I have moved three times in my adult life. I have picked up and left one city, moved to another, and have had to make new friends. Making new friends was the hardest yet most important part of each move and has required great effort. I have had to step out of my comfort zone, go to events where I knew no one, extend hospitality to others, and take any opportunity I could of seeing my new friends. I found that with each and every new friendship the ones that were based in our Catholic faith where we prayed together and gave generously to each other of our time and energy were the friendships that were the strongest and most meaningful.
One of my best friends from college has been living in New York City for about as long as we have been living in Minnesota. She had a stint in the Midwest and another in the South during our years in Buffalo, New York–which is not anywhere near NYC for those of you unsure of your New York geography. Buffalo is on Lake Erie over eight hours driving from NYC (which takes another eight hours to get across by bus, but the train is faster, and if traffic is good, take an Uber… right?). Well, my friend Claire grew up in Jersey, so NYC is much more her native environment than it could ever be for me.
A few weekends ago, Claire welcomed our mutual friend Tina and myself to her tiny flat in Queens for a Moms’ get away weekend. We lived like we were single, but mostly talked about our kids and Claire, being the awesome single lady and friend that she is, enjoyed every single story. And we being on break from our home lives, ate out more times (without kids) in three days than we have in the past several years. I used to say that I did not really feel like an adult yet, but since I had my fourth child and we bought a house, I have been feeling more and more of adulthood. This solo trip to NY showed me even more how I am a grown up… (oh the plight of us Millenials…)
The weekend was quite memorable, full of more stories than you might care to hear. My visit started with an early 4:30am wake up, and somehow no coffee until I was through security and walking to my gate. It was a direct flight, and somehow I ended up talking to my seatmate–a single bearded man a year younger than me–the whole flight. We started on something about the flight, snow driving in Minnesota, Iowa cops (his home state) and speed traps, my kids, home schooling, Catholicism, sacramental theology, science and the Bible, why he stopped going to church, how he wants to raise kids Catholic if he ever gets married, Kant, Shakespeare, my parish’s Sunday orchestral Mass, photons, where we were on 9-11 (as we flew by the Freedom tower), and ended on craft beer. It was quite fun; and I hope that he goes to the orchestral Mass someday.
Yes, that is a stained glass window with Aristotle…his halo is blue as opposed to yellow. From St. Vincent Ferrars,
After I landed in NY, I am quite proud of myself for making my way to the bus stop and managing to acquire and load a metro card, getting on the right bus, and getting off at the right stop. It helped that Queens has numbered streets, so I could count down as we went along. My awkwardness of riding a bus pressed into strangers all ignoring me completely dissipated by the end of the weekend.
Claire brought us into Manhattan for all sorts of interesting things every day of the visit. We went to a giant spice store, ate amazing mac and cheese (mine was provolone and Gruyere with bacon, spinach, and roasted tomatoes…I need to recreate it…), went to a secret play (where you had to have your name on the list) at St. Michael’s church at a back entrance, laughed way too loud on the train, hailed a taxi, slept in to go to a noon Sunday Mass at St. Vincent Ferrars, spent the afternoon at the MET, bought art from a street vendor, walked through central park, bought a new dress and hat, went to the NY Frassati dinner and praise and worship holy hour, went out for fancy cocktails at Seamstress, Ubered our way home, stayed up until 2am, woke up at 10am, walked around in the pouring rain, sent Tina off to her flight, only bought three books at Strand books, prayed at the old St. Patrick’s, went down to Chinatown, ate soup dumplings and funny ice cream, and talked and talked and talked and talked. Then I woke up bright and early to fly home…coming home to everyone who missed me.
And, yes, the weekend was a fun as it sounded, but the whole time, I was thinking, NYC is fun and all, but boy do I love living in the Midwest. The beauty out here in flyover country is incredible. Upstate New York is pretty gorgeous itself, but there is nothing quite like the middle of America. I also realized how people have so much time to spend online. When you commute for an hour on a train, of course you have time to check the internet a billion times, have twitter battles, Instagram random things, read blogs, send emails and so on. Being a stay at home mom means that my sitting down alone time consists of the snatched minutes I have in the bathroom with an iPad.
Yet, the whole point of the weekend, which is what I said from the planning stages was to catch up with old friends. We opted on one morning to skip all the plans and just hang out together. How many times in my life will I get to do another ladies weekend like this, with friends who have known me for so long, who knew me in my most vulnerable times in college? These are the ladies who helped me learn a deeper love of God, who prayed over me countless times, who still know me so well. And that was the reason for the weekend of fun and rest and friendship.
