The Kiddy Pool: The Burden of Not Knowing & the Loving Arms of Advent

Every week in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, my elder daughter and I snuggled under a blanket and watched The Muppets Christmas Carol; I think I inherited my love of this story from my father, who includes several versions of A Christmas Carol in his rotation of ten films to re-watch for the rest of his life. It’s got mystery, drama, comedy (c’mon, “there’s more of gravy than of grave about you”) and the compelling reminder to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. It’s a story of love and, ultimately, redemption, where each morning we wake up we can start afresh and claim new mercies.

I used to curl up on the couch next to my father and watch these movies, and none of them, the Muppets version included, used to make me cry. Yet while I watched that little green frog version of Tiny Tim, I wept for him and his fate and his family even while knowing the end of the story and observing the character’s resounding peace. Tiny Tim could limp along with the aid of his crutch and cry “God bless us, every one!” but my whole body still shook with weeping for that precious child.

At one point, my daughter turned to me and said “Mommy, we can just watch Little Bear instead if you want.” She was recalling, I think, another recent incident watching a Disney Nature program called African Cats, where she marveled at the powerful cheetahs and I cried over the loss of two spotted cubs to a pack of hyenas. It wasn’t a graphic documentary, and, indeed, it is intended for her age group, but apparently not for mine. It’s that she interprets the story on her own level while I read into every mother’s sorrow my own potential for loss. It’s a questioning of my own blessings wherein I ask “Why not me?” for grief when I realize I’ve done nothing to merit my considerable blessings.

I used to fear, during my pregnancy with my second daughter, that God would smite me for feeling ungrateful, when really what I felt was the experience of accumulated months of fatigue, sickness, and incessant migraines. I know in my heart that I don’t worship a God who smites people for being weak or suffering or feeling frustrated, but my awareness of my own weaknesses sometimes makes me feel even more conscious of my undeserved favors. Instead of recognizing that as the very essence of grace, it’s all too easy for me to turn it to anxiety, a state that is antithetical to the peace and presence of God.

Some level of anxiety is a nearly constant state for me, a feeling heightened by the responsibility of caring for my two beloved children and the knowledge that no matter how much I order my life, I cannot control everything. It’s that weight, that burden of not knowing, of not understanding, and longing—desperately—to confer upon my children the grace and peace that so often eludes me. My fears for them stem not from the pack of hyenas on the African plains, but from the ravenous lion pacing around my own spirit. I hold my daughter tightly, wrapping her in my arms with the realization that my embrace mirrors the verses about being tucked under the wing of God.

I am learning to differentiate between the peace that passes all understanding and the peace that the world gives; I am learning that the former makes no sense because, as a gift from God, it depends on my relationship to the divine and not to my worldly circumstances. It’s finding God’s peace in the midst of confusion and suffering and unworthiness that makes it God’s peace in the first place. So I weep, releasing my fears of all that I cannot reign over in my daughters’ lives, and I hold fast when I can, knowing that being still anchors me to God’s work instead of my own. And I wait, in this season of Advent, filled with expectation of One who reigns over my grief and my joy in ways that surpass my understanding.

photo credit: TschiAe via photopin cc

About Erin Wyble Newcomb

Erin Wyble Newcomb earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Women's Studies from Penn State University. In addition to parenting her daughters, running marathons, and making things with glitter, she teaches in the English Department at SUNY New Paltz. Follow Erin on Twitter @ErinWyble or at http://phdmama.com/.


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