Proposed Indulgences for Parents

During my conversion, one of the best, most logical teachings I came across was that of Purgatory.  Though I didn’t have the terminology for it at the time, Catholic understanding of the process of final Sanctification explained how God could be both merciful and just.  A merciful God forgives us for all our sins.  A just God doesn’t allow us to continue into eternity with vices and disordered attachments.

So Purgatory, that state of being where we are purged of all those unwholesome habits and longings, made sense.

But the indulgence thing confused me.  Being a nice Protestant girl, the only dealings with indulgences I’d ever had were in high school World History class, where we learned all about the scandal of selling indulgences etc. etc.  That image was further driven home by the local Renaissance Faire, which featured a fat monk wandering around the grounds selling “indulgences” to the fair goers.

I found myself fascinated with the actual practice of indulgences; I think I probably could rattle off three dozen different indulgenced actions just sitting here right now with end-of-the-day brain fry.  The practice is a beautiful, highly misunderstood, and generous gift from God.

However, I think there are some glaring omissions in the Handbook of Indulgencesthat need to be remedied.  Therefore, I humbly submit the following actions be included in the list:

Indulgences for Parents and/or Caretakers of Children*


  • For the event known as “bath night”, partial indulgence.  “Bath Night” must include filling the tub with water and putting in enough soap so that 70% of the dirt on the hands, limbs, torso, and feet will be soaked off.   If hair washing is included, the indulgence is a plenary one.  Even if the child insists that you got soap in his eyes.  Because it’s probably his own fault for not listening to you when you said, “Shut your eyes, so you don’t get soap in them.”



  • For each “where do babies come from?” discussion, partial indulgence.  If the talk is an impromptu one, triggered by questions about feminine hygiene dispensers in public bathrooms, or takes place in any public sphere whatsoever, the indulgence is a plenary one.



  • For every reading of “Goodnight Moon” beyond the 400th one, partial indulgence.


  • For any venture outside of the house that includes all children fully clothed and wearing matching shoes, partial indulgence.  If the clothes and shoes fit and compliment each other, you don’t need any more indulgences, you’re already a saint in heaven.


  • For any appointment with any member of the medical profession where children are present, partial indulgence- even if the child is not the patient.  If the appointment involves the use of any sharp objects whatsoever, the indulgence is plenary.  Unless the child is the one using the sharp object.


  • For attendance at any religious observation, partial indulgence.  If attendance occurs without the use of Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, hand-held video games, toys that make sound, or parental promises of severe and lasting pain if behavior is not acceptable, then the indulgence is plenary.  If you pray for death more than twice during the service, all meritorious effects are invalidated.

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Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • Have I ever told you about my “Miracle Submission Form”?  Girl, we are THINKERS is what we are!

  • Lisa S


  • Grasea

    Never not brilliant!!!!!

  • Sarah @ Amongst Lovely Things

    Awesome. Perhaps my favorite of your writing yet. Absolutely hilarious!

  • Maryhaseltine

    I love it!  I mean, praying the Stations of the Cross is a very welcome piece of cake to the mortification of some of these 🙂  

  • Colleen

    As funny as this is, it’s got to at least be partially true for all the crap we endure.  My problem is remembering to offer it up instead of just cursing under my breath 🙂

  • Colleen

    As funny as this is, it’s got to at least be partially true for all the crap we endure.  My problem is remembering to offer it up instead of just cursing under my breath 🙂


  • You are hysterical 🙂  And so spot-on!!  I just read the whole list aloud to my spouse – but I’m pretty sure we always exempt ourselves from our indulgences…

  • steph

    I loved this!!! God is obviously giving me all kinds of ways to skip P town and go straight upstairs! 

  • AJ

    Does eating meat on Friday during lent get you 5000 or 10,000 years in Purgatory?  

  • evelyn Walton

    Loved this!  Those were the days!

  • Hah!  Even the beer drinking while shopping?  I’m so jealous.  You’re my hero!

  • bobbi rol

    Can I hear an “Amen!”?

  • Nickkoeppel

    Thank you! You are very funny and parenting sounds difficult! 🙂

  • Pearline

    Raising 4 kids two years apart, with no. 4 coming only 1 yr after no. 3, then a 5th child coming 12 years after no. 4, with the three girls bookended by 2 boys, I can appreciate all these indulgences and should probably have a truck load of them! God is good and his plans, as well as his grace for us to cooperate with them, are just beyond our capacity to fully appreciate! Blessed be God!!

  • Oh gosh.  Yes, as self-appointed expert in the new list of indulgences, I decree that you have yourself a truck load of them!

  • Luckily, children are spectacularly resilient, and they tolerate fumbling, fledgling attempts at parenting!

  • I know.  I think I’ll print this, laminate it, and attach it to each of my kids’ shirts, so I have a constant reminder.