A few years ago, I planned multiple Christmas projects so the kids and I could work together in a constructive, memory-making kind of way. I admit to grandiose visions of homemade goodness prepared in an atmosphere of familial calm, peace, and love but the reality was more reflective of preschool playhouse bar room fights–if there were such a thing.
Picture this real-life scenario: I organized the three older children in their cooking aprons, when Patrick, 7 years old, started shouting at Mary Bernadette, 5 years old, for taking his spoon. Mary Bernadette, annoyed he yelled so loudly into her ear, quickly retaliated by using the spoon to whack him on the head.
“He shouldn’t have screamed at me,” she argued as Patrick dramatically hopped up and down grabbing his head in pain.
After I resolved the issue of stolen spoons and inappropriate physical contact and we began our project again, Meaghan, 6 years old, started crying because she wanted to crack the eggs into the cookie batter.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I said. “I didn’t know you wanted to crack the eggs! Look here! You can start the mixer; that can be your job.”
Drying her tears, I set up a chair at the mixing bowl when I noticed the baby had thrown all her uneaten lunch all over the floor, which the other children were now walking on.
Banging a large wooden spoon on the granite counter top, I yelled, “Helloooooo? Does anyone notice you are squishing chicken nugget guts into the floor boards?”
The two-hardworking children at the table looked up from their labors, shocked I was yelling.
“So-rry,” they said.
“We didn’t mean to,” Patrick huffed, getting up to throw the nugget guts into the garbage.
I sighed and turned back to the disaster homemade deliciousness at the mixing bowl.
Within a minute, Camille, recently freed from the confines of her high chair, crawled over to me and tugged on my pant leg, shrieking for me to pick her up!up!up!
I quickly shut off the mixer, apologized to Meaghan who was patiently waiting for new instructions and grabbed the baby.
“Mom, what do we do next? What next? Moooooooom!” someone from the table shouted.
Forget it, I thought. This is too hard. What’s the point? Everyone is fighting, the baby is screaming, and the mess we’ve just created is going to take all afternoon to clean up. I should just scrap everything and call it a day.
It’s easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed when attempting organized activities with my kids–baking, art projects, and even prayer is difficult with little ones. And I often feel disappointed when my longings for family bonding are met with shouts of “She hit me!” or “You’re squishing me!” or “Patrick called me ugly!”
The ridiculous rigmarole tempts me to forget the whole thing.
But then I read Saint Luke’s account of the Last Supper and was consoled when I realized Jesus also had to deal with bickering children on special occasions. Picture this real-life scenario: all the Apostles and Jesus were sequestered away in the cozy room where they were going to dine together for the evening. Jesus knew this was it for Him, his last meal with those he loved most and He wanted it to be memorable.
You know, a real bonding experience.
Gospel writer Luke reminds us that Jesus even said, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you…,” which shows His great desire for an extraordinary occasion.
But Jesus also knows one of His very own apostles would betray him and that person was sitting right there at his table! Jesus took the time to organize this extravagant, elaborate commemoration with someone who was going to stab him in the back.
Uh, this is definitely not a perfect situation.
Not only does Jesus have to eat with a back-stabber, but also in the middle of the meal, an argument broke out about who was the greatest and Jesus had to spend time reviewing–again– the lesson of “the last shall be first and the first shall be last!”
Talk about a slow, difficult group.
Yet, Jesus didn’t call the whole thing off!
He didn’t sigh and stomp around and say, “Oh, you silly apostles! Can’t you all get along? I’m trying to have a moment here!”
Instead He instituted the Eucharist!
Despite the imperfect scenario, He gave us the great gift of His body and blood while those 12 dysfunctional Apostles sat squabbling. It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death that the Apostles even realized what happened at the Last Supper, which is precisely why it was a good thing Jesus didn’t call it quits.
I don’t know about you, but I need the Eucharist.
Which leads me to my point: if Jesus had to deal with a group of unwieldy hooligans on the night gave us His body and blood, maybe I need to persevere in family bonding with my kids–even amidst tiffs and bad moods and the rest of it. Just like those 12 bickering Apostles didn’t realize the Great Thing That Happened until much later, I suspect it won’t be until after my kids grow older that they will realize what I’ve been attempting all these years: making memories and sharing the imperfect love—Duggan style.
Colleen Duggan is a popular writer for Catholic media and holds a Master in Education from the University of Notre Dame. She has spent the last 12 years teaching religious education classes, running Bible studies, and giving talks on Catholic spirituality at the parish level.
Visit Colleen’s website: http://www.colleenduggan.net/
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