Lenten sacrifice not easy concept for child to grasp


This is the first year we asked our son, Declan, to observe Lent, and it has been quite the roller coaster — and we haven't even hit March.

Six-year-olds have a bit of an all-or-nothing take on things in life. When you add to that a boy who enjoys structure and rule-following like my son does, introducing the guidelines of Lenten observance took some explaining.

Like the concept of sacrifice. Let me try to give the very briefest explanation for those people unfamiliar with the practices of Lent. For 40 days (excluding Sundays), Christians around the world focus on the tenets of prayer and sacrifice. While prayer is not a foreign concept to Declan, sacrifice is something that required a little guidance, especially after my off-putting attempt during last year's Lenten season to purge all sugar from my diet.

That's right, with the exception of those naturally occurring kinds found in fruits and vegetables, I was on a full-tilt no-sugar stretch. I didn't think anyone could have been happier than me when Easter Sunday rolled around and my ban was lifted ... but I was mistaken.

Here I am a full year later and my son still hauntingly thinks of Lent as "that time mom tried living without sugar" in a house with two children under the age of 5. Not my finest moment; and not the best example of better living through sacrifice.

After convincing him that giving up something for Lent didn't have to be quite so extreme, we waded through the ensuing list of Declan's "suggestions," such as not cleaning his room for 40 days, or my personal favorite — watermelon.

When pressed on why watermelon — something he hasn't even eaten in months — was a reasonable offering, Declan argued that "I do have it occasionally and some of those times I liked it." At which point I informed him that giving up good foods such as fruits and vegetables was not an option (see "Lenten Sacrifice 2015 Fail").

He then offered to give up chocolate ice cream — a very noble declaration, since he absolutely loves ice cream.

To some, it may seem easy giving up ice cream in February, but you, my friend, have not met my temperature-oblivious son. This is the kid who, on a below-freezing day, breezes into the kitchen in a short-sleeve shirt, shorts and no socks asking for a cold dish of ice cream. The kid is a furnace.

Everything was set ... or so I thought.

Cut to the night before Ash Wednesday when, in a complete reversal, Declan announced he no longer wanted to give up chocolate ice cream.

With moments on the clock before his Mardi Gras bedtime deadline, my son declared he will spend the next 40 days abstaining from M&M's and the movie "Inside Out" —– in a surprise and completely unveiled shot at his sister who was, at the time, enjoying her post-dinner M&M's and flipping though her "Inside Out" activity book.

Now, every time Mara pops a candy-coated chocolate treat in her mouth or begs for Friday movie night to be her favorite Pixar flick, I'll have her brother's sacrifice with which to contend.

Looks like I'm giving up a peaceful household until Easter.

Molly Cavanaugh of Omaha's Channel 94.1 FM's Big Party Show is a mom to two children living in Chicago. She writes weekly for momaha.com.

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