I was just sure I was ruining her. And she was just a regular baby. It’s not like she was baby God. Sheesh. The responsibility.
But then I started thinking about what happened to Mary after those first few months.
Babies do eventually sleep through the night, and start smiling, and even, miraculously, begin using words to tell us what in the hell their problem is. And that’s when the real fun starts. Because once you’ve got basic survival covered, you have to move on to character formation. You have to teach them how to be patient, and take turns, and share, and consider other people’s feelings, and delay gratification, and take responsibility, and ask forgiveness, and give forgiveness, and look for the good, and give the benefit of the doubt, and work hard, and be proud, and be humble, and serve others, and stand up for themselves, and fight injustice, and love fearlessly, and, well… it’s a never ending list.
This is the stuff that people are talking about when they say, “parenting is hard work.” This is the long road. The path that starts in toddlerhood and ends… I’ve got no idea, I’m not there yet. It’s the constant weighing and worrying and refereeing that just wears you out. This is the stuff that causes otherwise utterly competent women to look at a child and say, “Go ask your father.”
You see where I’m going here, don’t you?
When I tell my children to go ask their father, their father shoots me a look above his laptop that says, “What?! Why are you passing the buck? How should I know? I’m as sleep deprived as you are.” It’s the blind leading the blind right down the primrose path. A good day in our house is Lord of the Flies in the Garden of Eden. A bad day… well, we don’t talk about those.
But imagine if you could say, “Go ask your father,” and know that Father really did know best. Whew. What a relief.
Hey Mom, how come we Jews can’t eat cheeseburgers?”
“Go ask your dad.”
“Hey Mom, Simeon trips me everyday on the way to school. Can I punch him in the face?”
“Go ask your dad.”
“Hey Mom, how come some people are starving and homeless, and other people have more money than they could ever spend?”
“Go ask your dad.”
See what I mean?
Add to this the fact that your child’s character formation is kinda taken care of if he happens to be God (even if he is wandering around in a prepubescent body) and you’ll see your job is pretty much finished at potty training.
I still love Mary. Though I was raised Methodist, I collect rosaries and can Hail Mary with the best of them. I get a little misty, this time of year, when I hear Mary, Did you Know? or Labor of Love. The woman deserves major props, and we Protestants would do well to remember it. Christianity is a patriarchal religion; we don’t have many women to look to and we shouldn’t so easily dismiss the few we have. Still, I gotta cop to being just the tiniest bit jealous of her co-parenting plan.