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 That appeal has now been replaced by "Santa, pray for us forever."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.