Magdalene, teach me how to pray.

So this is my daughter, Magdalene…

Photo courtesy of the one-and-only Maddie Cummings.

Photo courtesy of the one-and-only Maddie Cummings.

My goodness is she a trip.  She manages to squeeze more personality into her tiny baby toe than most people can fit into their whole lives.  And that’s not always a good thing– Michael and I have our work cut out for us with this one.  For just as sweet and charming as she can be, she is equally (if not more so) conniving and devilish.  But just look at those piercing blue eyes and that adorable little face.  They are the only reasons we haven’t thrown her out the window during a nonsense, middle-of-the-night tantrum.

In the short amount of time that Magdalene has been alive, she has taught me boatloads.  Things like patience, the importance of deep-breathing, how to perform the Infant Heimlich, how to change a diaper on a standing (and sometimes even dancing) child, how to make a toy out of LITERALLY anything, and how to perfectly re-roll a roll of toilet paper.  She has taught me many things that I never EVER thought I would have to learn– who knew skills such as remembering to ALWAYS close the toilet seat lid when you’re done would ever come in handy.

Indeed, Magdalene has taught me many things.  But more important than the things that make my hair go gray at the ripe, old age of twenty-something, she has managed to teach me many more positive things.  These things include the joy of simplicity (because obviously tupperware is way more fun than the brand-new $20 light-up toy that sings AND dances), just how contagious laughter really can be, how thrilling it is to see someone you love 10 minutes after they leave, how to actually dance like nobody’s watching (and God do I really hope nobody’s been watching), and how nothing in the world feels better than two little arms wrapped around your neck.  I think every parent has said to me that you learn just as much from your kids as they learn from you, if not more.  And I never doubted it.  But you don’t really realize how profound of a lesson that is until you start experiencing it on your own.  Tonight, Magdalene (who speaks barely a handful of coherent words) actually taught me a lot about prayer.

(Pause for another super-cute picture of the Mags….)

Such a funny little face!

Such a funny little face!

(…that was fun!)

Now obviously Magdalene is not saying, “Mom, let me teach you how to pray.”  At her young age, she’s more concerned with the sound of two blocks banging together than philosophical and theological concepts.  But her very existence forces me to think about certain things that I would not necessarily think about if she were not such a part of my life, which I consider a way of “teaching”.

I will be the first to admit that I have always struggled with prayer.  I am an instant-gratification type of person; if I can’t see it working, I give up.  And while I never doubt the power of prayer, I go through phases where I really try to stick to it and then I get tired of trying.  Magdalene and I have our nighttime routine.  We strip down, wash up, brush our teeth, put on our jammies, say goodnight to Daddy and Hopkins, then snuggle together as we say our bedtime prayers.  Since beginning this routine with her as an infant, it is the first time I have ever really stuck to a “Prayer Schedule”.  Every parent has certain values and habits that they try to instill in their children.  I am beginning to realize that, for me, the values and habits I try my hardest to instill in Magdalene are the ones that I struggle with myself.  I don’t think that’s anything particularly profound; in fact, I think it’s only natural to want your children to learn from your “mistakes” or failures.  But, upon realizing this, I began to ask myself, “What do I want Magdalene to learn about prayer that I also need to learn?”  The answer was “to pay attention.”

I am the WORST at having too many thoughts running through my mind at one time.  I know it’s a typical characteristic of the female brain, but I swear I have it worse than all y’all.  Michael blows my mind because he claims that he can sit and think about… nothing.  Just.. nothing at all.  He can sit in one spot and literally have not one thought in his brain.  I mean, doesn’t that sound absurd?  I have, at minimum, 52 thoughts on my mind 24/7, 365.  And when I stop to pray, that minimum bumps up to 76.  I find myself thinking about my never-ending to-do list in the middle of my second Hail Mary or what I’m going to make for dinner as I sit and try to “meditate” (because “meditate” rhymes with “ate” which is what my husband will say he wish he did by the end of the day if I don’t think of something!)  So, needless to say, my prayer is rarely ever intimate, but rather a constant “going through the motions”.  So I decided to pay close attention to this tonight as Magdalene and I prayed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (a rather dense read if you’re up for it), says that “God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve him, and so to come to paradise.” (CCC 1721).  In other words, that is the entire point of our lives– to know God, love God, and serve God in THIS life so that we can be eternally happy with him in the next.  So every night, Magdalene and I pray that God grants us a restful night’s sleep so that we can wake up tomorrow refreshed and renewed.  And we ask him for the graces to come to know, love, and serve him better tomorrow than we did today.  And as we prayed that tonight, I paid very close attention to what we were saying and I thought, “What if I actually did that?”  What if instead of waking up every morning, and going about my normal day complaining about the people I usually complain about and fighting the same personal battles I usually fight, I made a conscious effort to try to know, love, and serve God better than I did yesterday?  Hell– I could be a saint by the end of the month!  Jk, obvi.  But, really, what if I did?  And if that is what the actual meaning of life is, why don’t I take that more seriously?  I mean, people spend their whole lives searching for the meaning of life!  And here I am claiming to know it, but not doing crap about it?  Is that very smart?  Probs not.  I’m not exactly sure how to come to know, love, and serve God through my daily life, but after tonight I’m much more determined to figure it out.  Maybe you will be too after our little lesson thanks to Baby Maggie.  And if not, I think the overall lesson to really pay attention to what you say and mean what your saying is one we can all benefit from.  Just food for thought.

Okay– that’s all for the night.  Next post is promised to be less serious.  Maybe I’ll throw a favorite recipe in your face!  Or an insane picture of Hopkins (of which I have some good ones.)  You never know.  I’ll just keep you guessing 😉

Good night, my friends!  Sleep tight.

Photo courtesy of Karen Rumore's "Catch LITERALLY every moment" photography technique.

Photo courtesy of Karen Rumore’s “Catch LITERALLY every moment” photographic technique.