Single-serving sacrifice

“You drink too much coffee and beer!” shouted my princess at me the day before Ash Wednesday. “Yeah!” seconded my second child. We were discussing what to give up for Lent, and how for the sacrifice to mean anything, it had to be worth something to us.
She was right, in a way. If the kids noticed, whatever it was was probably was a bit much. Not that anything I do escapes notice, especially when the recycling bin fills up. So I tried to use the moment.
Great, I thought, a chance to set an example as both a dad and a Catholic. The opportunity to lead on something simple and make a statement about discipline and faith. And I could reduce the strain on my belt at the same time. Everyone would win!
So I gave up coffee. Cold turkey.
The first couple of days were the worst. I had to really kick myself out of the first-thing-in-the-morning habit, something the sleek, shiny single-cup machine we bought was specifically intended to make easier. I think the thing guessed what I was up to. Every morning for the last six weeks it just sat there and taunted me, like a cyclopish robot from a stupid ’50s sci-fi movie suckering the dopey earthling into believing he came in peace.


And of course, the things that I asked be given up in return were conveniently forgotten. Or, as I was often told when I caught someone, I just remembered it wrong — it was the OTHER thing they were giving up, not THIS thing they had NOW… And so it’s gone. But I don’t really blame them. It is a confusing season, with a lot of pressure. Most kids are probably encouraged to give up junk food and candy, but since Lent ends right before the holiday that’s basically candy runner-up to Halloween, I can see knuckling under the pressure. And everyone sells Easter candy. It’s just not fair!
Really, I think they just like to snow me.
With my own sacrifice, I was able to console myself (knowing it temporary) with tea, something I learned to appreciate a couple of years ago during a trip to Ireland, in places like here and here.
But I was so interested in setting a good example that I overlooked an important point. It wasn’t just about the spiritual meaning of it, or my own silly laments — I am hardly so dim as to seriously justify the bump in my morning routine as proof of understanding the sacrifice of Jesus — but about the missed opportunity.
My attempt at parental leadership needed stronger purpose. I should not only have made the kids sacrifice something, but reinforced the point by giving them the proper support and guidance throughout the season. Without teaching them about discipline, I just set the whole thing up for failure and wasted everyone’s time.
I also learned that I have to go find an open coffee shop this morning. In focusing so hard on my own discipline, I failed to notice that we ran out of servings for the coffee machine. I can hear the creepy robot laughing at me now.


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