(And if you are wondering the professor fared quite well alone with the kids… he even beer battered and fried his own cheese curds…)
As I was writing the article for the NCRegister linked below, I saw that Rebecca Frech had written about things she misses about being poor. She reminded me of the friendships I thrived upon with fellow mothers in the throes of early motherhood. We spent so many mornings together sharing food, watching our children play, and drinking cups and cups of coffee. We made meals for each other at the birth of our babies. We shared clothes. We basked in the simplicity of having small children without busy schedules of older children. Those friendships are so special to me, and now I live hundreds of miles away from those ladies I spent so many hours with, I still cherish the friendships we had back then while we stay in touch now.
Pancakes were a lunch we often made for each other. Whenever I make them for lunch now, I think about those friends. They are the ultimate comfort food on a cold Fall, Winter, or Spring day in these northern states that I have been settled in. They are also an inexpensive meal that I can guarantee my children will eat, and mostly healthy since I use whole wheat flour.
We paid off my student loans last month, and have not yet quite realized the financial freedom which we now have. With older children the money will be redirected towards things like piano lessons, home school supplies, more clothes. But I will always try to remember the times when money was more sparse and when we felt guilty for buying even the simplest of things.
1. February 14, 2005—A serious discussion with a pre-theologate (not really a seminarian, I promise… he was just in the “discernment program”)
Freshman year at Franciscan University of Steubenville was a rough year emotionally. I happened to have a massive crush on a guy in the pre-theologate program, and the thing is, he was acting as if he had a crush on me. You know, hanging out together all the time (we were in the same group of friends), singling each other out for discussion, walking a friend back to her dorm across campus together so we could walk back to our adjacent dorms alone, on movie nights sitting right next to each other on the same couch, and there may have been some flirting.
Well it all came to ahead right around St. Valentine’s day (or Sts. Cyril and Methodius Day for those of you who prefer the new calendar). I was confused: was this guy really discerning the priesthood or did he like me? He was less confused about my affection and more confused about his discernment. I confided in a few good friends, including a wonderful couple who let me interrupt their date night in a common room to get advice. They advised me to talk to him and tell him that he was confusing me.
I called him up, and asked to go for a walk because “we needed to talk.” My plan was to tell him that I was attracted to him and to ask him to give me some space, so that I could get over him and he could go on discerning the priesthood. We met up on a rainy courtyard clad in rain jackets (what a mild February that must have been!). I dove right into my problem. “I am attracted to you,” I confessed to him. “Um, well, I am attracted to you,” he replied, and then we paused. What were we supposed to do? Well, I decided to tell him the entirety of my past crushes and involvements with boys; I am not really sure why. I think I wanted to let him know that I really needed him to be straight forward with me. By the end of our discussion we decided that we needed to put serious limits on our interaction since we had become way to close to be “just friends.”
That worked for one emotionally painful week, and then I guess he had had enough. He met with his formation director, told all, and then left the program. He was free to date. The next day he asked me out. There is a lot more that happened after that, but eventually we got married, well three years later, which seems like a long time when you are only 18. I will tell the rest of the relationship history another time.
8 months pregnant with our first. I was showing more than he was.
2. February 14, 2009—Star Trek marathon.
I was 8 months pregnant with our first, and we were 8 months into our marriage. We decided that St. Valentine’s day was the last night of our youth since we were going to be taking care of our baby in a month. We went out to dinner (I can’t remember where), and then went to the best grocery store on the face of the earth, Wegmans, bought some snacks or something, and took turns riding the cart in the parking lot. Yep, I rode a cart at 8 months pregnant; I was empowered by Bradley birthing classes. Then we went over to Blockbuster and rented three of the original Star Trek movies. We then proceeded to watch them one after another, eating food, and wondering if the baby was a boy because the baby sure liked all the sound effects. (She was a girl, or course.)
I think this was my favorite St. Valentine’s day. We spent the first year or so of G’s life watching Star Trek Voyager, and then went through all the other Star Trek shows. We are pretty nerdly.
My Valentines dates in 2012.
