Puzzles and video games can be fun, but parenting is the ultimate challenge.
Your object: to raise a happy, healthy child of sound moral character. It sounds simple enough. But, just when you think you’ve mastered one level, you’ve entered another chaotic stage, seemingly harder than the one before. You try and you err; you panic and you pray. You can only hope you’re winning.
I found myself thrown into my most recent round of the mom-athalon at 3:30 this morning when Frank woke up screaming. He’s been sleeping through the night for almost six months, so I was no longer used to being startled awake 90 minutes early. But, as parents, we are on duty 24 hours a day and must report to the battlefield immediately when summoned.
“Aww, Frankie,” I sighed as I lifted him to my shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Still he wailed.
The challenge at this level of the game is that the child in need of our help can’t tell us what it is that they need to be happy. And so, we must guess.
Frank hates to be wet, so I changed his ever-so-slightly damp diaper.
Still he wailed.
“Let Mommy hold you,” I told him, taking him with me to my bed.
Still he wailed.
How presumptuous to think that he’d want me. “You want some milk?” I asked him. “Let’s go get a bottle.”
I’d left my glasses in my car, so I cautiously crept downstairs, a discontent baby Frank shedding tears on my shoulder. I poured the milk as quickly as my weak eyes would allow and handed Frank the bottle, expecting him to accept it with the gratitude of a lottery winner receiving a giant check speckled with zeroes.
He pushed it away and wailed even harder.
By now, I was growing frustrated, not with Frank, who didn’t ask to be here in the first place and was visibly miserable, but with my own incapacities as a mother. Why couldn’t I make my baby happy? I prayed that God would send relief.
Frank, the unclaimed bottle, and I returned to my bed, where an awakened and confused Patrick asked if everything was okay.
Over the screams, I told him I didn’t know what to do.
Patrick turned on the TV. And thanks be to God that Nick Jr. shows cartoons at 4 a.m. Frank began to sniffle and rub his eyes. He let out a giant sigh, grabbed his bottle, and drifted back to sleep.
We’d won another round of this game called parenting, but there are plenty more challenges ahead. And we can overcome them all with patience, determination, love and God. (Late night cartoons might come in handy, too.)
Hey, readers! I’m curious to hear your victory stories from the parenting trenches, too.
June 15, 2013 08:00
By Robyn Barberry
My cousin, Kathy, bought Frank an awesome birthday present,
“My Little Prayer Buddy.” He’s a stuffed lamb about the size of a large rabbit,
covered in tufted velour fleece, with brightly colored ears and legs. When you push his front foot, a sweet little
voice recites one of three prayers, “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” or “Glory Be.” Although
I had seen stuffed animals that play, “Now I lay me down to sleep …”, I had
never seen a toy quite like this before.
Photo from catholiccompany.com
Kathy said Frank’s Prayer Buddy would help him learn the
rosary. And she’s right. Though Frank still only says one thing, “DaDa,” Collin
has taken a liking to the Prayer Buddy and mumbles along with each prayer
before bed. I say by the end of summer he’ll have “Glory Be” down and may be
able to pray a decade of the rosary by Christmas.
My Little Prayer Buddy is available here.
June 13, 2013 11:13
By Robyn Barberry
Part 4: Love
The fourth secret of happiness is the simplest, seemingly the most obvious, and yet, often the hardest to fulfill: love.
This secret shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Jesus’ final instructions before leaving this earth to return to heaven was, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Mother Theresa encouraged us to “Do small things with great love.” And the Beatles reassured us, “All you need is love.”
They were leading us to happiness through love, but how often do we follow this good advice? Do we even know what it means to love?
Fortunately for us, St. Paul wrote a lucid definition of love in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The verse is ubiquitous, found everywhere from key chains to weddings (my own included). It’s easy to see and hear these words and be reminded of the love we have for our spouses, and possibly our children and parents. The unconditional love we share with our immediate families is like no other, but if you truly want to be happy, take Paul’s words and apply them to every person and situation you encounter.
No matter how frustrated, angered, or hurt we are by someone or something, we must respond with patience, kindness, and selflessness.
Given our human nature, love is incredibly difficult. When we are slighted, our instinct is to act out of hatred, to want the other party to feel as terrible as we do, to hold a grudge. Responding to negativity with more negativity exacerbates an exponential misery, while pure love, and ultimately happiness, can be found in infinite giving and receiving of forgiveness. God does it for us and asks us to do it for each other, in the name of love.
