Reflections on Childhood Innocence from the Hospital

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Mark 10:15

I hate to admit it, but I’m enjoying my time in the hospital with Fulton. His feeding tube surgery went off without a hitch, and he’s recovering nicely with no complaints of pain or need for breathing support. Fulton is content to play on his iPad, watch TV and play with whatever cars and trucks the Child Life Specialist can find for him.  The hospital has free wi-fi and great cafeteria food so I’m surfing the internet without feeling guilty, eating all the sushi I can handle and finally finishing up ‘Crime and Punishment.’

I almost feel foolish for doubting that things could have turned out any differently. But I suppose that is the lot of mothers, to worry and make mountains.  It is during these times that I do better to look toward my older children and take my cues from them.

I’d often heard the expression that God wants us to have the innocence of children and a simple trusting faith. But for the life of me, I could never figure out what that meant. Was I to sing praise songs, clap and eat Cheerios during Mass? It seemed to me that the ideal faith was a “mature” endeavor, led by long hours of prayer and meditation, self-mortification capped by the study and memorization of Church Doctrine and so forth. Nothing childish there.

It was not until I experienced tragedy in my life, and watched as my prayers seemed to go unanswered and my ability to offer up my sufferings was sapped by self-pity. All my adult insight went into dissecting my problems, keeping my mind too busy to think of God and I complained bitterly to anyone and everyone while silently scoffing at those who tried to offer hope for a better outcome than what I “knew” to be the truth.

But my children were also going through our family’s trials too and when I finally slowed down enough to watch them, I learned that while their minds can be consumed with selfishness (Why is mama too busy to play with me? Why does Fulton get all the attention?) they more often than not exhibited an unfailing hope and joy, despite any announcement from my husband or I. While we suffered greatly at the discovery of my pregnancy with Teddy, they rejoiced a  new baby. As my body gave out during the final months gestation requiring Teddy’s arrival 6 weeks early and long NICU stay, they never stopped believing in my full recovery or Teddy’s. Even when we had to tell them through red eyes that Teddy would be like Fulton and never walk they rejoiced in the thought at two wheelchairs crashing through the house and all the fun the two younger ones would have together. In their eyes, there was nothing wrong with Fulton and our announcement didn’t signify that there was anything wrong with Teddy. My husband and I prayed for so many miracles, touched our sons to so many relics, oils and blessed water. We lamented when our cries seemingly went unheard but our children didn’t question God’s plan for our family.

Yes, maybe it’s naivety and innocence that is protecting them. As they mature, perhaps they will come to understand our heartache, the worries that keep us up at night and the hardness of our hearts that is long in softening. They will eventually wake up to the harsh realty of life.

Why does God ask us to imitate the faith of children? Now that I am an adult I see how hard it is to maintain that trust and hope in God’s divine providence. I would rather sit with my dusty prayer-book alone and read than have to joyfully accept my cross without question. It is harder for me to assume the best outcome, to keep hope that miracles (medical or divine) do happen, it is harder for me with all my “valuable life experience” to blindly accept that God always knows what’s best. And yet, that is my children. That is most children. Untainted by cynicism, unburdened by despair, my children want to see the silver lining and can find it in the most troubling of circumstances. They refuse to give up hope and will hold onto it long after I believe all is lost and that I have been forsaken.

I have been learning to look to my children for the example of how I should be. While my example is supposed to lay the groundwork for their future spiritual well-being, their example is leading me back to a simpler faith I thought I needed to move past.   They believe without question, without reserve, without hesitation.

“Our Lord’s love makes itself seen quite as much in the simplest of souls as in the most highly gifted, as long as there is no resistance offered to his grace.” Story of a Soul, St. Theresa of Lisieux

I’m trying to break down my resistance to His grace; the barriers of anger, despair and pride that I’ve allowed myself to construct. My children are my motivation to do better and my blueprint to follow.

Fulton will come out of the hospital in short order with a new tube and life will resume as normal, but hopefully with an attitude adjustment on my part. Thanks to everyone who’s been praying for Fulton and our family. I should know better than to doubt God’s ability to answer prayers when I see how He brings our family through everything.