3. February 14, 2012—Me and my daiquri.
The winter of 2012 was one of the most stressful of our relationship. M was “on the job market,” and we were in a continual state of anxiety waiting for calls or emails about job interviews. February is the normal month for on campus interviews, and boy M had a lot of them (for which we were very blessed). It seemed like every couple of days he was called out to another interview. I think he was gone for two full weeks of that month.
Well on St. Valentine’s Day, while M was at an awkward job interview dinner with two potential colleagues (not for the position he ultimately accepted) at a restaurant full of couples out on dates, I was hundreds of miles away, at home, having a romantic dinner of what was probably scrambled eggs with a not yet three year old and a one year old. After I put them to bed, I read one of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels and drank a daiquiri (I got pretty good at making daiquiris that month).
After M got back to his hotel and called me up to recap the dinner, he informed me that he had been offered two more interviews. I just about cried, as I was at my wits end with the single parenting stuff, and I am pretty sure my mom friends were tired of me spending half the days at their houses. I made emergency calls to my parents and in-laws begging someone to come stay with me for the last interview. My wonderful mother-in-law took pity on me, and I rewarded her with our traditional Mardi Gras dinner of strawberry filled crepes, ice cream, and bacon.
Much to our relief, M received a job offer on February 17, when he was back home, so even though he was going to be gone for a few more interviews, we had the relief of knowing he would have a job.
And that is it. The rest of the St. Valentine’s days of our relationship probably involve either dinner at some restaurant or staying home with the kids. I can’t really recall.
As for the patron saint of lovers himself, I looked him up in our awesome hardcover Septuagesima volume of Dom Gueranger’s The Liturgical Year, and it turns out that whatever legends we have of him are not part of the liturgical tradition. We know that he was a priest “who suffered martyrdom towards the middle of the third century,” and that “the ravages of time have deprived us of the details of his life and sufferings.” However, we should look to his martyrdom as a model who encourages “us to spare no sacrifice which can restore us to, or increase within us, the grace of God.”
1. I have not done Quick Takes in weeks now, but I will do them now since I know people really like them. I am pretty sure that I saw all of my blog readers while on my trip; well at least those of you who are in the family. I was teased by several of my aunts about my writing, but at least they read my writing. 🙂
2. Several people in the family joined in with the Novena to Bl. Louis and Zelie Martin, which I thought went very well. I loved that it did no just have the daily prayers, but a reflection on the life of the blesseds as well. I hope to read more about them soon. The creator of the site which has the novena text, Maureen O’Riordan, contacted me after seeing referrals from LWLP. She was really excited that so many of you joined in the novena. I plan to do it again next year.
3. I said earlier this week that the trip went well, but apparently I blocked out of my memory the children having trouble in the Appalachian Mountains. Their stomachs and the mountains did no agree, and one child neglected to inform her parents of the situation until she was a stinky mess. Yeah, that was fun. And I just realized today that Dramamine could have solved the problem of the mountains and children who will not nap in the car. Next time we go, we will bring the Dramamine! But the mountains were lovely. Apparently, we took no pictures of the mountains, just the people. So, here we have F an I on a .5 mile hike at an overlook. We hiked after we drove to the top of the mountain.
4. The next day we took a real hike: 531 steps down into a gorge and 531 back up with children on our backs. G (5) did them all by herself.
The way down.
At the very bottom.
All I could think about on the way up was how hard my heart was pounding and if my aorta was going to dissect. If it could happen to my father, then it could happen to me, right? It turns out that it is harder to carry a 3 year old on your back than a one year old, and that G is in better shape than us all. M and I were wiped out at the top and G was running around ready for more.
5. The highlight in Ohio was our huge family Fourth of July gathering, where we had all of my maternal grandparent’s descendants except for 5 (of the 17) grandchildren. (In my count I include the one on the way.) The 7 great-grandchildren did their best to make up for the missing grandchildren. We also had a baby shower for my aunt (in-law) who is having her and my uncle’s first child very soon! It was a lovely shower, and my creative and talented mother made an adorable centerpiece. I wish I had her flower arranging skills:
6. Michigan had a couple of highlights, one of them being seeing good friends. One evening, after the kids were in bed, M and I went over to our bachelor friend’s house and we chatted until 1am with four other guy friends. It was just like back in college when the guys would debate and discuss about the Church, morality, charismatics, tradition, etc. It was a lot of fun, but the next day I was soooo tired. I guess I have lost my stamina for late nights… We also had lunch with another friend on a different day. Our last day in A2 we spent with our dear friends, and L’s godparents, from college (and high school for M), and their two cute boys. I tried to convince them to move to Minnesota, but I don’t think they will. They have a great house and all of their extended family there. We will just have to settle for seeing them a couple of times a year and try to plan more vacations with them.
