Prayer of a PK*

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*PK is the nickname for children of clergy…pastor’s kid, or preacher’s kid, depending on the tradition.

I don’t pray with my kids. Weird, I guess, for a mom who prays professionally, but we didn’t pray together as a family in my home growing up, so it’s just not an embedded practice for me. Heck, I have enough time creating a habit of praying by myself, nevermind involving my children.

Also, my offspring do not currently attend church. The teens have been mainly raised in a secular home, and though they’ve visited a past congregation with me a few times, it’s just not their thing. Plus, Sundays they go with their mom. The littles started out strong. I wore both of them while I preached for their first six months. They came with me to meetings and napped on pews. I started at my current congregation about 15 months ago, and the boys tagged along with me most Sunday mornings, hanging out with a couple teenagers and acting as tiny acolytes. Rowan, who is currently five, even joined the choir to sing sometimes and loved chatting with his “buddies,” a group of older gentlemen. Robbie, now three, often toddled his way up to the chancel to hang out while I led worship. The adults just adored them, and truly welcomed us.

Then the pandemic hit.

It doesn’t really work for the boys to attend church with me online. We tried, in the beginning, but they loved seeing themselves on the computer screen a bit too much for me to be able to concentrate on leading worship, so they haven’t been to worship in almost a year. They miss it; they’ve told me. Yet with everything else going on, I just haven’t had the bandwidth to create any kind of spiritual practice or religious education for them as a replacement. Pastor mama fail.

And yet.

Tonight at dinner, somehow the topic of a couple recently-deceased chickens came up. We talked a bit about them, what they were like, what happened to them (fox), how they felt. Rowan looked at me and said, “I’d like to say a little prayer for Poe and Hei-Hei.” I looked at him, honestly a little taken aback, and told him that of course he could. I told him he could always talk to God about anything. It felt a little weird, actually, to say it like that, with my husband right there.

Oh, did I mention that I married an atheist?

Anyway, conversation continued, seconds of food were requested and procured, and then suddenly I looked over and Rowan had his eyes closed, his head bowed, and his hands pressed together. “Dear God, I wish Poe and Hei-Hei hadn’t been killed by the fox. Amen.”

He looked over to me. I affirmed that it was a fine prayer, and we moved right along to cleaning up dishes and getting ready for bed. Potty, teeth, jammies, a couple stories, hugs and kisses, music on, and lights out.

No prayers. Maybe tomorrow night.

The Year of the Peaceful Parent: A Confession and Intention for 2021

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Holy crap, ya’ll.

There are a LOT of books about parenting. I mean, I knew this. It’s a huge industry. (Note to self: future post about parenting books replacing ancestor & village wisdom).

I’ve decided that this is the year I become the parent I want to be: peaceful. Calm. Connected. Mindful. Responsive rather than reactive. Steady, not mercuric.

That is not how I am now. I am patient and quiet, and then suddenly, I’m not. I lose my shit on the daily, sometimes the hourly. I drop the f-bomb to my children on an uncomfortably regular basis. I stomp and slam and sometimes even throw. I am derisive and derogatory. I have made myself hoarse with yelling. I do not always use gentle hands.

The depth of shame this causes me is unfathomable. I have sobbed for hours, certain of the trauma I am causing the little ones I love so dearly and cognizant of how my behavior ripples out to the rest of the family. I have curled up in a ball on the floors of my bedroom and bathroom. I have emotionally withdrawn into myself. I have contemplated leaving, certain that everyone would be much better off without me. I have even mildly self-injured. (I am safe, and I am not suicidal. I’m just offering full disclosure here.)

And I’m done. I do not like the person I have become. It is utterly exhausting, both the emotional rollercoaster and the persistent self-loathing (known by Matt and me as “sloathing”). It is worrying, as I understand it is not sustainable and will not lead to the kind of relationship I want with my children. I want my home and I to be safe havens, a place of security and support. I don’t want it to be a place where everyone feels on edge wondering what kind of day I’m having and if I’ll explode at the next moment. I experienced this kind of environment as a child and have no desire to perpetuate it.

So this is the year it changes. I am embarking on a journey of study of peaceful parenting as well as delving into the inner work that I know is necessary to actually make it happen. I cannot have one without the other.

I am searching for a therapist to work with (long overdue). I have taken a sabbatical from social media, with a goal of staying away for the whole year. I am figuring out a rhythm to ensure that all my responsibilities–work, parenting, homeschooling, marriage and other adult relationships, house renovations (more on that in a later post), farm & garden, household management–get the attention and care they need so that I can stop constantly feeling like I am failing at everything. I am working to create a space in each day for practices that nurture my being: quiet; meditation and prayer; moving my body; music and laughter; spending time outdoors; play and creativity; writing; and reading.

Which brings me back to where I began: the books.

I am building a list of books to read this year to assist me in my journey, and I’m already well past 50, which means by the time the list is finished I’ll be reading 1-2 books a week just in pursuit of this goal, nevermind the possibility of other topics which I find interesting, or maybe even a novel or two.

I have no idea if I can accomplish this, and I accept that. This might very well be a multi-year journey. Honestly, it probably is a life-long one. Much like being in recovery from addiction, this is work that I will have to tackle one day at a time, and recognize that there will not be a point where I’m finished.

I hope to document my journey in this blog, accompanied by peeks into life renovating and rejuvenating an 18th century New England farmhouse and creating a homestead on our 19 acres, reviews of the books and other resources I encounter, maybe some recipes and other home-making tidbits, homeschool projects and lessons…who knows?

A few weeks ago, we received “star words” during worship at church. The word I received to guide me through the coming year was HOPE.

Yes, I think, in the face of my despair and desperation, and in the midst of all else that is going on in the world, that will do nicely. There is yet hope.

Looking up the trunk of an old maple tree. The bark is grey and has lots of ridges; the branches are bare.