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Life with Liz: Sacrifices for Lent

Published March 09. 2019 07:05AM

A made a comment the other day about how we are already three months into 2019 and he can’t believe that time is going so fast.

Kid, you have no idea about how time flies, and if you think this is fast, just wait until you’re 40. His comments were brought on by the winding down of our winter sports activities and Ash Wednesday. Since those two things don’t always line up the way they did this year, I guess it really drove home the point that spring is just around the corner, even if there is currently a foot of snow on the ground.

When my kids were going to Catholic school, they were much more aware of Lent and considerate of making a Lenten sacrifice. It was easy to remember to follow the “no meat on Friday” rule, because the whole school was trying to follow it. Having not grown up in the Catholic tradition, I always found myself calling out for a pizza on Ash Wednesday and putting whatever meaty dish I’d thrown in the slow cooker back in the fridge for Thursday. Now I think my kids look forward to Lent because they know that every Friday will be pizza night.

My kids are still pretty invested in making a sacrifice of some sort for the Lenten season. E’s pattern is to give something up, toe the line for a few days, forget what she gave up, eat it or do whatever she gave up, and then repeat the cycle for a new sacrifice. G has followed the tried and true method of giving up something he isn’t so attached to to begin with, like his homework, or eating vegetables, or putting his dirty clothes in the hamper. Obviously, he doesn’t get very far with that plan, but pretends that doing it under duress is the real sacrifice.

A is usually the most successful with following through, however, he manages by giving up one very specific item. Instead of giving up candy or sweets in general, he will give up his favorite candy, and pretty much the only one he ever eats, and for 40 days, will force himself to eat other kinds of candy, if he has to eat candy at all. It’s a twisted kind of logic, but since he usually makes the 40 days without eating his favorite, I think we can all agree to give him credit.

Over the years, I’ve successfully given up chocolate, dessert and biting my fingernails. I’ve had a lot less success giving up some other things, namely Facebook and cursing. I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, behaviors, rather than specific foods, drinks or other indulgences, are the hardest things for me change, and probably the things that need the most changing! At my age, and with my metabolism, sugar and fat are already something I watch and try to cut back on 365 days a year, so I consider myself mostly having given them up as much as is practical already. I’m not crazy enough to cut out my daily tea, because me without caffeine would be a penance the rest of the world would have to bear.

So I end up trying to give up a bad behavior, or if I really want to be more challenged, adopt a new, more positive one. A few years ago, I forced myself to get a half-hour of physical activity every single day. Granted, I cheated a little by doing an hour on some days to make up for skips, but I felt that I was mostly successful. Last year, I jumped on the 40 bags in 40 days challenge, where you try to purge your household of extra stuff and donate it or repurpose it. Again, I found myself filling up five or six bags on a weekend, or maybe using a small bag one day versus and an industrial-sized garbage bag the next. It was also a necessary first step to begin preparing for our move. To be honest, that challenge from last year is still going strong, and at this point, I’m probably closer to 400 bags than 40, but downsizing and simplifying is a long process.

As we sat around the table on Fat Tuesday, stuffing ourselves with an array of junk food, (the WH assumed I would forget that it was almost Lent, and made his own junk food run, but my three little helpers dutifully reminded me that it was Donut Day, so we made the same run, and ended up with doubles, and later, a bad case of picnic stomach) the conversation turned to what we were all giving up.

The WH always (successfully!) gives up all sorts of sweets and desserts. G was leaning toward soda, which, the one cup of it or so that he’s allowed every two to three weeks will really constitute a sacrifice on his part. E decided to give up sweets, but promptly woke up the next morning and finished off some of the leftover junk that I didn’t have time to throw in the freezer to thaw out for Easter. So she’s starting her first do-over already.

A and I were left to face off. Since we were both at a loss, I suggested that we might consider doing something together. And, of course, being the preteen that he is, he promptly rolled his eyes. Which gave me the brilliant idea that maybe he could give up the eye-rolling and huffing and puffing that seems to go along with every conversation we have these days, and maybe I could get off his back a little and not nag him so much about every little thing. As I watched him fight to keep his eyes from rolling and hold his breath to keep from puffing it out at me, I thought we might be on to something. So, I quickly bit my tongue and changed the subject. Can we make the next 40 days putting aside the aggravated mom and perpetually annoyed preteen attitudes that we have? I sure hope we can, because otherwise, who knows what sacrifices the next six years are going bring?

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.

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