Setting aside our selfish desires, including the desire for happiness itself, to serve someone else, is a true test of patience. We parents know this firsthand by the sacrifices we make for our children without expecting reimbursement. We do, however receive joy in watching them feel happy, even at our own expense. If we could extend that kind of love to all of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers, imagine the magnitude of our happiness.
My experiment for you is this: try to act entirely out of love for one week, and I will do the same.
Do not allow yourself to become envious, proud, dishonorable, self-seeking, or angry.
Remember, I teach teenagers (who are notoriously difficult to love) all day, and it’s nearing the end of the school year, so this will be especially challenging for me. Being Irish, I’ve been known to have a short temper at times, particularly with inconsiderate drivers and fellow customers. There are a couple of people I need to forgive.
Love as Jesus did, as Mother Theresa suggested, as the Pauls (the Beatle and the Saint) instructed for one week. No matter what, treat every single person and situation you encounter with the same patience, kindness, selflessness, protection, trust, hope, and perseverance that you would show your spouse, child, parent, significant other, or best friend.
Check in and let me know how it’s going. On this pursuit of happiness, you cannot fail.
Make sure to also find out Robyn's first and second and third secrets to happiness.
May 16, 2013 02:43
By Robyn Barberry
Part 2: Trust
What do online shopping, dining in restaurants, and taking trips by bus, train, and plane have in common? They’re all things that make our lives easier and more pleasurable, but at a heftier cost than many realize.
We could refuse to buy online, and only pay for things at the store with cash, but then we’re limiting our options. Online shopping offers us greater selection and lower prices without having to leave the house. This is especially beneficial for moms of young children, like myself. I always say that if I can’t find it on Amazon, I don’t need it.
We could (and should) cook at home instead of eating out, but every once in awhile, it’s nice to be waited on, to eat something prepared by someone whose full time job is to create delicious food and not to have to argue over who cleans up the dishes.
Most of us spend ten hours a week or more in our car, so it’s a pleasure to use time en route to catch up on some reading when the opportunity presents itself to be chauffeured. Let’s not forget the time you buy yourself when going to New York by train or to Orlando by plane. At twice the speed of your car – or more – and not a minute spent in traffic or at rest stops, you will have more time to spend relaxing and sightseeing.
Online shopping, fine dining, and letting someone else take the wheel may make life a little more convenient, but they wouldn’t be possible without the second secret to happiness – trust.
In writing this, I’m trusting that you already trust in God. You know that He has a plan for you and as long as you listen to Him, everything will work out just fine.
Trusting God isn’t the problem for most people. It’s trusting each other that we need to work on.
Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of human development theory describes a crisis for each of eight life stages. The first stage, infancy, centers around the conflict trust vs. mistrust. Babies who receive appropriate adult attention when meeting their many demands will learn to trust, while those whose needs are ignored will grow to see the world as an inconsistent place where others cannot be trusted.
When I talk to other people, particularly those who follow the news a little too closely, more seem to fall into the mistrust category, which is unfortunate, considering the many gifts a little trust can send our way.
When we shop online, we are trusting that the company we have provided with our credit card information will deliver the goods we’ve purchased in a timely manner and keep our sensitive financial information secure. (It would also be nice if they didn’t flood our inboxes afterwards.)
When we dine in restaurants, we are trusting that the establishment is clean, that our server is in good health and has our best interests in mind, and that the people who have prepared our food did so in a safe and sanitary manner with every intention of pleasing our palates and nurturing our bodies. Does “dirty food” happen? Sometimes, but it’s rarer than you think.
When we travel in something other than our own car, we are trusting that the driver, conductor, or pilot is sober, conscientious, and knowledgeable of our route, that the vessel transporting us is in good repair, and that we will arrive safely at our destination.
I won’t even get started with the amount of trust it takes for parents to send their children to school, but you get the idea. Many things that bring us happiness begin with us trusting that the end result will be worth relinquishing some control over our situation. It’s almost like a cloud, the invisible barrier between us and the entity we are trusting in many cases.
There is rarely a person at the other end when we shop online – it’s a computer someplace else.
The kitchen is seldom visible in a restaurant, so we don’t usually see the chef who prepared our food.
The cockpit on a plane is sealed off from the passengers, who may get a nod from the pilot and a peak at the controls upon deplaning.
As a high school teacher, I can attest that I have met face to face with less than ten percent of my students’ parents. They mostly know me as a name next to a (preferably passing) grade on a report card that will have a (preferably positive) impact on the future. And that’s okay. I can automatically be trusted to look out for my students’ well-being when they’re in my care in addition to teaching them. It’s my job.
