No No No
My daughter’s first birthday was this past weekend, so I now officially have two toddlers. I feel like I’m living in a world of “no” at the moment. “No, Sofia, you can’t touch that”, “No, Isaac, you can’t empty out the cupboards”, “A million times over, no, you aren’t sticking that in your mouth!”.
I can’t even imagine what it feels like for them. I try hard to redirect their attention and distract them from the hundreds of things they’d like to do but mean mommy won’t let them do, but eventually the “no’s” keep coming out.
But I say it because I’m their mom, and I love them. There’s a new fascinating world for them to discover and throwing all the food off the highchair and onto the floor while proclaiming “uh-oh!” is just so much fun! Ok, that I tell Sofia to stop doing because it’s driving me crazy, but she does need to learn table manners somehow.
We live at the end of a cul-de-sac and there’s a bunch of kids a bit older than Isaac who all play together at the end of the street and in each others’ yards. They like to come over and hang out on my front porch while Isaac squeals with delight over their every move. He also likes to try and chase them out into the street. I have to keep reminding him that it’s not safe, that he’s too little. The eldest of this gaggle of kids is 8, and she keeps telling me that she can watch him for me, she does have a younger 3 year old brother after all!
But again, I have to say no. I’m not being mean. Isaac is not even 2.5, he runs around with reckless abandon. Even though he’s been walking for well over a year, he still trips and falls, he’s still learning his body, he’s still learning his environment, and I need to be there to keep an eye on him to make sure as he explores that he does so safely.
Sofia can’t walk yet, I still have to hold her by the hand while she figures out her balance, desperate to catch up with her brother.
In time, I know I’ll be able to let Isaac freely play with the other children. In time I’ll let go of Sofia’s hands and watch her take her first wobbly steps. Eventually they will learn not to throw food on the floor because it is bad manners and wasteful, that sticking keys in electrical sockets is dangerous, that they can’t just grab a toy from someone else because they want it and that knives are sharp and don’t make good toys. In the meantime, to them, I’m just a mean mommy who won’t let them have any fun.
A lot of complaints when it comes to being Christian, and even more specifically Catholic is that there’s just so many “rules”. There’s so much you aren’t allowed to do, there’s so much guilt. It’s a big world of “no”. I remember as a teenager when I began to embrace my faith there were so many things I struggled with accepting, feeling like it really wasn’t such a big deal, like making out with boys, or dressing provocatively, or illegally downloading music. It felt like a huge sacrifice to have to give up these things and change my life.
There’s other things that people struggle with when it comes to the Church, teachings on sexuality, abortion, contraception. The Church is always saying “No!”. God seems so oppressive.
But like me, God is a parent. We’re all just stumbling along like my toddlers trying to figure out this world and what is ok and what isn’t. These’ “no’s” are just the Father’s way of protecting us and keeping us safe. Being obedient to those “no’s” even when we don’t understand why is necessary in those early stages of faith. As I gave up those things that were damaging my life I became freer. I found I wasn’t being oppressed by rules, but those things I had let go of had been oppressing me!
The rules, the boundaries that are laid out in our faith are like the boundaries I keep for my kids around my house. I always tell Isaac he needs to stay where I can see him. This way I can keep him safe. This way, even if he falls, I’m right there to pick him up, to teach him why it happened. As you can see with the Saints, eventually we learn to walk on our own. These “rules” in a sense become unnecessary because we have no need for them, we understand that doing otherwise will only hurt ourselves, others and God.
That doesn’t mean we never fall. I know for myself, sometimes I get ahead of myself and think I can let go of His hand and walk on my own only to run into something I hadn’t expected. Like children, we need to learn to crawl before we can walk, to walk before we can run, to run before we can jump. Then we can do so securely knowing we will land safely in Our Father’s arms.
“To call God my Father and to know myself as His child, that is Heaven to me” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux