Reliquary of Righteous St. Alexiy of Moscow. Photo by V.Khodakov / patriarchia.ru My friends have often said jokingly that the fourth child in any family always has a difficult and stubborn personality. Our fourth child, Alyosha, is living proof of that.
He was fussy from the moment he was born, looking around gravely and mistrustfully, as if asking us, “Are you sure that you’re qualified to take care of me?” I considered myself an experienced mom, but the boy quickly destroyed my stereotypes, and I had to raise my fourth child as if starting from scratch, since my tried and tested parenting techniques didn’t work with him. Up until he turned two, every day with him was more challenging than the day before. I was exhausted.
Picking him up from daycare was quite an undertaking. Sometimes he would plunk down into the heaps of dirty leaves and I would have no strength to get him out of there; on another occasion he would refuse to go home, insisting we go somewhere else, and I would have to follow him even though I had to prepare for my lessons and finish cooking the soup. The daycare teacher would frequently be surprised to see us still standing by the doors half an hour after the daycare was closed, because I couldn’t cajole him into going home. Luckily, my elder son was still at home as he was taking evening college classes, so I could ask him for help. I would call him and say, “Kolya, please come and get us.” He would come down, grab his brother under his arm and carry him home as if he were a rolled-up carpet. I trudged behind them, mentally preparing myself for the next challenge.
When Alyosha turned two, we travelled to Russia. A few days before leaving Moscow, I took him to St. Nicholas Church in Klyonniki where righteous Alexei Mechev, Alyosha’s patron saint, used to serve.
His first trip on the subway overwhelmed the boy. The noise was obviously too loud for his taste, so he had been fussing almost all the way and, in the end, even started crying at the top of his lungs. Although he was only two, he was as big as a four-year old, which complicated things, as people expected more appropriate behavior from him. Picking him up to calm him down wasn’t easy—he was stocky and heavy as if he were made of iron.
I managed to get him from the subway station to the church by either pushing him in a stroller or carrying him under my arm. To make things worse, we exited the subway through the wrong exit and lost our way. Finally, I opened the church door and rolled the angrily crying Alyosha in. Dishevelled, with my scarf sliding off my head, I closed the door behind us. The candle-sellers glared at us, and one of them said to me, “Please calm your child down.” Alyosha kept on crying and obviously had no intention of calming down. Riding on a noisy and crowded subway and being surrounded by strange people made him cranky. “I’m sorry,” I replied. “I can’t calm him down. I came here to ask his patron saint, Father Alexei, to help him. And I led Alyosha to the relics.
Alyosha embraced Elder Alexei’s reliquary and quieted down.
When we approached the reliquary, I bowed, and Alyosha followed suit. Then he embraced the reliquary and sat there, relaxed, for about five minutes. The service was already over, so there were no people around, and the boy didn’t want to leave the church. We lit a candle and headed home after a while.
After that day, things started to get better. I could convince him, make him laugh, surprise him or talk him into doing something. He was willing to negotiate, but I had to present rock-solid arguments.
I started taking Alyosha to this church every summer. By chance, our visits always fell on important days for the parish, such as the day of Theodosios of Totma or the day of the Fedorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God. We would come closer to the end of the service and listen to the touching sermons.
Alyosha was almost on his best behavior, lining up to receive the Communion with other children and looking around with interest.
I am eternally thankful to Elder Alexei Mechov for helping my son. Thanks to Fr. Alexei’s prayers, my son has a brighter outlook on the world and doesn’t put me in embarrassing situations as often as before.