It was a quiet evening. The baby was in her johnny-jump-up hanging in the doorway. The almost 3 year old was playing peacefully for the first time all day. The two year old and I were in the living room having a quiet snuggle. And then everything changed. Our eldest came charging through the apartment, her body out of control, her impulses clearly leading the way, and there was no time to intervene. It happened in a flash. As she ran by the johnny-jump-up she grabbed its strapped and took it with her, and, in a moment forever burned in my mind, flipped the baby completely over and onto the hardwood
The baby was screaming. The toddler was upset that his snuggles were over. The 3 year old was a wreck of guilt and anxiety over what she had done. And I was sobbing on the floor cradling them all on my lap crying out to Momma Mary for help.
There are moments that we are overwhelmed by parenting children with special needs. Many of them. Parenting a child with ADHD, anxiety, and undiagnosed sensory issues has stretched me and pushed me further than I thought possible, and while I’d love to say that the incident above is the only time I’ve felt wildly over my head through the years, it wouldn’t be true. But through every single one of those moments, Mary has been by my side, offering me her love, her strength, and her prayers.
Mary the Mother of All Children
When I was 20 years old I made my consecration to Mary. I knew in the moment that it was the best decision I had ever made, but I had no idea the extent to which it would reverberate through my entire life, and the entirety of my own motherhood. When I feel like I’m not enough, when I don’t know how to help my own child, when I can’t stop her pain or keep her from her anxiety, I cry out to her other mother and mine for help, and I always receive it.
Mary, the Mother of All Children; it’s one of my favorite titles for her because it reminds me she loves my daughter, with all her gifts, with all her struggles, with all of the million different ways that she lights up the world. As a mother, I take great comfort in this fact.
Helping my children get to know Mary, and helping them form their own relationships with her, is one of the biggest goals I have in raising them. Children of all ages, especially those with special needs or struggles, feel drawn to Mary quite naturally, because she’s a mother. There is a simplicity to that relationship that they understand instinctively. We all want our mom when we are sick, scared, hurt, or vulnerable. Mary’s quiet strength, her constant, loving presence, is something that we can all take solace in.
Knowing that there are struggles and hurts that I cannot save her from or even help her with, it was important to me that my daughter know that she has another mother who will be by her side along with me. When I wrote my first book, Marian Consecration for Families with Young Children, I did it for her, as a way to introduce her to Mary in a deeper way and also to a yearly tradition that I hold dear- the process of renewing my consecration. As I prayed and wrote though, God put another mission on my heart: to help other families introduce their children to His Mother. Written with the deepest respect for both parents and children, the format of the book contains 3 parts: a simple reflection on Our Lady,
conversation starters to spark discussion, and a notes for parents section that has tips and hints and some of my own experiences. Its short format is meant to be attainable, even in the craziest of times while also still helping your family and mine grow together in faith.
Initially this book was written with young children in mind, but it would also work for families with children in multiple age groups as well as those with children who have developmental delays but who still want to begin a family devotion to Our Lady.
Devotions: Most Needed When They Feel Out of Reach
One of the things I’ve realized as parent, is that our family’s devotions are most needed at exactly those moments in our family life when they feel most out of reach. When I feel stretched to my breaking point, when I’m absolutely torn down and exhausted and don’t think I have two brain cells to rub together, these are the moments I’m tempted to jettison everything that doesn’t seem urgent or emergent from our schedule, and often that can include prayer time- both my own and family prayers. But these are the moments when I need to lean in deeper to them, to the best of my ability. That last phrase, the caveat “to the best of my ability” has been a revelation to me and a game changer.
Sometimes, “to the best of my ability” means we have elaborate feast day celebrations and read stories of the saints and cook special meals. Sometimes, “to the best of my ability” means I cling to the bare minimums I’ve established for our family, and that is enough. Establishing our baseline, our bare minimum, has been important in maintaining our domestic church through the roughest times. Our family’s devotion to Our Lady is one of those bare minimums.
A family devotion can seem out of reach when you’re in the thick of it, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as a 12pm alarm on your phone and stopping with whichever members of your brood are there to say an Angelus or even just a Hail Mary. It can mean that you hang some extra images of Mary around your house to prompt you to stop and ask her to be with you in the little moments (there’s something about seeing her face that soothes me- I find the more she is present to my eyes, the easier it is to keep her present in my heart). It can mean reading to your children something simple and quick about our Lady and remembering to ask for her intercession at bedtime.
Anything that you can do to invite Our Lady into your family life and the lives of your children will bear fruit. She never hesitates to stoop to love and care for her children- both kids and parents alike.
Colleen Pressprich is the author of Consecration for Families with Young Children. You can read more about her book and her other writing at Elevator to Heaven.