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Saints with diaper wipes

Being a parent often doesn't look anything like traveling a spiritual path.
By Kathleen McTigue

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(Photo by Ronnie Comeau, iStockPhoto)

We don’t hear stories about saints and sages walking the path to their enlightenment hauling bags of diapers and stacks of diaper wipes, mini-packs of tissues, liquid Tylenol, and teething rings. It’s hard to imagine them engaging in soul-deepening religious thought or dialogue while they wipe a runny nose or clean up after SpaghettiOs. And a parent is more likely to be found poring time and again over the words of The Runaway Bunny or Goodnight Moon than over the classic sacred texts.

The real journey with children is motivated not by our spiritual hungers but by our offsprings’ more prosaic appetites. Although children’s lovely, spontaneous ways may re-awaken us to the world, being a parent often doesn’t look anything like traveling a spiritual path. Parents have little opportunity for regular prayer or meditation, Sabbath reflection, study, or journal writing. Instead, such practices may be reduced and disrupted almost to the vanishing point. The real journey for parents leads right through the life we are living—through the chaos, the interruptions, and the exhaustion.

This ordinary, unsung path requires tremendous openness to the unanticipated. It meanders around a thousand turns that feel like detours or dead ends. It requires faith that the spirit does not grow in a straight line; nor does it require traditional forms and practices, as helpful as these can be. Real spiritual growth depends on our willingness to be transformed. And very little transforms us as thoroughly as sharing our lives with children.

Excerpted from Bless This Child: A Treasury of Poems, Quotations and Readings to Celebrate Birth, ed. by Edward Searl (Skinner House, 2005). Available from the UUA Bookstore.

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