I’m not going to sugar coat it. Continuing to get up at random hours of the night with my 16-month-old is getting old. Some nights she sleeps 12 hours straight through. Some nights she gets up—and stays up—for upwards of three hours wanting to snuggle, explore, cry, smother the cats with love, etc. It has been a challenge to use these times to remain “in the moment,” be grateful and stay prayerful. How can we as parents remain present, be prayerful and be instruments of God during the more trying hours?
We have tried to take Mary to Mass with us as much as possible. Sometimes, I take her by myself and plunk her in our Ergo baby carrier as I greet students and make sure things are going smoothly. Many times I end up spending a good chunk of the liturgy changing a diaper or playing in the reconciliation room. We try to at least run out at communion. Sometimes crankiness or an explosive diaper prevents this. How can we as parents adapt our Sacraments around our newly birthed sacraments?
Being present and recognizing the “sacraments” of parenthood is so blissfully easy during the joyful, quiet hours. Most nights I’m the one to give Mary her bath and have the privilege of snuggling with her until she’s sleepy. These moments of peaceful snuggles, of looking into her big, brown eyes, of smelling her sweet, baby smell; have become daily sacraments to me. I have been able to turn our nighttime ritual into my daily examen and prayer time. Since Mary generally goes to bed around the same time each night, my prayer life has also become surprising regular and family-based.
After our bedtime rituals are almost complete, I sing a blessing song I learned from summer camp. Then I ask Mary what we should bless, and we name those things and people out loud. I have absolutely no idea how much she actually understands this part of our ritual, but it helps me examen my day and prepares for a bit of quiet at the end of the night.
My friend, Lu, told me how her son woke her up one day, held his hands on her cheeks and asked, “Mama, can we just look at each other for awhile?” Wow! What a lesson in the power of presence. Psalm 57 implores, “Awake, my soul; awake, lyre and harp! I will wake the dawn.” Our children seem to encourage the same sentiment.
What a sacrament, a gift, a glimpse into the holy our children are. Their excited persistence encourages—demands, even—our attention. Being a parent has challenged me to rethink how the traditional Sacraments I experienced our living God in have multiplied into the countless, daily sacraments of parenthood.
Sarah is the Director of Mission & Identity at Canisius College. Sarah has been a member of the Ignatian Family for 18 years and loves all of the connections, friends and justice-y things that have developed during that time! She lives with her husband, two daughters, and two cats in the City of Good Neighbors, Buffalo, NY. Sarah loves reading, donuts, women’s spirituality and going on adventures with her daughters.