Sara: My “baby” is now, officially, a toddler. Gus walks everywhere. He walks into stores, he walks into Mass, and he walks instead of crawls when he wants a new toy. Gus got spiffy new walking shoes, and he loves to show them off or simply bring them to me when he wants to play outside.
Gus is also waving goodbye to all of our friends, eating any food Momma will give him, and climbing on our chairs so he can get whatever he is not supposed to have from the top of our dining room table.
Just the other day, Gus was playing with Justin’s flip flop. Justin told him to stop, it was “dirty.” Later that day, we couldn’t find one of the flip flops. Twenty-four hours later, I found it in Gus’ dirty clothes bin.
Justin: Perhaps it was just a coincidence or perhaps he understands more than we think.
Sara: It’s so much fun to see and play with him now that he’s “all grown up,” but, in some ways, it makes me just a little sad to see his new independence. As we watch these milestones, it’s hard not to think of the upcoming milestones, like kindergarten, First Communion, and even high school that will be coming up in the blink of an eye.
As Gus grows up, I’m finding it difficult to discern the delicate balance between letting Gus learn things the hard way (like that salty homemade playdough isn’t good to eat) and when I should intervene before Gus manages to truly hurt himself.
Over the years, I’ve heard the argument that if God loved us so much, then why does God allow us to suffer? It’s always been a hard question for me to answer, but now, as a mother, I think I finally understand just a bit better.
Most suffering is a result of our own choices. For instance, many times when I’m crabby throughout the day it’s because I didn’t make good choices – I chose not to go to bed when I ought to and chose to play on Facebook instead of taking a nap. It’s not just me that suffers for my choices – both Justin and Gus have to deal with my shortness of temper as well.
Justin: The connection between our choices and physical suffering can also teach us about the spiritual life. Poor decisions like selfishness, dishonesty, contempt, holding grudges, and lack of forgiveness, etc. always lead to unhappiness. On the other hand, choosing love, generosity, forgiveness and the like leads to greater freedom and happiness.
Sara: Part of my responsibility as a mother is to teach Gus there are consequences for our actions. If I never let Gus taste my homemade salty playdough, he won’t understand it is icky. If I never take his food tray away when Gus insists on purposely dropping his food on the floor, he will always think that dropping food on the floor is acceptable behavior. I want Gus to learn early and young (before the stakes are so high) that there are consequences for his actions. This means giving him the freedom to mess up at times.
Justin: Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “Giving freedom is always a risk.” There is always the risk that we will misuse that freedom to make poor choices.
Sara: In giving us free will, God, too, has to allow us the opportunity to “mess up” and suffer. Hopefully, that too will bring us, as his children, closer to him.