We don’t even see the people into whose hands we are putting our money, our mouths, our lives, and our children’s lives, but we trust them to care for them properly because it is their jobs.
When we trust, we are blind, being led to happiness by an invisible force we wholeheartedly believe to be benevolent. Sound familiar? It should.
As Christians, we are led by God because of faith. Trust is like faith. The difference is that faith is believing without seeing and trust is believing in someone or something else despite what you may have heard.
You may have seen a news story about someone who had their identity stolen because of online shopping and decided that you’ll only buy in stores. You may have chosen not to eat at a particular new restaurant because a friend of a friend told you the food was terrible. You may be terrified to fly because of a plane crash you heard about years ago. If this sounds like you, you could be missing out.
Seek out online shopping sites with secure checkouts and shop away. Other people’s opinions are important, but in the case of food, you can’t always trust someone else’s tastes. So, decide for yourself if that new restaurant is up to par – and tell them if they’re not so they can get better. Book that flight to someplace fun.
Not everyone loves his or her job, but most people want to be good at the job they do have. So, trust them to do it so that you don’t have to.
Take for instance, the Bay Bridge, a staple for most Marylanders’ Ocean City trips. Some people are afraid to cross it, but not me. I trust that the engineers who built it are way better at math than I’ll ever be. The bridge is that leap of trust that car travelers must take without having to leave the state in order to reach their sand, waves, Trimper’s rides and Thrasher’s fries of happiness.
Is everyone trustworthy? Unfortunately not, but that’s the most beautiful thing of all about trust. God gave us a conscience and intuition to send us that uneasy feeling when something is not right. Develop it. Use it. Above all, trust in God. Then, trust your gut. Then, you can trust others more.
Did you read Robyn's first secret to happiness? Find out what it is here.
May 01, 2013 09:18
By Robyn Barberry
has been keeping pretty busy over the past week as we move back into our home. On the one hand, it’s exciting to finally be able to enjoy our semi-new house, but on the flip side, keeping track of our belongings in a place with un-established order is beyond frustrating.
It started with the socks, specifically Frank’s. It would be obtuse for me to portend this tale with some anecdote about the sock fairy or the dryer’s appetite, so I will spare you the redundancy of another sock cliché. However, I would like to point out that baby socks are considerably more difficult to manage.
First: Babies do not keep track of their own clothing. Otherwise, they would keep it cleaner, need to be changed less often and be less likely to lose it. Perhaps they need some of the same peer pressure that teens face when it comes to their apparel. That would encourage babies to take drastic measures to look their best at all times (and maybe not spit up all over holiday formalwear).
Second: Baby socks tend to come in multipacks of adorable designs in bold or pastel colors. If you lose one with a football on it, you have the option of pairing the football with an orphan racecar sock or ditching the lone rangers all together. All white socks are a better option, but it’s hard to resist the siren call of hightop baby socks in every color of the rainbow.
Third: Not one company has succeeded in manufacturing baby socks that will stay on my boys’ feet. Perhaps my children are of the wiggly variety, though I have a sneaking suspicion I am not alone in facing this problem.
Frank has been found barefoot on multiple occasions lately. I partially blame our new Pergo floors, which don’t offer the friction carpet did as he crawls all over the living room. Over the course of two weeks, Frank managed to dwindle his sock collection down to two matching pairs, one of which was too small.
I was dressing Frank to go to his grandmother’s one blustery morning and could not find a single pair of socks. I couldn’t be an unfit mother! The boy needed socks! I needed St. Anthony! Then, I remembered the emergency pair I kept stashed in my diaper bag.
Since then, I have been finding random socks in closets, mixed in with other laundry, under every piece of furniture, most likely stashed by our cats. I gathered all of them into a plastic bag and finally played a little matching game on Saturday. Now Frank has more socks than the rest of the household combined.
Sunday morning, Patrick wanted to run to Home Depot before church so that he would have all the materials he needed to fix up our garage for storage. But, since we are still without routines or real order, he misplaced his keys. After scouring the house, and turning up empty handed, I said a prayer to St. Anthony. Soon thereafter we found the keys in a seemingly logical place – under a gym bag on the dining room table. Patrick had just enough time to go to the store while I got the boys ready for Mass.