7. The last two days of our trip were spent in Western Michigan at a wedding of one of M’s cousins. It was a lovely wedding in a very modern looking Catholic church. I love that M has lots of head-covering at liturgy cousins and their little daughers in hats or veils. M’s mom’s side is even bigger than my mom’s side. His grandparents had a celebration for their 60th anniversary the day after the wedding, and they are so awesome that they had the caterer make food especially for the kids separate from the adult line. The kids actually ate their food, and my kids managed to not spill the red punch all over their nice dresses even though relatives continued to give them more and more punch. The kids were thoroughly entertained by their teenage boy cousins pretending to put them in the trash cans. F handled the crowded by sitting possessively in her booster seat and then napping in a stroller. Once she woke up, she looked suspiciously at anyone who caught her eye. Anyway, we drove home the next day, the kids only needed one day of cranky transition time, and we are back to our comfortable at home routine.
Welcome to any new readers visiting from Whole Parenting Family! Please take a look around and subscribe by email, in your RSS feeds, or “like” my blog on Facebook if you like what you see! ————— My friend Nell, who goes to St. Agnes with me and blogs at Whole Parenting Family, sweetly asked me a couple of weeks ago me to allow her to feature my blog on her blog as a blog of faith with two other mom bloggers. (How many times can one fit ‘blog’ in one sentence?)
The interview questions and my answers are up on her blog today! It was a neat to think about why I blog and look back at the beginning of the blog and see how it has evolved. So, check out the interview and check out the other featured blogs!
“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future.”
As it happens, many of my personal friends are also of the Millennial generation, but we, while linked by social media and burdened by debt, are very attached to politics, religion, and are happily married with children coming every couple of years. We are showing that there is more to our generation than a young adulthood of self exploration and leisure after adolescence. Emerging into adulthood can be paired with taking on responsibilities, and even though we do not feel like adults we are preserving traditional values for society that many of our peers are leaving by the wayside. I think that my story is not so very different from other religious Millennials, even if we are now living what some consider to be an “alternative lifestyle.”
Photo by Paul Hagius
I married my husband ten days before my twenty-second birthday and three months after his. We both had a BA and MA to our names, and only I had student debt for us to pay off. We knew many couples from our small Catholic college that were in a similar situation. Many of the couples were hoping to have children, while one of the spouses went to graduate school for further education. Other friends of ours did things like go to graduate school, start a job, enter religious life, or go to seminary. These all seemed like choices that would make us feel like adults.
When our first daughter was born before our first anniversary, I was posting pictures of my baby on Facebook, while the majority of my friends were posting pictures of themselves going out with friends. While I spent Friday and Saturday nights at home with my husband, most of my peers were trying to figure out where they were going to the movies or out to dinner.
It was a very strange experience, to be one of the few of my high school and college acquaintance to be married and having children. We found friends in our new city who also were having their first children, but we were the youngest by two years. I wonder now, if we are so very different from our peers who waited five more years for marriage and children.
In the current discussion of “emerging adulthood,” a theory which is being applied to those of the millennial generation, financial independence, marriage, and having children are marks of full adulthood. But when I look at the description of what “emerging adults” experience, I have had the exact same feelings that unmarried peers also had. It is really only since we bought a house last year, that I sometimes really feel like an adult. There must be more to being an adult than marriage, money, and children.
Here are the five features of “emerging adulthood” from the 2006 review of the book by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, PhD, “Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Though the Twenties” (Oxford University Press, 2004) :
Age of identity exploration. Young people are deciding who they are and what they want out of work, school and love. Age of instability. The post-high school years are marked by repeated residence changes, as young people either go to college or live with friends or a romantic partner. For most, frequent moves end as families and careers are established in the 30s. Age of self-focus. Freed of the parent- and society-directed routine of school, young people try to decide what they want to do, where they want to go and who they want to be with–before those choices get limited by the constraints of marriage, children and a career. Age of feeling in between. Many emerging adults say they are taking responsibility for themselves, but still do not completely feel like an adult. Age of possibilities. Optimism reigns. Most emerging adults believe they have good chances of living “better than their parents did,” and even if their parents divorced, they believe they’ll find a lifelong soul mate.
