"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life." (Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865)
There is no doubt that raising our sons is the hardest thing that my husband and I will ever, ever have to do. At night in bed I often review the events of the day: did I lose my patience too much? was I too lenient? should I have done this instead of that? My husband and I have endless discussions on discipline, on character building, on instilling spiritual growth. Often it seems as if there is never a clear answer; each situation, and yes, even each child, needs to be handled just a little differently.
I remember nursing my first son in the dark and quiet hours of the night when the enormity of the years ahead struck me. Changing diapers, bathing, feeding, rocking . . . taking care of our son's physical needs was the easy part. What about all the things we would have to teach him: to walk; hit a golf ball; spell his name; make his bed; research a paper; fill out an application; drive; get a job?
As important as these things are, what about character and spiritual growth? Imperfect as humans (and thus as parents), how would we teach our son to believe in God; pray with faith; help a stranger; give of oneself; be a good citizen; be strong, and confident, and secure; stand up for what is right? As I sat and rocked my son to sleep that night, I felt overwhelmed . . . we weren't just raising a child, we were raising a soul.
In the midst of those swirling emotions, I soon found a deep comfort in the Blessed Mother and realized that she, more than anyone, understood what it is like to be a mother.
Scripture tells us that Mary was afraid and "deeply disturbed" (Luke 1:29) when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. At the nativity, when the wise men came to pay homage to her son, Mary quietly "kept in mind all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19). Later, when she presented her first born son to the Lord, Simeon warns her of the pain that would come when he says, "a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:35). And when Mary found Jesus in the temple after he had been lost for three days, she tells him, "See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you" (Luke 2:48). Joy, worry, pain, uncertainty . . . Mary lived through it all with a deep and abiding faith.
Now that we have three sons ages three, eleven, and twelve, Mary is still here to comfort, guide, and mediate for us. Help is only a prayer away, and that's a good thing, because here is what I am reminded of on a daily basis: raising our sons is, and always will be, the hardest thing my husband and I will ever, ever have to do. It's not supposed to be easy, but with prayer and faith it can be done. It's as simple as that.