But, as he left, I realized the front door was wide open the whole time we were looking for the keys. I knew both of the boys were safe, playing in the living room, but hadn’t seen the cats and began to panic that they had gone outside. I found one, Bailey, under our bed, but Jameson was nowhere to be found. I began tearing apart closets, shining flashlights under furniture, whistling, shaking treats, but there was no sign of him. When it was time for us to leave for church, I decided that praying would be the best way to bring him back to us.
We ran into my dad on the way in. He had already ushered and attended an earlier Mass, so he went to look for Jameson. After the first reading, Patrick said he was going to go help my dad. I was so worried that I found it hard to focus. I kept asking for St. Anthony to help us find Jameson throughout the Gospel. I had St. Francis on line two. Just when I was beginning to pray to him, Patrick reappeared smiling.
“He was under the bed,” he whispered.
“Didn’t we look there?” I asked.
He smiled and shrugged. We knew better than to ask when a prayer was answered.
March 28, 2013 03:54
By Robyn Barberry
This week in art class
, we created reverse animal portraits with white gouache on black board. Patrick painted his favorite animal, and I painted Collin’s.
Everyone has a favorite animal. Mine has been the polar bear for nearly twenty years, when I saw one maneuver through an enormous tank at the Seattle Aquarium with fluidity and grace that defied its species. Patrick has been a loyal fan of the penguin since reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins in elementary school.
Patrick's painting of a penguin
Fortunately for both of us, our beloved beasts from opposing poles can be found right here in Baltimore at the Maryland Zoo. I took Collin there this past fall. I was so excited about introducing him to animals from faraway places, especially his favorite at that time, the elephant.
To my dismay, Collin didn’t seem interested in looking at or learning about the zoo’s exotic residents. Something else had caught his eye.
“Mommy, look at that silly squirrel (pronounced “squway-rul”)!” he said, pointing to the aforementioned bushy-tailed rodent as he bobbed in and out of a trash can.
“Collin, we can see squirrels at home,” I said. “Now, look at how long the giraffe’s neck is!”
Over the next few weeks, Collin told everyone we talked to about all of the squirrels we saw at the zoo. He continued to study the squirrels around the neighborhood and point out the goofy things they did, like run into each other or dangle from a limb like a gymnast.
Robyn's painting of a squirrel
For the first time in my life, I began to notice squirrels rather than ignoring their existence until they run out in front of my car. And Collin
was right. Squirrels actually are pretty funny.
The eyes of a child often help us to see life in terms so simple, they are profound.
We seek. We seek. We continue to search for something better. Seldom do we realize that what we’re looking for is right before us. It just needs to be seen through other eyes. We can always explore beyond our boundaries, as well, so long as we never lose sight or let go of what’s right in front of us.
Patrick and I continue to be penguin and polar bear fans, and will return to the zoo to see them when it gets a little warmer. Collin cannot wait to see the squirrels and their elephant friends again. Frank will probably point at everything, but maybe he’ll teach me something.
One more thing about squirrels: I play a game with my students where you replace the word “girl” in any song with the word “squirrel.” For instance:”I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way? My squirrel.” Hope you have fun playing my game!
March 14, 2013 11:47
By Robyn Barberry
Collin has just finished his first semester of preschool, leaving me with a file cabinet’s worth of art projects. It’s exciting to pick him up and receive visual and tangible evidence that he is learning (along with a globs of wet glue and dusting of glitter and feathers to decorate my car seats). When he comes running up to me, beaming, bearing a painting, Collin shouts, “Mommy! Look what I made for you!”
For a time, said masterpiece takes dominance on our refrigerator, until it is covered up by a superior piece. The old work is always there to look back upon, to compare, to fondly remember.
But the economy of space comes into play. The numerical side of children’s art is daunting. In our household alone: 1 preschooler x 2-3 pieces of art x 3 days a week x 36 weeks = a self storage unit gallery.
So where should it go?
It’s painful for me to put the projects into the recycling bin. The red tempera painted handprints on blue construction paper, the paper plate snowman with the Mona Lisa smile, the colorful clay candle holder: all were created for me with love while we were apart.
We could save everything in an album or a plastic bin, but where would we store the collection? Why would we keep EVERYTHING?
Some art might be nice gifts for grandparents and other family members who might appreciate an original piece by your young artist.
Another suggestion is to take a picture of Collin holding the most important of all of the artwork, then throw it away. For me, a photograph it just isn’t the same. Seeing the actual size of his hand as it changes and touching the texture of each brush stroke makes the piece more real or more meaningful.