The thing is, all of these features have been a part of my experience since I was married at 21. Obviously, during our four years in college these things were normal, but after our wedding we were still learning to be adults.
Going through the five features of “emerging adulthood,” I will begin with “age of identity exploration.” One of the great things about marrying young is that a couple can mature in adulthood together. Having met my husband when I was 18, on the cusp of so-called “emerging adulthood,” we have spent our whole adult life as friends. We spent as much time together as was reasonable, studying, praying, and hanging out. Our vocational discernment was largely influenced by our friendship, and we had a beautifully supportive community of friends. On the practical side, we cooked many dinners together at each other’s off-campus homes and worked the same student worker job. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other as very young adults, and we were able to do this in a safe community of the “bubble” of our conservative Catholic college campus.
Then we graduated, left the safety of our small community, got married, and moved to a brand new city with two minivans full of stuff to our name and only each other for local friends. Then we felt young in the wide world, but still hopeful as members of our generation. We helped each other in figuring out what we wanted out of life, but were also largely guided by our faith. I think, because of our Catholic identity, we did not feel the need to explore what we wanted in life after marriage. We were living the life we had chosen together, but still did not feel like adults.
The “Age of Instability” fits my experience well. Most of my life since high school has been characterized by the instability of moving from place to place. Since I was 18, I have lived in ten different homes, in dorms, houses, and apartments. Now that we have bought a house, I expect that we will have more home stability. I have lived in five different cities (including a semester abroad), but now that my husband has a tenure track position, I doubt that we will move again. It took a graduate degree and full time employment for us to find stability and to settle into a community. But unlike, our unmarried, nonreligious peers, we had the stability of each other, our extended families, and the community of the universal Church.
I definitely experienced the “Age of Self Focus.” Having my first child when my peers were not was very difficult for me. I found myself resenting my loss of freedom, and I was still very much self-focused as I took care of my child. Looking back, I see that a lot of my problem was getting used to taking care of an entirely dependent human being that required so much. For the first time in my life, my wants were not my priority. I struggled to take care of myself and another, but I still did not feel like an adult. I had already been restrained by marriage and children, but I still had a lot of selfishness to overcome. I think that self focus is something that is continually overcome, unless one is truly a saint.
Then there is the “Age of feeling in between,” which seems to me an unsurprising feature of maturing in adulthood. The youngest adults do not feel equal to the oldest adults in the workforce. I worked a part-time job my first two years of marriage, bringing my baby to work with me, but my co-workers all had children my age. They advised me on parenting, and had much more experience in our work. I was young and inexperienced in their eyes. My husband as a graduate student, under the tutelage of his professors and teaching classes of undergraduates, was very much in between. It seems that whether one is married or not, there is an adjustment time to the workforce.
Further, whenever we encountered a crisis situation, we were always calling our parents. Our car broke down, so we called for a tow, brought it to a shop, and then called our parents for advice about the repairs. We were facing many normal life experiences for the first time as adults, and felt like children doing so.
We were not immune to the “age of possibilities” either. We spent all of our last year in college hopeful about graduate schools and our marriage. When my husband was earning his PhD, we were hopeful about job prospects, though also realistic about the awful job market for prospective philosophy professors. When he did get his job, we were hopeful about our future. Even now, that we are finally “settled” with our family of five, in our house in the first ring suburb, we are hopeful about what our future will bring.
Millennials who have decided to settle down early in their twenties are still experiencing a lot of the same things that our unmarried peers are experiencing. In some ways it is more serious that jobs are hard to come by and student debt seems to have no end in sight. Many of the young Millennial families are living on one income or one and a half. For our children thrifty budgeting, home made foods, secondhand or clearance clothing, frequent Church attendance, siblings, and sharing rooms are just a part of life.
And as Catholics we have our faith. In our brave new world of social networking, we have online places of community. Thanks to our weekly obligation, we also have our local Catholic communities. Everywhere I have lived, a Catholic community has been my foundation. In my youth I had my family and parish. In college I had the whole campus and my closest friends. In graduate school, my husband and I quickly met as many young, Catholic couples as we could.
And now, we have found a great Catholic community in our new home. It is the real life Catholic community that has helped us preserve our values as a part of the generation who connects largely over the Internet, and the Internet has helped us to connect with Catholics across the globe. It is incredible, how a single prayer request on a person’s Facebook timeline can lead to hundreds and thousands of people praying. Millennials who have faith are certainly in the minority, and it will not be easy to preserve our values in society, but we will hold tight to our traditions and live.
