We Are Part of a Community

A scene from "Friday Night Lights."
A scene from “Friday Night Lights.”

I know we are several years behind, but this year Brandon and I finally got hooked on “Friday Night Lights.” What won me over was the complexity of the characters and the vulnerability they all show. I’ve worked with teens for a long time but seeing this show helped crystalize what I believe is the biggest problem with teens. Teens don’t ask for help even if they really need it, and when they do ask for help, they don’t know who to ask.

Now I admit that we are not the most put-together family in the world. We took ourselves from undisciplined, procrastinating college students to a family with three young daughters pretty quickly, so the learning curve of being a responsible parent has been steep. Pretty frequently we feel like we’re in over our heads. We have learned to survive the day-to-day pretty well but as we approach the holiday season, we can sometimes feel like we’re drowning with all the extra obligations and events.

Of course we love our family, and our journey to this point in life. We find a lot of joy in it. But on one particular day when I was feeling weary and would have given just about anything for an extra hour of sleep, I had to take Olivia to the pediatrician for a checkup. Again, she reminded me that Olivia needed a speech therapist. I had been stalling in doing this. I felt I was perfectly capable of teaching my daughter how to speak, thankyouverymuch. But on this day I was tired and gave in and made an appointment for an evaluation.

As I sat in on the evaluation with the speech therapist, I realized that they were doing things that would also benefit our middle child, Catalina. Catalina may be more articulate than Olivia when she speaks but she is horrible at eating. She would stuff her mouth so full that she would start gagging and then she would pour milk in her full mouth to make it easier to swallow. Eating was so stressful. We had been trying to teach her how to eat correctly for months but she just ignored us and kept choking at most meals.

I immediately told the therapist about Catalina and her feeding issues, and she recommended occupational therapy. This was such a moment of realization. This whole time I was taking it upon myself to teach my one daughter to articulate better and my other daughter how to eat better when I have absolutely no skill in either. It was such a moment of relief. I could depend on someone else to share this load. I had tried everything I could. But now I didn’t have to be everything to my daughters. I could let others help.

It was then that I realized that I was making the same mistake as the teens on “Friday Night Lights.” I was wading around trying to keep from drowning when all I needed was to ask the right person for help. It took some looking and some researching, but I found it.

Especially during Advent, it is important to remember that we were not made to be everything ourselves. We’re sinners in need of Jesus. We are not whole without God and without one another. Even when God became man, he depended on Mary and Joseph, and they depended on the innkeeper. We are part of a community. Whether it be an online community, parish community, or any kind of community, let us remember there are people to help keep us afloat when we need it.