Lent starts next week. Typically, I don’t pay too much attention to Lent. But my daughter is now 8, embracing her Catholic faith, and challenging me to do a better job at playing by all the Catholic rules. I’m not good at paying attention to rules I don’t like.
One of the rules I’m not a big fan of is giving something up for Lent. I think we should do something for Lent, not give something up. A friend said that actually we should do both. Actually. So I told her the same thing I told my daughter when she asked what I was giving up for Lent.
“Watermelon! You can’t give up watermelon.”
“Because nobody eats watermelon during Lent, and it has to be a sacrifice.”
“Well, watermelon is my favorite Jolly Rancher flavor.”
My friend just gave me a look. She wasn’t buying into my watermelon sacrifice, and she didn’t think it was funny.
When my daughter and I discussed what I was giving up for Lent and I told her watermelon, she just thought I was hopeless. A lost cause, I’m sure, which is why she then brought up confession.
She asks if we could go to confession. Whatever happened to the mall? As visions of confessionals and that really long prayer you have to say when you first get in there race through my memory, I tell her nobody goes to confession anymore.
“Yeah, Mom, they do,” she says back at me.
So then I tell her I didn’t even know when they had confession at our church.
My 8-year old responds, “9 on Saturday mornings.”
So I’m kind of stuck here in this place where I know I’m going to confession at 9 on a Saturday morning, and I really don’t want to tell Father Jim I lied to the vet about the dog’s eye drops.
But it’s Lent, and deep down in some center place I do think that we should take time during these 40 days to do something reflective that we don’t normally do, something to make us contemplate the Resurrection, so I’m giving up chocolate.
But how does giving up chocolate make me a better person? I think giving up chocolate is going to make me cranky and mostly I’m going to sit around and feel sorry for myself. Then I’ll have to tell Father Jim about lying and self-pity at confession.
But then I think about what I want to teach my daughter. Don’t give up anything that you don’t really want to give up? Like sleeping in past your 8:30 calculus class in college. Don’t go. What’s the big deal? Stay in bed. Don’t give up that extra hour of sleep. Don’t save money for a rainy day. Just put the dog’s ophthalmology bills on the credit card, pay it off whenever. Don’t give up chocolate, give up watermelon!
Because the truth is, I don’t think it’s about giving up chocolate. I need to check with Father Jim, but I think it’s probably about me sacrificing something I love for a greater purpose.
So maybe, there is some slight chance that my daughter will respect me for making the sacrifice. And maybe, just maybe, that will help her listen when I tell her, get out bed, go to school, do your homework, save your money, eat your watermelon.
Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.