This past fall, in an attempt to do something for myself, I went back to a Mother’s Prayer Group that I had previously attended. It didn’t work out for me to attend very regularly, but I kept working through the study, Momnipotent The Not-So-Perfect Woman’s Guide to Catholic Motherhood by Danielle Bean.
I doubt myself. I do. I wonder about the decisions I make, I get mad at myself for getting mad at the kids, I get tired, etc. Parenting is hard. Being a grown up is hard. Too often, I reflect on all the things I think I do wrong and how I can be better. This is what I took from the bible study: God gave us the gift of his very life. He waits for us to return his gift with our complete gift of self. We can do this one small act of love at a time.
All of this was bouncing around in my thoughts the week my kids went back to school after Christmas break. I was full of anxiety. We had a great Christmas. We were able to give the kids the gifts they wanted the most. We dressed up and went to Christmas Eve Mass (usually it is a struggle to get them to wear a collared shirt). We spent Christmas morning together just the eight of us. The kids spent the day enjoying their new gifts and we all delighted in the stress free relaxed feel of the day. The day after we were able to spend time with my husband’s family and the following day with my own mother and some of my sisters. On New Years Eve my husband and I went out to dinner with good friends and then made it home in time to do our homemade balloon drop and ring in the New Year with the kids.
It may not sound like much, but it felt perfect and my heart of full. Why was I full of anxiety when break was over? I was scared. The break was so good, the holiday was exactly as I wanted it to go. I was scared to let it end. What if it would never be like this again. What if one of the boys takes a turn for the worse? Rowen will have his first cardiac MRI this spring. What if they find something wrong? Those are the types of thoughts that were haunting me. Typing them out just now makes my heart race and eyes are welling with tears.
Life always goes on, tomorrow always comes. The kids woke up that Monday morning and I packed their lunches like every school day. I put little love notes in the lunch boxes to help me with my anxiety. While they were at school, I took the tree down and had lunch with my oldest daughter. The day went on and the days kept going on. My anxiety eases.
But that very first day, that Monday, as I unpacked their backpacks and lunches after school, I found a note in my first grader’s lunch box. It was the note I sent, but below my message, his teacher had written, “I love mom.” He blushed and was embarrassed when I found it, he wouldn’t tell me if he had asked her to write it. (My son has very weak hand muscles and often dictates to the aides and teachers.) It made my day. It was such a small gesture, but it made me smile and laugh and breath. It was one small act of love. I was very grateful to the adult that helped him. I was grateful for my son’s sweet heart.
One small act of love. That was all I could think of. That small act of love meant and still means so much to me. I have the note tucked in my windowsill above the sink so I can see it when I’m doing the dishes or cooking. I was focused on how to give those small acts of love, I was completely blown away to receive one. It made me feel the way I want others to feel, my children, my husband, my friends, everyone. Grand gestures are wonderful, but in my life the most meaningful ones are often small.