Mary Catherine Costanza turns 12 today! A few words came to mind when I asked her siblings what best describes her. LOUD. CRAZY. EXCITING. Can any of you relate to a kid like this?
God teaches me through my kids. At times, I have this idea that my own resources and strength are enough. In those times, Mary Catherine shows up on the scene to teach me once again I don’t have the capacity to love well in certain areas and at certain times. She humbles me, and makes me question my authority. and sanity. and patience. Usually these challenges happen to parents when kids hit their tweens but for me it happened a lot earlier. And since I taught school for a while with several years in special education, I naively thought if anyone was up for a parental challenge, it was me.
And then there was Mary Catherine. She was a puzzle. All my attempts in forming her with behavior charts, and reward systems and consequences seemed to do little, if anything. I sought advice from my Mom and sisters, and books, yet nothing stuck. We called her “hornet” as a baby and then “firecracker” as a toddler, and tried to avoid a few “train wrecks” as a preschooler, in elementary school “loudy” and now we call her “magnet” because wherever she is there are kids following.
And I hate to say that I repeatedly realized in her early years that I would fail at homeschooling her. I struggled just to parent her well. And no amount of cajoling, bribing or punishing will get her do something. My first two kids made me look like a teacher who actually knew what she was doing. But Mary Catherine was unique. She certainly would flourish in an environment outside the home, with the whole school setting to explore and navigate. And a new set of adults for her to challenge and they would help recalibrate her ideas that there are no boundaries too high and rules are just suggestions. Yes, this would make for a good amount of learning. And we both got the needed “break”. This was the best environment for her to flourish in. And she does love, Love, LOVE school, thank the Lord.
Not to give ya the wrong idea about her! She is a ton of tingles and full of creativity! All her siblings see her as the “go to girl” to play a game with or seek the next fearless adventure with or be partners in crime with. And she is a thrill a moment, determined, impulsive and nervy, she leaves me wondering what sort of gutsy scheme is up her sleeve. And that is fun, fun, fun when you’re her friend, but her parent, not so much. She is fearless despite frequent injury. On her bucket list is skydiving, surfing, rock climbing and sneaking out late at night to sleep in this abandoned house up the street.
Unbeknownst to me when just seven-years-old! she climbed out the second story window, clinging to tied bed sheets in the dark, to toilet paper the neighbor’s house. And she thought it was AWESOME! For Saturday morning chores she prefers to clean out the garage and make a trip to the dump, power wash the driveway or clean the gutters on a high ladder. “Folding laundry or washing dishes is so boring!” she exclaims. And last fall while I was shopping in the lingerie department, she put a 34 DD bright pink bra on Lillianna, our two-year-old, and paraded her around the second floor of Nordstrom. I cringed, hiding in a dressing room, pretending not to know her. Needless to say, I pray to her guardian angel regularly. And this enthusiastic, energetic, opportunist part of her is really good, sometimes a challenge, but good. And I can’t help but wonder what valiant Saint she most resembles, cause I will be doing a novena or two to them in the near future.
And shy, insubordinate Mary Catherine has the gift of a leader. Instead of wielding a sword in her hands, it is a bag of candy, or a bowl of water balloons, or a tub of DVD’s, or a box of fireworks, as she leads the charge with her small brave army of siblings following her fearlessly to their next adventure. She remains at the center of their hearts and the center of action and there is no doubt when she is in the home. I have grown to love and enjoy her gifts more each year. And I can see the incredible life she brings to all her 6 younger siblings, and how she fits right in with the high school conversations she has with her older sisters.
Tom and I are incredibly blessed and grateful to our heavenly Father with this sweet, generous, fun-loving daughter of ours. And we look forward to many more adventures with her. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mary Catherine!