1. My dad is home from the hospital! And by home I mean at his home in St. Louis. I wish I could be there again to help out and just see him, but I am pretty sure that three kids running around the small ranch house my parents own would not be helpful for a tired man recovering from a major surgery. So, I will have to settle for the occasional Skype conversation where all three girls chatter away at him for five minutes and tire him out. It was great to see him looking so well yesterday!
2. I have discovered how I am going to survive the rest of the Winter. I have a plan. I did not realize when we bought this house how wonderful it would be to have South facing windows all Winter. You see, even though we have at least 24″ of snow currently on the ground, and it is crazy cold out all the time, it is sunny most days. Yesterday we woke up to a snow storm that brought us 6 new inches of snow, but as soon as the snow stopped the sun came out. I have sunshine in my kitchen nook from sunrise until 2pm everyday, and then it passes into the dining room, and finally into the living room. I am going to get to sit in the sun everyday for most of the Winter! And the cheery Winter sunshine if much more pleasant than the harsh, hot Summer sunshine.
3. Heavy cream is my children’s new favorite ingredient in food. I made cream of mushroom soup the other night for dinner, and all through the meal my kids were saying: “Mmmmm, Mom, this is sooooo good! This is the best thing I have every had!” And I thought, yes it is a pretty good soup (thank you Julia Child). Then a few days later I made a quiche for dinner, and realized that it also called for heavy cream. Normally I use the highest fat milk we have around, and everyone likes it, but Wednesday I used cream. Oh my goodness, it was the creamiest quiche that I have ever had! G declared to me, “This is my favorite food ever! It is soooooo creamy!” And L said that she liked it even better than macaroni and cheese, which is the biggest compliment on food that one could ever receive from her.
4. I had a girls’ craft night at my house last night. One of my friends from church organized it, and since M was going to be out late at a work dinner, I decided to host it this month (after I got the kids in bed). We had a really nice time, so nice that it was 10:45 PM before anyone realized it, and that is late for a bunch of moms who have husbands who work and children who need help sleeping. I took it as a good thing, that we were having such good conversation that we lost track of the time. Thanks for a nice evening ladies!
5. The difference between a Buffalo and a Minnesota winter is that in Buffalo you get lots of snow but you usually get a thaw about once a month or so, but in Minnesota the snow just piles and piles and stays frozen. Here is a comparison of our yard from the summer and what it looks like after yesterday’s snow:
We are waiting to have a sledding hill that is taller than the fence…
The garden with a 20″ fence around it.
Where is the garden now?
The parting of the Red Sea, the Grand Canyon, or our front walk, whichever you prefer…
6. A favorite active indoor activity of my kids is sliding down the (carpeted) stairs belly-down, feet first. They were demonstrating this to my brother and sister on Skype yesterday when my brother reminded me that we had done that in sleeping bags all the time growing up. I can’t believe that I had forgotten about it! I mean now that I remember, I have memories of countless hours flying down stairs into piles of cushions. I am not sure we are willing to sacrifice our nice camping sleeping bag to the sliding on the stairs, but maybe when the kids get their first sleeping bags I will throw that idea our there…
7. I have run out of things about this week. It is hard to think of much when the whole week spent inside soaking in the sunshine in the comfort of my heated home. I’ll just say that F (almost 15 months) refuses to walk, but loves to climb on tables and up and down stairs. However, she has really good balance on high surfaces so I am not too concerned…
I came across this article today. The author, Valerie Anderson, has an interesting point that marriage is more important than weddings and raising a child is more important than having a huge party with expensive gifts, which she makes at the end of the article. The rest of the article she spends complaining about the thousands of dollars she spent on being in seven weddings, only two of which the couple are still married. Then she talks about how people throw huge baby showers and emphasize having a baby, instead of graduation from school or a promotion. I agree with her that way too much money is spent on unnecessary things, but I disagree with the idea that the celebrations are a problem.
