Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick Takes: Advent Theology for Tykes and Regular Grown-up Ingrates

1. I frequently read on other people's blogs about the great love of God and near-mystical grasp of holy truths expressed by their young children. Lest I believe these qualities to be inherent in children, or somehow conveyed by the solid faith of their virtuous parents, I have my own son. He used to have a mini-devotion to John the Baptist, which sprang to life when he learned of the method of the saint's death, and every supper until the start of Advent he would close out grace with the plea: "Saint John the Baptist, pray for us forever." That appeal has now been replaced by "Santa, pray for us forever." I tried to unpack this one, only narrowly avoiding the argument that we can't ask Santa to pray for us because he's not real. Instead, I feebly remarked that we can't really ask Santa to pray for us because, well, he's not dead. My son acknowledged this, though not as any sort of preventative to Santa's prayers; "Santa never dies," he noted.

2. We still don't have our Christmas tree; we're always last-minute about it, a holdover from being broke in New York, where you can get a big, gorgeous tree on Christmas Eve for small change, because the very handsome Canadian tree-sellers who set up shop on every street corner in the city on the day after Thanksgiving are packing up and heading home. I did, however, set out a creche that I got at a garage sale last year for a dollar (it includes the swooning pasha above, who I don't think was original to the set, but I thought could stand in for one of the wise kings -- or maybe not), but my son immediately used it to enact a battle scene in which Baby Jesus killed everyone.

3. His kindergarten teachers invited me to come and read the wonderful Tomie DePaola book The Clown of God to his class. I suppose I overprepared a little, making a chart of the Italian words in the story (Really Rosie phoned me in the middle of this, and asked if I was planning to give an exam too) and discussing pictorial symbolism with the wee ones, but it was a hit nonetheless. Yes, this happened in public school (the teachers are required to teach about other holiday traditions too; my son announced the other day that he celebrates Kwanzaa).

4. My son has told me that he doesn't like speaking English; he prefers to speak Italian and Chinese. Admittedly, he knows a few words in each language, mostly curse words in the former (though not their meaning) and polite expressions in the latter, which he's learning in school. We say a decade of the rosary together each night as a family, so sometimes, to mix it up a little, I'll say a Hail Mary in Italian.  My son can actually say all the prayers in Irish Gaelic, and he does. Then we mention our intentions. His are usually along the lines of "That [his friend] will stop saying 'poop,'" or that another friend "will stop calling me 'poop-man.'" But most often, he says, "Thank you for my good day."

5. It's that time of the year -- it always is, isn't it? -- when I question God assiduously as to why He took me from a life I knew and loved and to which I felt profoundly connected and put me in this backwater. But it helps to remember that the Savior of the world was born in one place, and raised in another, whose backwaterness probably rivaled this one's.


ex-new yorker said...

Probably rivaled it... hehe.

We don't have our tree either! As you can probably guess, the main reason is we haven't had any money. I asked my mother if it was OK if we worked out that we could afford it to use some of the emergency money she wire transferred us yesterday to get one, and she said of course. I'm considering breaking my already-weakened rule about not buying non-necessities made in China and just getting the cheapest fake one we can buy. My husband usually concurs whenever I think it might be OK to get a certain thing that was made in China.

The other day I was trying to engage in some religious education with my own 7-year-old "on the spectrum" about sin, and had served up some probably unnecessary babble about how sinners hurt everyone around them (the point was supposed to be that sin never just affects the obviously sinned-against, or something like that), when he said something I will paraphrase very closely as, "There's a sinner in this house - it's [3-year-old sister]." He took "hurt" in its most literal, physical sense, it seems. (At least we keep close enough tabs on the baby/toddler that he's safe from her slapping, pinching little hands.)

Pentimento said...

I laughed out loud in actual fact about this one, Ex-New Yorker.

Melanie B said...

I tell my kids Santa is just another name for St Nicholas. Although the mythology has been diluted the name does go back to the Dutch Sinter KlausSo to me it totally makes sense to pray for his intercession. Especially as St Nicholas is the patron saint of children.

From what I understand girls have a much greater propensity for playing house with nativity scenes while boys are more likely to enact battles. Tonight I heard Sophie saying something about the shepherds wearing Mary's dress. Great. Cross-dressing shepherds.

I love your swooning pasha. Our Nativity scene has the addition of Princess Belle, a snowman, a bunch more farm animals and Noah's ark animals, and some apostles. I think kids just tend to absorb them into whatever games they have going on. I can't wait to see what will happen when Ben and Anthony are older and taking over the Nativity scene.

I love Clown of God. Need to buy a copy of that for our kids. My parents have one; but that's in Texas, of course.

I wish I knew the prayers in Irish Gaelic. All I remember is the first two words of the Our Father. But it wasn't emphasized in the classes I took.

We don't usually ask the kids for intentions, not yet. They just add their "thank you, God, for..." And we've just added, "I'm sorry, God, for..." Even though he spends most of Mass complaining about wanting to be at home, Ben invariably says, "Thank you, God, for going to church."

ex-new yorker said...

My little "sinner" is the one who says, "I love going to church!", and when she's not busy slapping, pinching, or sitting on an older brother, definitely plays in the more stereotypical-for-good-reason feminine manner. (I forgot to add to my comment on the original post though that she's also the one most likely to be giggling at her own talk of poop, unconcerned with the distaste of those around her.) I was wondering, Melanie, whether your girls would try to sister-ify their little brothers, but then remembered they don't need to since they started out with each other. Our one girl tries to compromise by talking about her baby brother wearing a *blue* dress, and then there's insisting about our cat, "He's my girl."

Pentimento said...

I tried the St. Nicholas explanation, but it was not accepted. Something, I think, about left-brain Asperger's literalness.

lissla lissar said...

Our nativity scene has been swept into the drawer that holds Thomas the Tank engine stuff. I keep taking it out, but apparently the Holy Family really dig trains.


Melanie B said...

Oh right. I've heard of other kids on the spectrum who have a hard time with various kinds of fiction. I guess it makes sense that he can't reconcile Santa and St Nicholas.

ex-new yorker,

My girls are both in the poop talk is funny stage too. And they both do more than their share of slapping and hitting. Sophie was also the one who had a biting problem.

Neither of the girls ever seemed to feel a need to dress Ben or Anthony as girls. But Ben did have a phase where he was fascinated with wearing their ultra-sparkly sandals. And he's worn scarves on his head pretending to be Mary too. And has been known to carry around the dolls and diaper them and nurse them. Not often; but it does happen.

Anonymous said...

My daughter gets gifts for twelve days, even if it is just a prayer card or an icon. I use the twelve days to teach her about the communion of saints and to balance out the binge habit of Christmas in America.