Making Lent Meaningful with Babies
Lent, lent, lent. It’ll be here before before you can say nap time, and I don’t want to enter into the season leading up to the the MOST important season in the church year without a plan. (Though in my experience babies can wreak havoc on even the best laid plans.) I’ve thought of a few ways to help you (and me) to have a meaningful and growth filled lent, even when it feels like doing anything extra is near impossible.
Plan for fasting days in advance.
Is it just me or can that cycle of pregnancy and nursing seem never ending? If you are, in fact, pregnant with, or nursing a babe during the lenten season your are exempt from fasting. Of course if you feel like you can without any detrimental effects to le babe/milk supply then cautiously move forward. However, if like me you need to keep those calories coming to provide adequate nutrition for your sweet little, then plan ahead with what other fasting you would like to do instead of a food fast. If I don’t know what extra things I’ll be doing or giving up in advance then guess what… I do nothing, or I kind of do something for part of the day and then something else for the rest of the day.
I like to give up my cell phone and snacking (I am a total grazer) as well as adding in some extra prayer time during nap time and in the morning.
Do a Lenten Devotional.
There are so many wonderful devotionals out there! I really like having something to focus my attitude to the season each day. Carving out quiet time to spend doing a devotional can be a real challenge, but giving God the first fruits of my day is such a game changer for me.
Some really great places to find devotionals are:
I loved participating in the book study that the Abiding Together podcast organized last year on the The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.
Embrace the imperfect.
Our children are our road to holiness. And lent is a time focused on growth, on sanctification, and on uniting ourselves with the suffering of Christ. I know it doesn’t seem big, nothing like martyrdom, but the Lord has seen fit to give you the various crosses that motherhood brings.
Up at all hours with a toddler who is experiencing night terrors? Sitting through a two hour long tea party with a stuffed cat? Acting as a moderator for sibling interactions? These little things, while not necessarily the end all be all of suffering, when all added together with the laundry and potty training can really wear a person down. Lent is a perfect time to take all of these little sufferings and unite them to the cross.
Surprisingly, or not, even though I know how good it is for us to do this I basically never do! The start of a new liturgical season is a perfect time to reframe our minds, to become intentionally aware of our experience as moms, and how we respond to the various things that come our way throughout the day. Maybe getting a set of sacrifice bead (like the ones that St. Therese and her sisters used) and wearing them on your wrist would be a good reminder to offer up all of the hard parts of the day. I really like these ones from Vianney Beads.
Getting the kiddos involved.
It’s never too early to get the kids involved in liturgical living, especially when the church so clearly lays out instructions for our lenten observance: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
PRAYER: Maybe this means lighting purple candles at dinner time, or doing the stations of the cross (at home or at your parish) on Fridays. For advent, before dinner we sang O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and then Joy to the World during the Christmas season, and our two year old LOVED it, I think we will do that same thing for Lent with a simple song for the season.
FASTING: This one is the hardest to include the little ones on, since they aren’t required to fast. This year we are planning to do an activity where when our daughter does a good deed she gets to put a little pebble to put in a jar, and then on Easter the pebbles turn into jelly beans. She won’t fully understand it now, but our goal in this stage is just to lay a foundation, and I think this will be a really fun activity to continue as she gets older.
ALMSGIVING: Since my oldest is two and is able to start participating more intentionally in our family faith life, I am planning to get our food shelf’s list of needed items and have her help me pick out some of those things at the store. She really loves helping when we go grocery shopping so I think this will be a really good and natural way for her to join in.
How do you make lent a time of prayer and growth in your family? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments <3