I’m a practicing Catholic. I attend church regularly. I pray daily. But, my kids and I give up nothing for Lent.
For as far back as I can remember, the Easter season has held a special place in my heart. Even during times when my faith may have wavered, I’ve always looked forward to the goodness that the Lenten season brings – warmer weather, the feeling of a fresh start, and time to reflect and heal.
Now, as a parent, I love sharing this excitement and special time with my two boys. Although my boys are still a tad too young to fully understand everything the Easter celebration entails, we still enjoy prepping Easter baskets, sharing stories about why Easter really matters to us and our faith, and how we can grow in those beliefs year after year.
Growing up, I attended Catholic school for all of my younger years. And I loved it! I looked forward to celebrating holidays with my schoolmates, especially Easter. We did all the things kids like to do to get ready for the spring holiday—craft bunny-themed art, dye eggs and fill them with confetti (cascarones, anyone?!), and decorate baskets with the hopes of seeing them filled with chocolate eggs and brightly-colored Peeps. It was always colorful and always fun.
There was just one little thing about Easter I didn’t love, though—giving up something for 40 whole days leading up to it. As a kid, 40 days might as well be 100 days. And I could never wrap my little head around why I had to give up my favorite chocolate chip cookies or book series (Nancy Drew, anyone?) to show my commitment to my faith. It just didn’t add up for me. But I was a rule-following kid, and each year leading up to Easer, I bit my tongue and wrote down what I would give up as a small sacrifice to show my commitment to my young faith.
For years—decades really—I followed this tradition, most times not even thinking about the implications of these pseudo-sacrifices I was making. Until one year, everything changed. And of course, this change was prompted by the innocence of my own child. They always speak the truth—for better or worse—and this truth was a welcomed insight.
While prepping for Easter as a young mom, my son asked me why I was sealing up and putting away my favorite dark chocolate snacks. I responded simply “Because for Lent, we give something up.” He stared at me, confused but curious, then responded, “Why do you give things up that you like? Why can’t you just share with others?” And, he was right. Why not share, or give to others, instead of giving up something silly like a favorite snack.
What I had always wondered as a kid, but was too scared to ask myself, was now answered by my very own kind and curious kiddo. It was enlightening. And, it’s something we have turned into a family tradition of sorts. Now, each Lenten season, we pick something to do, something to give, or something to share, and we focus on bringing joy to others.
We still attend church regularly, pray daily, and honor the Lenten season. But, my kids and I give up nothing for Lent. Instead, we give back—from donations, to coat drives, to just driving a warm meal over to a loved one—we try our best to lean into kindness. Thanks to the wisdom of my firstborn, we now use this special season to focus more on helping and less on receiving. And for that life lesson, I am immensely grateful.