Saturday was a very proud moment for me and Johnny, Michael’s father. As Catholic parents, we watched our son Michael make his first penance or confession in “The Sacrament of Reconciliation.” This is a time when the child asks the priest for forgiveness for a sin that has offended someone. For an eight year old, that would be not listening to his parents, or in Michael’s case, banging with both elbows hard on his grandparents’ piano trying to be funny when he knew better. But I digress. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. We went with headphones, chewy, thera-putty, and going over the rules in the car prior to entering the church. And though there was some silliness, you know, random screaming, talking loudly when he should be quiet etc, we survived. Michael’s catechism teacher, a wonderful woman, came up to me and after congratulating Michael on taking this step and lasting the whole hour and a half mass, leaned over and congratulated me on making it through and doing a great job. I joked “Thank you. Now we have to get through First Communion in May. Wish me luck!” We laughed, but all jokes aside, Michael was happy, we were proud, and after arriving home with the McDonald’s Happy Meal we had promised for a good job, went on to have a successful day.
What occurred to me after the ceremony was over though, was something even more incredible. This was how similar the Sacrament of Reconciliation is with traditional therapy today. It is all about looking for support, tools, and ways to move beyond where you are to a place of peace, either through a priest acting as God’s channel, or a psychologist/psychiatrist/social worker, who is trained to handle human emotions. I still see a therapist from time to time for something called ‘pruning’, to get rid of the weeds of anxiety, stress, and negative thoughts that are sometimes still in my life, and which I want to deal with to move forward with the joy of living my life to the fullest.
So, you can imagine my surprise, when the two catechist teachers put on a little skit. There was a large plant between them which they pretended was a tree in a garden. One of them complained to the other one that there were weeds in her garden, and she didn’t know how to get rid of them. The other friend told her to prune them, and in their place, plant beautiful flowers. And that is what each of the children did. For each weed, labeled with things like “bullying” “anger,” there was a flower to plant in its place with “helping”, “happiness” “friendship.” There were actual constructed cardboard paper weeds, and cardboard constructed leaves with these words printed on them! And at the end of the ceremony, each child got to put a flower in the real plant (tree). Michael and I enjoyed planting his flower, a little plastic flower you get from craft stores.
What I realized later that day, was that we all have to prune our trees and seek help to get the sin/weeds out once in awhile. It is a part of the human condition. I felt so privileged to be there at our church sharing in that moment with my son, husband, and our congregation, and realized once again, how alike Michael and I really are in our journey. I also realized how all of us exceptional moms are on that same journey with our exceptional children navigating complex lives together. So Moms, when you see your child struggling, remember to help them pull out the weeds in their journey as well as doing it in your own journey. Until next time.