One last idea is to find a nursing home that might be able to spruce up its rooms with some color courtesy of my petite Picasso. Kids’ art has a way of reminding us of our own childhood. Perhaps the elderly need that sort of cheer the most. And to think that something that mattered so much to us can be even more meaningful to someone else makes it much easier to part ways with the product of little fingers learning and playing.
It’s a simple law: matter cannot be created nor destroyed. Couple that with our Christian duty to give, and we have a perfect solution to decluttering our lives. So what are some of your favorite ways to reduce your amount of stuff while being charitable?
January 25, 2013 02:26
By Robyn Barberry
This year my husband and I have boldly decided to give our son the most taboo of Christmas presents: a drum set. Are we crazy? Perhaps. We blame love.
After we deliberated about said drum set, our reasons for giving in selflessly to the desire of our young son’s heart outweighed our own personal preferences.
Drums are present in just about every culture because they enable people to express themselves physically and emotionally. In America, the heart of any successful music group is the drummer, tucked away in the back, like the Wizard behind the curtain punctuating every phrase with booms, taps, and tings.
But good drummers are hard to find, because most parents are quick to shove “forgiving” and “quiet” instruments into their children’s hands rather than drums. Drums are loud, especially in a small house with thin walls like ours. But drums are important, and we’ve pushed our children away from them for too long. I almost did.
Collin first discovered the drums on Thanksgiving at my cousin’s house. He calmly approached the set, picked up the sticks and instinctively knew what to do. He was having so much fun, giggling, banging, and crashing, that I knew what was coming next.
“Mommy, can I get drums?” Collin asked.
Oh no, I told myself. How do I get out of this one? So, I went back to the old Christmas copout – “Why don’t you ask Santa?”
Since then, we’ve attended Beatlemania Again and Archbishop Curley’s Christmas Concert . Both shows were fantastic all around, but Collin zoned in on Ringo and the Friars’ percussion section, nodding his head, bouncing, and tapping his foot to the beat. His plea, “I want drums,” grew stronger and louder.
I spoke to a music teacher, a church choir director, a friend who drums in a local band, and a high school student to determine if drums would be good for Collin. I was met with a resounding “yes,” and advised by all parties to consider the First Act brand because it’s inexpensive, durable, and authentic.
Finally, Santa said yes, but only if Collin’s mom and dad would pick it up for him. “I can’t believe we’re really doing this,” I told my husband as we loaded the miniature drum set into our Toys ‘R Us cart.
“He’s our little drummer boy,” he said.
And he is. Collin doesn’t know how to make beats and keep rhythm yet, but that’s what lessons are for. Fortunately, we have a few drummer friends who have offered to teach him and the patience to allow him to learn out loud. (There are also headphones).
He may only be 3, and I have no expectations for him to be the next Ringo Starr, but an introduction to drums is an important way for Collin to begin to understand the rhythm of the world, its rises and falls, its sudden intrusions, and the things that never change.
I made the decision to never silence a happy child awhile ago. To do so is ignoring a gift from God. I’m just glad for every moment I have with my children, no matter how much ruckus that might entail. Psalms 100 and 150 tell us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord and praise him with the loudest of instruments. And that’s just what Collin will do.
December 19, 2012 02:34
By Robyn Barberry
My guest blogger Kris Bedsworth is a woman of tremendous fortitude. She’s patient, positive, and courageous enough to serve as a substitute teacher in my school, which is no easy feat. We met last year when we were both pregnant with our second children, boys born less than three months apart in the same big city, who returned to the same small town where they will grow up together. But unlike my baby Frank, Kris’ son Hoven will face obstacles both unexpected and unknown. With a mother like Kris, who continues to put all of her faith in God, Hoven will overcome every hurdle. And we will be there to cheer him on. Thank you, Kris, for sharing your story of awe-inspiring hope. You are a blessing, as I’m sure our readers will agree.
By Kris Bedsworth
March 6, 2012
2:00 a.m. - My water broke.
2:30 a.m. - We left for hospital.
6:30 a.m. - I heard my son cry, I remember looking at his father - both of us crying from pure joy.
March 7, 2012
It was like a whisper in my ear - something was wrong but nobody would listen.
March 8, 2012
A doctor finally told us something was so wrong. He didn’t know what, so he sent us to another doctor a week later.
March 15, 2012
My baby lay in my arms screaming as they pried opened his eyes. The doctor told us she would need to put Hoven under anesthesia when it was safe (at one month) to tell us for sure what was wrong but it didn’t look good. She warned us that he might be blind, at least in one eye.
