Here, we have the conclusion of last Wednesday’s story. We left off the family wondering how to celebrate Mama Mary’s birthday. The boys had decided to buy groceries for the poor and distribute them the next morning.
There was a millipede of a chance of leaving by 8:30. Three boys under the age of eight, father off to work, stay-at-home-mom trying to organize an outing in the morning. But she kept on saying “Gentlemen, we have a lot to do today, and the first thing we’ve got to do is drop off the present off at the food pantry at the Church. Can we set our eyes to do that, first?”
“Are we going to get cake?” the youngest asked.
Mom gave me a look. I smiled, finishing my oatmeal.
After the kids dropped off the food, they were plopped into their bucket seats in the minivan. Mom coughed dramatically, causing a moratorium on poking and pulling (for the duration of mommy’s speech).
“Joshua! Stop it!”
Joshua replied, “Yes, mama?”
Mom smiled, her dimples showing. She said, “Mommy and Daddy very much appreciated you giving a present to Mama Mary’s children on her birthday. And we are so proud of our boys. We wanted to show you that we saw and appreciate your generosity. So you know what? Make sure that you’re buckled in, because we’re going to spend the day at the Mall of America.”
No. Mom is not taking her three sons and I shopping at Neiman Marcus and then get some Caribou Coffee afterwards. At the heart of the Mall is the Nickelodeon Theme Park, featuring the Ninja Turtles and Dora and Diego.
The boys screamed in joy.
In talking to many parents, I get the impression that it is simply easier to discipline and discipline some more. Joshua, do this. Joshua, do that. Joshua, go to your room. Joshua, you’re doing this wrong. No wonder so many people—Catholics or otherwise—see God as an oppressive, draconian entity. Our first authority figures are always telling us little children that we’re wrong at everything.
Yet, what I learned here is that it is so much more fulfilling and inspiring to reward virtue. Everyone wins. Relationships are deepened in the best possible way, and formative, core memories are created.
Yet Mama Mary wasn’t to be outdone. While on their way to a snack, we noticed an elementary schooler and her mother. The mother waved us down as the little girl walked towards Joshua.
The mother asked, “Will your little troop be here for a while?”
Joshua’s mother replied, “Till midafternoon, yes.”
She responded. “Oh, that’s great. My daughter won about twenty points of tickets at school and we can’t spend them all. Can you use them?”
“Twenty point for rides?” she responded.
Joshua’s mother and I glanced at each other. I crouched down to Joshua, “So kiddo, what do we say?”
“I’m really happy,” he responded, hopping on his toes.
“Yes, that’s one thing you say,” I said, noticing the girl. “What do you say to her?”
He did the chivalrous thing and thanked her. After a few pleasantries, the mothers thanked each other and departed company.
Joshua’s mother and I exchanged a laugh. She said, “Mama Mary, man.”
I agreed, saying, “Won’t be outdone.”
She mused, looking at the tickets, “You know, the canned goods? Same price as these tickets.”
“So,” I smiled, “the Blessed Mother effectively exchanged the cans for tickets to an amusement park?”
Mom shrugged, “Who doesn’t like the sound of laughing children?”
“Happy Birthday, Mama Mary.”