“Mommy, why are you so grumpy?” my 8-year-old asks. I’m on a tear, gathering stray socks, shoes, and toys from the floor. I’ve morphed into what I’ve jokingly come to refer to as a “Tsu-Mommy.” All I see is the mess, and my sweeping arms and kicking legs will do anything to clear out the cluttered life living with four little ones leaves in its wake.
Still, her question makes me pause. Why am I so grumpy? Why am I so fixated on the mess? Why are my expectations so rigid that I fail to see a room strewn with dolls was not so long ago a fertile bed for a preschooler and toddler’s imagination to blossom?
During Lent we are invited to take a long, hard look at the mess, at our broken selves. We are called to make tweaks with the hope that the 40 days will lead to real and lasting transformation.
But on Easter we have a new mission. We are invited to look beyond the mess. We unearth our “alleluias.” We fill the starkness with flowers and pretty pastels and chocolate bunny rabbits. The darkness of the tomb is filled with radiant light.
Parenting is an odd mixture of Lent and Easter. Or at least it should be. But too often I’m too stuck in the Lent to notice the Easter all around me. I approach the drudgery of motherhood – and as much as I see my calling as a sublime vocation, there is a fair share of drudgery found in picking up toys and cutting food into choke-proof bits day after day after day – as an interminable practice of penance and sacrifice. I don’t let it change me, but I do allow it to frustrate me.
But we are an Easter people. We’re not Lenten people; Lent isn’t what defines us. It’s supposed to change us, yes, but, because of Christ nailed to a tree and made gloriously new in the resurrection, we are Easter people at our very core. We should always have “alleluia” on the tip of our tongue. A humble acceptance of our lot in life – the fact that my life as a mother to young children frequently revolves around my children’s bowel movements, sleep patterns, and a trail of clutter – is different than a state of disgruntled grumpiness or a begrudging acceptance of the status quo.
I love Easter. It’s hard to be grumpy when there are dark chocolate eggs to snack on, time with family, and a beautiful Easter Mass. On Easter it’s out with the grumbling, the toy-kicking. The Tsu-Mommy is surely replaced with a sunny disposition. The house will be almost clean. Outside, green shoots will start to poke through the dirt. My daughters will be clad in smocked dresses, and my son will look dapper in his pressed, plaid shirt.
It’s easy to be Easter people on the day itself. It’s just as easy to forget, though, that the Easter feasting lasts 50 days liturgically. And how many of us really remember that we’re an Easter people all day, every day? Hope abounds. It is not a hope based on a superficial optimism that is blind to the reality of suffering in the world. Rather, it is a deep trust in God and His love for us. This is not a season for despair, worry, or even grumpiness. Easter calls us to embrace the freedom from fear, and to hold onto the life, the peace, and the joy that Jesus died to give all of us.
My heart has its ups and downs. My life is unpredictable. There is plenty of discord in my home: unkempt rooms, upturned toy baskets, sibling squabbles, and meltdowns from both my children and me. My faith isn’t as steady as I’d like it to be. My inner control freak is perpetually frustrated and challenged because I cannot will my children to do much of anything at all. Yet, Easter season is a good reminder for me as both a mother and a child of God that the only one who can rob us from the joy that comes with being a Christian is ourselves. We are sure to lose much in life and far more than toddler socks. We lose jobs, loved ones, financial security, freedoms, good health, confidence in our future happiness and in the path of our life. Then there is God. He remains. He does not shift with the wind or with our woes. He is forever. Love is forever. No one can take that away from us. I need to bury my doubt and yes, my vision of having a perfect, clutter-free home and let God and love live amidst the chaos.
“We can say ‘Alleluia’ again!” one of my children joyfully announced last year Easter morning. (We usually bury strips of paper with “alleluia” scrawled upon them, but slacker Mom forgot to this Lent.)
That’s what Jesus gave us on that first Easter: A reason to shout, “Alleluia!” again, a reason to hope.
This is what my children give me, too.
Children are hope. They are happiness. Joy personified as they gleefully hunt for Easter eggs. Sometimes they are a messy version of happiness with mud splatters all over their new clothes or crayon scribbles on my walls. Even when they hijack your sleep and poop on the floor (again), they are a constant reminder that the future is worth investing in and believing in even when the forecast calls for cloudy skies ahead. Who can trust forecasts any way? It’s better to put your hope in the sun than to resign yourself to a storm that may never come.
Children don’t need an Easter meditation or homily to remind them to choose joy. They’re naturally Easter people. Like Jesus, they give life to the world and show us all how to live as well as how to love, deeply and without abandon. They give me my share of Lents. I have sacrificed much as a mother, but I’ve been given far more in return. They chip away at this hard shell of mine, and they help me to discover the surprise that lies within. They bring out a new life in me; they bring out the Christ in me. Little things that offer big explosions of grace and joy, I look beyond the messiness and there they are: My children, my daily Easter – frequent reminders to rejoice, to trust, to believe, and to sing “Alleluia!” again and again.