During that month I prayed every day, begging God, “Please let my baby see. Take my eyes instead, Lord.”
Not knowing was terrible, I couldn’t figure out what I did in life to make God so mad. How could He give me something so beautiful just to break my heart?
April 20, 2012
At last, the day came for Hoven to be put under. I cried and kissed my baby bye, then stared at the clock as I paced the room.
The hour we spent in waiting room felt like days.
Finally Hoven woke up. I remember running into the room so excited to see him.
When the doctor finally came to talk to us, I took one look at her face and knew it wasn’t good.
She informed us that Hoven was blind, not in one eye but both. Her words sucked the life out of me. My words didn’t come out, I was in shock. My chest hurt. I thought I was dying. I ran out of the room.
I found a quiet little room where I called my mom, as if this was something she could fix. That’s her job right? Isn’t it a mom’s job to fix things? I told her I prayed, so how could this happen? I told her I was so mad at God that I would never pray again.
We had to stay the night at Johns Hopkins so that Hoven could recover from the anesthesia. It was a long day and night, most of which was spent staring out the window, still in complete shock.
April 23, 2012
“Ok, God. If my son has to be blind, just show me the way.”
April 24, 2012- June 28, 2012
I can’t begin to count how many nights I cried. The pain just didn’t seem like it would ever go away. How could I live knowing my baby would never see my face or a sunny day? So many doctors and people coming and going. The stares, comments, and questions from people were always a reminder of the thing I would never for a moment forget.
I didn’t even know anyone blind? How could I raise him? What do I do? What kind of life could he have? Playing sports? Driving? Prom? Having kids?
Seeing pictures of my friends’ babies upset me. Everything upset me.
It wasn’t until we started meeting other people, and realized that our friends were so kind and supportive that we were able to begin to cope with our unforeseen reality.
Hoven started laughing and became his own little person. I simply began to enjoy every sleepless night and every tear because I felt so blessed that God trusted me so much that He gave me Hoven.
I watch him sleep, I play with him, feed him, bathe him like any mother would do for her “normal” child because he is normal to me.
Hoven is amazing and so beautiful from his little laugh to his bottom lip puckering right before he screams.
I’m not saying I don’t have my moments of weakness where I cry and feel alone, but I no longer wonder “What kind of life will he have?” Instead, I focus the life he will live.
June 29, 2012
I smiled. I smiled because this road hasn’t been ideal but I do enjoy a good road trip.
Who would have thought that this journey – though short in actual time – could feel both long and rewarding?
I try to make light of some of the situations we come across with Hoven because laughing doesn’t hurt - it’s good for the soul.
For example, one day while I was driving, I reached back with one hand to calm him down and felt something fall in my hand. When I looked down it was Hoven’s prosthetic eye. I had to laugh at that.
I’ve become such a pro at popping Hoven’s eye back in, I simply put it in my pocket until we got home. Now how many people can say they get to put their son’s eye in their back pocket?
I won’t lie - some days I feel overwhelmed and could definitely use a vacation (though it won’t happen anytime soon). I wake up every morning and go to bed every night with one thing on my mind - how can I improve Hoven’s life?
I can’t add up how many hours I spend researching or making phone calls or even begin to count how many tears fall afterwards. I believe knowledge is power, so I continue to try to educate myself and others.
I can proudly say Hoven’s father and I are learning braille, though when we first looked at it, all we saw was a jumble of dots! However, like any other system of reading or writing, braille is based on a logical system. It’s truly amazing!
I woke up smiling today - Hoven is sitting up on his own and holding his own bottle. He truly is my inspiration in life. I will never limit Hoven’s possibilities. I will always continue to be his biggest supporter and advocate in life because I believe in him like God believed in me. Today, we are conquering crawling, but tomorrow it’s The White House.
October 24, 2012 04:54
By Robyn Barberry
Like most Catholics, I have trouble understanding the premature termination of human life. Our pro-life stance is one of the defining traits of our faith. For non-Catholics, however, our perspective on abortion seems archaic, naïve, hypocritical, misogynistic, and insensitive, among many other pejoratives.
It’s easy to become emotional about an issue like abortion. Due to its association with such polarizing subjects as age, assets, class, culture, education, employment, gender, geography, mental health, marriage, parenting, politics, race, religion, and their sub-categories, the word “abortion” alone brings about a range of feelings rooted in everything from shame to relief. It’s no wonder people on both sides of the abortion issue find themselves screaming and behaving irrationally at times over discussions with friends, family, and complete strangers: our emotions are inhibiting our logic.
