Let the Children Come to Me
I'm writing this on August 31st, and I can't get over the fact that September is tomorrow. Is it just me, or has that snuck up on all of us? 2020 has been simultaneously the longest and shortest year of my life, and I doubt I'm alone there. It's hard enough to keep track of what day it is, let alone what month it is! I think we can all agree that this has been a tough one.
While it has certainly been rough on us adults, I cannot imagine how hard this has been for our children, grandchildren, younger siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. How hard it has been for "the least of these." One of the biggest arguments we're seeing play out today is whether or not schools should reopen. Sadly, this has largely become a political argument, rather than one centered on what is best for our children.
Children are, quite simply, magnificent. They are unspoiled by the pressures of the world, and the things they say can often leave us equal parts bamboozled and inspired. Heck, 20th century TV shows like Art Linkletter's House Party and Kids Say the Darndest Things were based entirely on this premise!
Children are one of God's greatest gifts, and we bear a collective responsibility for their safety, education, and (as Catholics) faith formation. However, our world today doesn't often see children this way. The obvious battleground of abortion comes to mind, but it goes deeper than that, especially now.
Many of us have been stuck in the same house together since March, and that has put a strain on many relationships. As a parent friend of mine said to me back in April, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." Well, there hasn't been much fondness-facilitating absence of late! On top of this, many of us have been stuck in the same house with children.
While children are magnificent, as I said earlier, they also have certain...proclivities that can make being cooped up with them difficult. Working from home? Good luck keeping your 3-year old out of Mommy's office. Can't send little Johnny to school? Looks like you're the teacher now. And forget about peace and quiet, you can kiss them goodbye!
This has likely (and understandably) sown feelings of frustration or even resentment towards our children. That's normal! Frustration is okay, but it does become a problem when it leads to resentment. Children, while sometimes maddening (okay many times), are one of our foremost examples of faith. Don't believe me? Well, don't take my word for it!
Matthew 19:15 reads, "Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" Matthew 18:1-5 says, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven...Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
Those aren't minced words! Jesus tells us that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. He also tells us to show compassion to our little ones and to welcome them. This is more relevant now than ever before. Our children are suffering in ways we're not even aware of, and it is on us to care for them during this scary time.
Much has been made about the impact of this pandemic on the development of our children, and rightfully so. Humans are social creatures, and we are not meant to be isolated from each other. That's why it's so difficult to stay inside all the time and not see friends. Imagine how much harder that must be if you're not old enough to even understand why you have to stay inside!
It is imperative that we treat our children with compassion and understanding right now. That goes for you too, big brothers and sisters! No matter how old you are, you have a degree of responsibility for your younger siblings. As the oldest, I heard (and still hear) this quite a bit from my mom. But, as per usual, she's right!
I'll readily admit that it's hard to put others first right now. We've all expended tremendous amounts of emotional energy this year just to stay sane, myself included. Many of us are running on fumes and just trying to limp to 2020's finish line. I get it! But our children probably don't.
They won't know the emotional pressures of working from home. They won't know why you're sick of watching the news and don't want to talk about Covid anymore. Sure, this varies based on the ages of the children in your life, but they are all dealing with this just like we are - albeit in some different ways.
Take extra care of the children in your life during this time, especially as school starts back up again. Spend some extra time with them playing that game they're always asking you to. If you're comfortable, arrange some (safe, socially distant) outdoor get-togethers with friends. Ask them how they feel about all of this. As frustrating as being cooped up with them can be, they need us now more than ever.
Remember the children of the world in your prayer. I know I'll be praying for yours.