Last night as Tony was saying prayers with Fulton bedside,  my husband asked Fulton if they should say a prayer for the baby sharing Fulton’s room. Fulton agreed, and after saying an extra Hail Mary, he asked if the baby was feeling better. As if on cue, the baby gave a little cry to which Fulton exclaimed, “We’d better say another one.”  From the mouth of babes indeed.

 

14 Comments

Filed under Catholic, SMA

14 Responses to Reflections on Childhood Innocence from the Hospital

  1. Beautiful reflection! Our vocation is meant to sanctify us, and it appears your children are doing just that!

  2. Ok, I have to read this later after I compose myself…I only got as far as trust the wisdom of the older children!! *sniff* So so so true!! I’ll comment again shortly xx

  3. “It seemed to me that the ideal faith was a “mature” endeavor, led by long hours of prayer and meditation, self-mortification capped by the study and memorization of Church Doctrine and so forth. Nothing childish there.”

    It’s both/and. Childlike simplicity and resignation to the will of God coupled with a mature growth of the intellect and practice of virtue.

    A profound and inspiring post all around.

  4. Anna

    simply beautiful Kelly…

  5. Sarah Johnson

    I know those walls of CHOP well, Kelly. You just brought me back to that holy place where my son Augustine’s life was saved.

    My heart reaches out to yours & I’ll be praying for you. Please pray for me.

  6. rett

    i agree with Anna … “SIMPLY beautiful” … beautiful revelation.

  7. Stephanie

    Kelly – your post here was so humbling and beautiful. I appreciate your written reflections because they give me a deeper insight into what you are experiencing. Thank you for sharing. We’ll keep you guys in our prayers. Stephanie

  8. Anna P

    Beautiful Kelly!

  9. Sue Kresge

    Thank you, Kelly, for a beautifully honest and insightful post.

  10. Ok, I’ve composed myself now. I’ve shared this on FB . The reason I couldn’t get past your first paragraph is because it was only reading that, that I realised the exact same thing in my own older children when Louise was at her worst and when I was expecting her, so many many tears I’d have been spared if I’d had their positivity . I spent the pregnancy mourning my past life never realising that this was the best thing that has ever happened us…worry, tears and all. The thing is, I’m guessing I’ll fall into the same trap next time we’re facing her surgery but may e this post will stay in my mind and I’ll remember to take more cues from the big girls. Thank you thank you thank you!! Praying always for sweet Fulton xx

    • kmantoan

      While talking to my husband about this post he admitted that the only thing that got him through the tough times after our youngest son’s birth and subsequent diagnosis was the positive attitude of our children. As parents you want to be so happy at the birth of a child, but facing with another SMA diagnosis was just more than he and I could handle. All we could imagine was the years of therapy, appointments, the milestones we wouldn’t see him hit, reliving everything that was so hard about Fulton’s lack of progression. But the kids were so happy with their new brother and helped us see all the good in him and not always think “well, he’s doing this now but he won’t be for long.” I only hope we can help them maintain that childlike attitude as they get older. Thanks for all your prayers Jennifer!! I continue to pray for you all as well. Such a wonderful thing, the internet, to bring moms together like this. :)

  11. Pingback: This ain’t the Lyceum : Conversion Diary

  12. Thanks for this post — I hopped over from Conversion Diary. We are currently waiting for a daughter (through adoption) who has some specific and some unknown special needs. My 10-year-old son is leading the way for our family: he wrote her a letter saying she has certain things wrong with her body, “but she will heal.” He was so matter-of-fact and chipper about it — and some things won’t actually heal — but she will be in a family who loves her, she will be introduced to Christ, and we will probably *all* be healed in many ways as a result of her joining our family.
    Nancy

    • kmantoan

      I’m actually trying to flesh out a post on how special needs children benefit their families because, despite all the challenges of raising them, kids like Fulton and your soon to be daughter bring profound graces into their families lives. Sounds like you’ve got the right idea though. I’ll pray for your daughter Nancy.

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