Due to its inflammatory nature, rather than my own personal beliefs, abortion is not an issue I use for classroom debates. It’s almost impossible to enforce decorum with all the shouting that ensues. In all honesty, I’d rather have my students argue over the existence of God. It seldom ends in a storm of fists and tears and threats from both sides.
I try to deter my college students from writing about abortion and the legalization of marijuana for our culminating assignment: a persuasive research paper. My decision is not a manifestation of close-mindedness or fear. I welcome opinions that differ from mine. The problem is that, no matter what side they’re on, my students consistently fail to adequately demonstrate ethos (ethics) and logos (logic). Pathos (emotion) prevails.
As Catholics, we owe it to ourselves and to the lives of the unborn to take a rational approach to the issue of abortion if we want to win this fight.
I won’t bore you with details you already know. I did study the websites of both of the leading groups for each side, “Right to Life” and “Planned Parenthood.” I scoured databases for unbiased articles and came up empty handed time and again. I watched October Baby and The Last Abortion Clinic. I gathered data on my own from observations and interviews. If you care to learn more, I’d be happy to discuss my sources with you, but I didn’t want to waste valuable space and time rehashing everything you’ve read, heard, seen, and felt before.
The Rhetorical Perspective
True logic starts by understanding our own contextual perspective in relation to the issue. It’s often easiest to break ourselves down into demographic categories. I’ll go back to those polarizing subjects for this.
- Assets – Own my house, my car, and a mountain of debt. I consistently have a working cell phone and computer, both with internet access.
- Culture – Member of a large, supportive Irish-American family
- Education – Earned master’s degree
- Employment – Full-time teacher
- Geography – A lifelong Marylander residing in the Baltimore suburbs
- Mental Health – Relatively stable, despite a history of depression and lifelong ADHD
- Marriage – Happily married to my high school sweetheart
- Parenting – Authoritative (I hope) mother to two little boys (and one baby I never had the chance to hold)
- Politics - A registered Republican who votes Libertarian for Life
If you think of the characteristics that contribute to my identity as an addition problem, the sum would indicate that life would be an easy choice for me if faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
Here’s how an emotionally charged pro-choice thinker might interpret my data to explain my pro-choice proclivity:
- Age – Adult (fully developed)
- Assets – Stable living, transportation, communication and information systems.
- Class – Struggling in this economy, but most likely to adapt and thrive
- Culture – The unofficial Irish-American motto might as well be “The more the merrier.”
- Education – In possession of advanced reading, writing, computation, and thinking skills
- Employment – You and your union have no right to complain – at least you have a job
- Geography – A resident of the wealthiest state in the country
- Gender – Biologically wired to connect to a child, but liberated enough to “cut the cord” at the time of your choice
- Mental Health –Depression is just clinical whining. ADHD isn’t real; it’s an excuse for laziness. Get over yourself, you spoiled brat!
- Marriage – High school sweetheart?!?! You are so sheltered it makes me nauseous!
I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of ways anyone could perceive my very being based on just those facts, and still miss the mark.
The logical interpretation of my original demographic information, as reported by me, however, would lead anyone to conclude that I have access to the resources that enable me to grow, bear and raise children at will and with minimal difficulty. I can provide food. I can provide shelter. I can provide warmth. I can get more of what we need. I am loved and capable of loving back.
Because I’m lucky enough to be blessed with all that I need, I’ve chosen to follow my life’s vocation in teaching troubled teenagers. Most live in poverty. Most are members of minority communities. Many were unwanted by their own parents. Many have become or will become parents unintentionally, themselves. Many were raised without faith. All of them are worthy of being loved.
Over the years, the issue of abortion has emerged on many occasions in my classroom and in many forms, including the aforementioned debates and essays. There’s a big difference though between analyzing faceless theoretical perspectives and staring at the reality of the pro-choice/pro-life debate in very human eyes.
I will spare you the litany of famous contributors to the betterment of our society whose mothers chose life over loss. You know their names. You know their stories. You’ve benefitted from their gifts in one way or another.
I have taught a number of students who have faced unplanned pregnancies. For their protection, I won’t speak at length about their circumstances. What I have concluded, however, is that my students who have had abortions tend to face more detrimental academic, financial, social, mental and emotional consequences than their peers who’ve chosen life.
As can be expected, many of my students who became parents did not have the access to resources that I do. All of them made sacrifices. For some that meant losing relationships with parents, friends, and significant others. For others, careers and college were put on hold. Others were forced to rescind their sense of independence and self-reliance for a time.
