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seasons MAGAZINE FOR PARENTS OF ADOLESCENTS • Volume 1A

OF FAMILY AND FAITH

Challenge and Opportunity Togetherness and Autonomy Sorrow and Hope Joy and Celebration


WELCOMING the Person Your Child Is Becoming By Mar ia Mondragón

W

hen I was a child, I was called a tomboy. All my free time was spent outside playing sports, climbing trees, and digging holes. It wasn’t what was expected of girls back then, but it was beginning to be accepted. Not only did my parents accept this aspect of my character, they genuinely delighted in it. When I started playing tetherball at school, my dad filled an old tire with cement and stuck a tetherball pole in it. My siblings and I spent hours in the tree house my dad built in the mulberry out back. It had a door in the floor and an open roof and a guardrail. When I began a six-year softball career at age eight and wanted to be a pitcher, my dad built a practice screen for me. And when I took up gymnastics, my dad took an adult class and challenged me to cartwheel contests (which he happily lost). In high school I stopped playing sports and joined the drill team. My parents may have been disappointed, thinking I was squandering my gifts. But they never seemed disappointed. They attended and cheered at every performance. When I became a parent, I fully expected to carry on what a close friend calls this “holy tradition” of delighting in my children’s gifts—the questions they pose, the passions they develop, their natural intensity or remarkable inner calm. I’ve drawn from my parents’ example. So far, so good. But as we wade into the waters of independence with my preteen, the conflict is beginning to swirl, and I’m confronted with questions like these: What will I do when my children’s gifts aren’t being used to the fullest? When the talents I see and the things my children care about don’t align? When their interests seem unduly influenced by their friends? How will I manage to respect my children’s individuality when they see themselves differently than I do?

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Season of Togetherness and Autonomy

Here’s what I hope: • I hope I will take a good look at myself to see whether my disappointment or difficulty has to do with my own ego, fears of not measuring up, or need to control. I hope I will resolve these feelings and not impose them on my children. • I hope I will help my children discern and act on their deepest desires, identify their motivations, and anticipate the consequences of their decisions. • I hope I will recognize as a gift the people they are right now, in the moment—not the people I know they have the potential to be, the people the world expects them to be, or the people I imagine them to be. • I hope I will hold sacred this relationship between two distinct individuals—myself and my child. • I hope I will honor the love that is the very core of this relationship. In short, I hope I can manage to carry on the “holy tradition.” When my first daughter was born, a friend sent me a card that read “Welcome to the MotherDaughter Dance.” I think of that card often because it is such an apt metaphor for the parentchild relationship. At some point, children don’t stand on our feet anymore. And each child’s individual choreography invites us to take turns leading and following, guiding and trusting, as we move to both familiar and unfamiliar rhythms— occasionally stepping on toes. To truly enjoy the dance, we have to be willing to let our children lead, allow ourselves to look a little clumsy as we learn new steps, and maybe even dance with grace.


Five Wrong Moves Don’t tell me you’re going out looking 1 “

like THAT! People will wonder what kind of mother you have!”

What do you mean you don’t want 2 “ to play tennis? Your father’s a great tennis player!”

Don’t try out for the musical, honey. 3 “

You’ll only come away with hurt feelings.”

You ought to hang out with Stephanie. 4 “ Maybe you’ll become more like her.”

Neil Webb/theispot.com.

Don’t bother trying to fix that. You’ve 5 “ already made a big enough mess.”

Maria Mondragón is an editor in Chicago, where she lives and dances with her husband and two daughters.

“ Welcome to the Mother-Daughter Dance.” 27


Top: C Squared Studios/Photodisc, Background: Image Source Photography/Veer.

WHAT’S

On Your WALLS ? By Tom McGr at h

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Season of Togetherness and Autonomy


i can’t remember how the topic came up. “Now you’ve done it,” my mother joked with her four grown children, “you’re out of the will!” We laughed with Mom and Dad about how that probably meant another forty-three bucks for the rest of us to split. Then my sister, Peg, got serious for a moment and said, “The only thing I want when Mom and Dad die is the Prayer of St. Francis print.” Without missing a beat, my two brothers and I blurted out, “No, that’s MINE!” The most valuable thing in our home growing up (and, later, in Mom and Dad’s downsized condo) was a nicely framed calligraphic treatment of the prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…” And apparently, it meant a lot to all of us. But after a brief tense moment, we softened. We realized that the inheritance had already been given, that the legacy was already ours. We already had that prayer written on our hearts. Is there anything like that in your home? Is there any evidence of your most deeply held beliefs displayed on your walls or on a bookshelf? If a stranger visited your home, would he or she know you were a follower of Jesus?

Jupiterimages.

Sacred Objects Live On In his book Growing Up Religious, author Robert Wuthnow describes a study he conducted of people who were raised religious and continued practicing their religion in later life. He wanted to know what early factors led to maintaining one’s faith in adulthood. Many people he interviewed for the study could recall small ways, both verbal and concrete, in which elements of their religion were passed on. For people whose families weren’t vocal about matters of faith, Wuthow reports, “sacred objects [became] the principle connection between the divine and the lived experience of ordinary family life.”

This makes sense. It may have been a crucifix on the wall, a Last Supper painting over the kitchen table, a Sacred Heart image on a nightstand, or a statue of the Blessed Mother in your garden. Whatever it was, the object was not only religious, but also sacred: it made visible the connection between God and home. It was a sign that God was no stranger—that he keeps his promise and dwells with us. Such objects speak volumes to youngsters who take their cue about what is important from their surroundings. Over time, objects deemed valuable enough to take up real estate in our homes begin to populate the imaginations of our kids. Think about your own experience, perhaps with a Nativity scene that fired your imagination as Christmas Eve drew near, or a combination crucifix-and-sick-call kit like the one my parents had hanging over their bed. Wondrous objects like these fascinate young minds and draw them to pay attention. And that’s the point—paying attention to the spiritual reality that our faith leads us to. If clear and concrete invitations to pay attention are missing in our early lives, society isn’t likely to provide them when we’re older. For my siblings and me, the prayer of St. Francis was such an invitation. It greeted us each time we went in or out the front door. It became ingrained in our minds, hearts, and imaginations to the point that none of us can imagine living without it.

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