I was at mass surrounded by five other friends; all of us moms, with kids in school, able to sit in peace. Mid way through, a woman walked in, and stood at the back. She was wrangling two very small children, while balancing a very large diaper bag on her already burdened shoulder. As a once younger mama who would attempt daily mass with an active young one, I understood her. You do not put yourself in that situation unless you need to be there.
And her children ran up and down the aisle.
They walked out of the church.
They dangerously played with opening and closing doors.
They did not let their mama sit.
She ran. She followed. She protected.
I wondered if she looked at us; older moms, hair brushed, outfits coordinated, tiny purses, no small kids to chase, light loads. Because I used to do that. I used to see them...the moms who looked so free. The moms who were so put together. The moms who could sit and enjoy and be fed. And I wondered... would that ever be me?
And the great irony? It will never be me. And it was not any of us sitting there that morning at mass.
We may no longer carry visible bags that weigh us down, but trust me, we carry them.
Because a small running child grows up into a big running child.
As moms, we really never stop chasing, running after, steering them from danger.
We may get to sit, and we may appear to be alone, but that child? The one we used to swaddle, and nurse, and rock to sleep? That child is still right there. And we carry them still. We carry their growing pains, their frustrations, their anxieties. We worry if they are drinking, doing drugs, hanging with the wrong crowd. We mourn their lukewarm faith, their lack of empathy, their self centeredness. We fear this is not just a stage.
We fear they may run, and we never catch up.
This morning I saw her again. The young mom.
And I sat with her in the crying room, because I mean, hey, I spent nearly the entire weekend crying myself, so why not? Seemed fitting.
And I told her.
I told her not to compare herself with other moms.
I told her that if I could go back, I would not look to the future in hopes of an easier time.
I told her that every mom she sees feels like her.
I told her how beautiful all of it is, no matter how hard it can hurt.
I told her I understood.
Her toddler put rosary bead after rosary bead around his neck, while she shared how hard the days can be. Then she looked at me with a smile and said, "You do so much, you have such faith, and you are always so together...I would never think you would have any doubts or hard days."
You know, we need to do this.
We need to be honest.
We need to be real.
We need to share our hearts.
Really share them. The entire heart. Not the cleaned up acceptable version, but the real deal. The filth and the shame and the honest truth.
We need to stop comparing.
And we all need to take a moment, and sit with Mary in the crying room.