Friday, June 09, 2006Witnessing With Joy
Being a mother in today's world can stir up mixed reactions from the public. Sometimes the result is joy and excitement: Everyone looks my way and smiles at Aidan, says how cute he is, wants to touch him, hold him, tell stories of their own grandchildren and more. At these times I feel very proud to have such a sweet, social child. At other times being in public can be quite trying. When Aidan is really loud and unhappy, he can make a big scene, causing me to be a bit nervous about the effect it may have on my fellow diners at a nearby table. At these times I usually take him outside or to the bathroom to walk or nurse him until he quiets down or falls asleep. I then just go back in and give it a new start. Sometimes I end up having to leave. That's frustrating, but it's simply a part of the whole package of being a mother.
Recently I was in a sunny coffee shop in Longview, Washington. It was elegant, but funky enough to be able to bring my book bag and baby into. I was passing the hours there while my husband did some business in the area. I came in there, staked a spot, got some coffee and breakfast and settled in with Aidan. Today Aidan was happy and full of energy. To me, he was the most delightful, charming little guy around. I felt completed sitting there with him. He played happily in the high chair and was fairly quiet. Across from me there was a man of perhaps 55. He was sitting there reading his paper and sipping his morning coffee. He looked up at Aidan once or twice, but the looks were not approving. On the contrary they were annoyed, irritated looks and he was getting more discontent by the minute. I sort of watched him with a respectful smirk. Finally he got up in a hustle, helped himself to more coffee and went outside to the patio section of the cafe to enjoy his morning time away from the noise of my baby. -How naive I was to think that anyone who saw Aidan would be cheered to the core!
There are just a couple of points here: In today's world we should always remember that raising our child(ren) is a noble and valuable responsibility. We should feel honored and blessed to have children, no matter what we are in the eyes of the public. I think we should try to be joyful and confident, no matter what we are feeling at the time (frustration, exhaustion, weariness, embarrassment and so on), so as to be as best witnesses as possible to this dignified and noble vocation.
When the public seems to be disapproving of our child(ren), what do we do? Do we get bashful and embarrassed? This is an entirely natural and understandable reaction on our parts, as Ellie has recently expressed in her recent post. Yet I think at these times it's important to cling to our babies and remember the blessing they are! It is also perhaps simply good discipline for ourselves, as a sort of challenge towards what we all aspire to be. -As Hope said in her Quest for Femininity post: "C.S. Lewis says something about how if you want to be happy, then pretend to be happy and then you may in fact really become so..."
At certain times when our children are being too loud, depending on the place (library, restaurant, cafe...) it usually is appropriate and necessary to leave so that others can enjoy their peace within what society has provided to be a quiet location. But in general it can be too easy to become embarrassed or intimidated by the disapproving public!
I can't relate to folks who are intolerant of children (did they forget the fact that THEY were once babies, too?) but I CAN pray for them and take care of my baby in a sweet, loving, confident way that will hopefully be a fruitful witness of the joys of motherhood, the dignified and noble task which is so often not given the credit it so deserves.