I was married right out of college, and my husband and I had very little in savings. We asked out parents to help us fund our wedding. Between both sides of the family we had a budget of $8000 (Anderson spent $15,000 on a wedding reception for 125 people). We had nearly 200 guests (we both have large extended families) and the $8000 covered everything: the church, the hall, the musicians, our photographer and printed pictures, the caterer, the two-buck chuck we served to drink, my $99 clearance rack dress, the tux rental, the flowers, and more. We did everything for a little as possible and still worked to make it nice. We used my parents minivan instead of a limo. I picked a reasonably priced dress for the bridesmaids, and my husband and I picked the lowest tux we could find for the groomsmen. Our friend guests carpooled and roomed together, saving as much money as they could. It was simple, it was maybe a little bit cheap, but I think that it was a beautiful and wonderful day for everyone who came.
For me, my wedding was not about “being a princess,” it was about entering into the Sacrament of Matrimony with my dearest love and best friend. It was about starting a life together, and hoping for children. It was about helping each other become saints. If that is not something to have a huge celebration for, I am not sure what is. We wanted our family and friends to celebrate with us, to pray for us, and to know that we wanted to share our life with them. That is what a wedding is about. Further, since we were fresh out of college, the wedding and the bridal showers provided us with the necessary material foundation for our life together. If it were not for my parent’s generosity, we would have slept on a $99 futon for many years before we bought a mattress for ourselves. A wedding celebration is the community’s way of supporting a young couple and helping them start their life together, and the great feast is the couple’s and their parents’ way of thanking everyone for their support. It is all very beautiful, if that is the way it is approached. As a potential bride, I was very skeptical of the over-commercialization of the wedding “industry”, and I think my husband and I navigated it very well for a beautiful and affordable celebration.
Six months after my wedding, my family threw me a baby shower. We were bringing a new human into the world, and that is something to celebrate! A new human life to add to the perfection of the universe! It is a bit hard for a post-partum mother to have a huge party right after delivery, so during pregnancy when the baby is nicely cared for in the womb is a great time. Plus, while there are a lot of unnecessary baby items in the world, new parents really do appreciate the support of friends and family in purchasing all the necessities of baby care. One of my showers was a cloth diaper shower. My third baby is wearing those very same diapers I received as a shower gift three years ago. That shower was not a waste. And, while I did not receive gifts for getting a job after college (which I left to be a mom) or throw a huge party when a blog post gets lots of hits, I am pretty sure that these things are not as major as the existence of a new human being.
The new life of a human has the same value, even when the mom is a teen mom. She might even need more support and aid than a married mom does. This paragraph from the article is probably the worst:
“I’ve been to a handful of these showers, and the unmistakable fact is that the guest list is mostly other teenage girls, all cooing and fawning over their corpulent friend or cousin, shrieking excitedly as they present her with the beautiful bassinet that they all pitched in for, ignoring the fact that the endeavor she is embarking on will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and stunt her career opportunities for the rest of her life, not to mention the devastating impact on her social life.”
Where are the adults in the life of the teenage girl, who needs their help more than ever? It is a great good that she is having a baby, even though it will “have devastating impact on her social life.” And there is nothing wrong with her friends supporting her in this; I would rather that than them take her to a clinic to have her child murdered. I am not sure really how this complaint about teenage baby showers fits into the marriage article to begin with, but clearly Anderson is seeing children as a burden and not a blessing. I think the movie Juno, where she gives her baby up for adoption, is a great example of how to act in the case of a teenage pregnancy, but, for those who are able, keeping and raising the child is beautiful as well.
I think that the complaint that Anderson makes should be about the over-commericalization of weddings and baby showers, not the things in themselves, but then that is easy for me to grasp since the value of thrift has been instilled in me my whole life.
1. I wrote this piece for Truth and Charity this week. It is about societies attitude on having children and how it is messed up. And I also try to figure out the right attitude to have.
2. We drove the 900 miles to Buffalo, NY this week. It is a long way. Why is our country so big?
3. I think we are going to break two little four year old girls’ hearts again when we have to leave Buffalo. But before that we have a big gathering of friends tonight. It is great to be back.
4. For the record, there are seven kids napping in this house right now. There are 2 ten month old babies, 1 eighteen month old, 1 two and a half year old, 1 three year old, and 2 four year olds. S has a magic touch with her kids and niece, and I just got lucky with mine…
5. Old friends are great for getting perspective on life, especially the ones who totally understand everything about my life…
6. My kids both claim to like dogs after living with a fairly tame one for 48 hours. I wonder how the acceptance will pass from dog to dog.
7. These are so short because I am tired and my kids have been going to sleep on their central time zone bedtime and waking up with the eastern time zone sun.