Many of my students who became parents have also gone on to be teachers and nurses. Another one owns a successful hair salon. Others have returned to college now that their little ones are in school, too. They credit their children as their motivation to succeed.
One of the girls who’d had an abortion couldn’t handle the guilt. She had a supportive group of friends who tried to reassure her that she made the right decision at that time for herself and her future children. She wasn’t being bothered, belittled or bullied for her decision. The hurt was internally sourced. She could no longer live with the reality that she took her own child’s life.
Staunch feminists argue that a woman should not have to rescind her sense of self in exchange for the title “mother.” But, we pro-lifers aren’t arguing for the demoralization of women or a return to a primitive household state. Most mothers do work outside of the home, but we aren’t tied down to the hands-on parenting role for long. Children grow up and leave home just as soon as they’ve arrived, allowing moms to refocus almost entirely on their own ambitions, which they shouldn’t have abandoned in the name of diapers, discipline and diplomas.
Those without children fail to realize how much our sons and daughters can complement and supplement our identities. Nothing motivates you to become a better person more than meeting your own children face to face. If anything, that’s the message that pro-choice activists should take away from pro-lifers.
Rather than offering a woman more room for personal growth, most of the people I know (male and female) that have chosen abortion over life are miserable. And it’s no wonder why: losing a child, born or unborn, creates a void that can never be filled, not even by another child.
The girl who committed suicide never saw a sonogram image of her child. The mental health impact of seeing a fetus projected onto a screen, no matter how fuzzy the image, is likely the root of the reason pro-choice activists argue against mandatory ultrasounds. They claim the transvaginal wand used in early pregnancy stages is intrusive, but aren’t the vacuums, forceps, clamps and other abortion tools equally invasive? I argue the opposite, that seeing the very human form within a mother should encourage bonding. In a few words, sonograms are not a positive force for the abortion business or their clients. They’re a victory for our side.
Some of the strongest arguments for the preservation of legalized abortion relate to the following four issues:
- offering safe alternatives to unsafe clinics
- offering closure for women who become pregnant against their will
- eliminating the possibility of bringing a child with potential disabilities into the world
- protecting the life of the mother
- separation of church and state
For obvious reasons, many women in those situations would have difficulty forming a bond with their unborn child. But, should she deny her child the right to live? Logic tends to fail both sides in these situations, so I will raise a few questions, instead of providing definitive answers:
- Is any abortion clinic “safe?”
- Does the additional violation of the most personal of spaces heal a woman who has been raped or victimized by a family member?
- Does abortion eradicate a woman’s emotional turmoil?
- Would it cause a woman great pain to know that her child was living well with an adoptive family rather than part of a science experiment?
- Should we allow abortions for the promotion of eugenics?
- Are pre-natal genetic tests a reliable pregnancy decision-making tool?
- Are many mothers’ lives regularly endangered during pregnancy?
- Would most mothers sacrifice their children to protect themselves?
- Is the pro-life argument really about our faith?
- Do pro-choice advocates honestly believe that abortion is a harmless act?
My answer to all of those questions is, “I don’t think so.” That answer, of course, is rooted in my identity and is impossible to back with definitive research. Statistics can be thwarted to support both sides of the argument. The answers to those questions lie within all of us.
All life begins as a collection of cells, but given little more than time, a fetus becomes a person like you or me. In stifling the natural growth process we are avoiding, rather than addressing the real problem of “unwanted” children. They need love.
Babies don’t know where they come from. They don’t ask to be here. They show up whether we wanted them or not. It is up to us to love them, no matter where, when, why, how, or under what circumstances they entered the world.
We understand that as Catholics. We have established some admirable charitable organizations for orphans, for impoverished and disabled children, and for struggling mothers. But we are not alone in the fight for young lives, nor should we be.
Whether or not an unborn baby’s mother is willing to love or care for her child, we must create a world where someone will. It may be a grandparent or an adopted parent. It may be a teacher. It may be that their abandonment forces them to learn independence and seek refuge in unlikely places. Like faith.
We all know that showing up is half the battle for anything in life. But we shouldn’t be making that decision for the unborn. As Catholics, we believe that only God decides when to begin and end our lives.
I urge you to use logical approaches when encourageing others to see the sacred blessing that is life, especially in its earliest stages, regardless of the conditions surrounding its inception.
October 16, 2012 01:39
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By Robyn Barberry