Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The 4th "P" in Our Rule of Life: Parent

Whew, it's been waaaaaaaaaaaaaay longer than I intended to return to the 5 P's of our family's rule of life.  It turns out selling a home with three small children is no small feat!  The good news is that St. Joseph is THE MAN, and he has already proven himself a powerful intercessor for our family.  Please join us as we pray the Novena to St. Joseph!  (We're on Day 3 to culminate on his feast day next Wednesday, but you can pray these prayers anytime.)

In case you've missed my previous posts in this series, I decided as part of my Lenten mission to create a Boucher Family Rule of Life.  It's based off of Holly Pierlot's book A Mother's Rule of Life.  In previous posts in this series, I wrote about:

Today, I'm tackling the 4th "P": Parent.
As a former high school Spanish teacher, I can tell you what a difference it makes when parents take their role as primary educators of their children seriously.  It was easy to identify children who came from homes where their parents led as primary educators instead of passing the buck along to the teachers at school.  

Regardless of whether or not God calls me to homeschool at any time, I will always be my children's primary educator.  Holly Pierlot calls a mother's role as a primary educator to her children the "mission of motherhood."  That means I need to give this whole stay-at-home mom gig the dignity it deserves--even if the world doesn't.  I need to take seriously the impact day-to-day living in this domestic church has on all of the members of our family.  I need to take seriously the impact our children's witness will have in our local community and larger society as they leave the four walls of our home.  

Now, in the midst of the diapers, dirty dishes, and mountains of laundry, I need to recognize how irreplaceable my presence is to my children.  It's not just my job to watch them like some kind of glorified babysitter.  I'm supposed to be helping to form them.  In A Mother's Rule of Life, Holly Pierlot talks about coming to the realization that "parents image God's work at creation."  

From the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the Creation of Adam.
Holly expands the metaphor, describing the parallels between the work that God performed back in Genesis with Adam and Eve and the work that we perform as parents:
  • Provide food and shelter
  • Create a paradise (our homes are to be a "mini-paradise," "a place of beauty and peace and harmony"
  • Be in close communication
  • Infuse them with knowledge for their survival (temporally and eternally) and equip them to be good stewards of creation
  • Teach them the value of work and delegate responsibility
  • Govern, lead, and discipline
  • Forgive children for trespasses, "cover their sins with love," but teach them "the just consequences of their actions"
After looking at all of those responsibilities we have as parents, especially as mothers, it's hard to view our work as ordinary and meaningless.  I love, love, love Holly's definition of what it means to provide our children with a Catholic education.  She says that parenting "is a call to form persons.  We're called to bring God to our children's spirits, truth to their minds, health to their bodies, skill to their hands, beauty and creativity to their hearts, and in all this, virtue to their wills and sanctity to their souls."  Dang.  Re-read that.  Pope Pius XI had another way of saying that.  He said, "Education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be, and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created."  Ultimately, both Holly Pierlot and Pope Pius XI are saying that our homes need to be domestic churches where we propel our children along the path to sainthood.  

That goal became very real for Philip and I when we miscarried our baby, Thérèse, at 12 weeks.  We entrust her to God's mercy and believe that she is in heaven (and, therefore, a saint).  We frequently ask her for her intercession.  Being separated from Therese further inspires us to get every member of our family to heaven.

That all sounds fine and dandy, but let's "get down to brass tacks" and talk about how to make that goal happen practically.  To help our kiddos get an "ST" in front of their names, I re-read the section on parenting in Holly Pierlot's A Mother's Rule of Life.  Here are a few areas I considered and used to create a saint-making action plan:

Open up the channel of grace to God
  • Attend daily Mass at least once a week in addition to Sunday Mass
  • Monthly confession for everyone that's old enough (put it on the calendar!)
  • Family prayer time (morning, mid-day, after dinner & bedtime prayer together)
  • Access to sacramentals and prayer aids (Holy water, Rosaries, Bibles, lives of the saints, etc.)
  • Pray for the children (ask for their intentions, spontaneously offer prayer throughout the day, and pray with Philip for the children before bed)
  • Dedicate formal & informal teaching times to talk about & celebrate the saint of the day, virtues, current events in the Church, parts of the Mass, feast days, baptismal anniversaries (start with "Circle Time" in the morning and build from there)
Consider if I'm Being a Channel of God's Love
  • Model the behaviors I'm asking of other members of the family.  Am I revealing God's love to them in the way I treat them? (Examine this during my weekly Examination of Conscience)
  • Be available and treat my children as my vocation instead of an obstacle to it - stop whatever I'm doing, make eye contact, listen, and respond with love
  • Treat my children as the unique children of God that they are (identify their strengths & weaknesses, encourage them, and help them in whatever appropriate ways possible)
  • Do what's best for them (food, sleep, appropriate chores, playtime, surprise activities for refreshment) 
  • Maintain the children's free will like God does.  Teach them to accept negative consequences instead of trying to bend their wills.  
  • Consider if the child's behavior is an isolated act or a habit of disobedience.  (If it's habitual behavior, consider the root cause, and work to find a solution.)
  • Make sure what I'm asking is reasonable & justified, and take the time to enforce it
Create Opportunities for Them to Exercise Freedom Within a Framework
  • Allow them to make choices (clothing, menu planning, recreation activities, etc.)
  • Help weigh the options (what's good & what's not)
  • Discuss potential consequences
  • Let them make the decision and face the consequences
Find a Place for Everything
  • Maintain outer order in the home to create inner order for everyone
  • Teach the children where things go
  • Take the time to enforce that things need to be put back "home" instead of doing it myself
Find a Time for Everything
  • Hygiene
  • Exercise
  • God time (prayer, Mass, confession, etc.)
  • Learning (formal & informal learning, homework)
  • Recreation (sports, hobbies, friends)
  • Meals (including preparation & clean-up)
  • Cleaning
  • Laundry
  • Sleep & rest
  • Set aside time to teach the components of the routine
Set the Family Up for Success to Start the Routine
  • Create, print, & laminate charts for various tasks around the home to teach the children (bathroom, getting dressed, laundry, meal clean-up, etc.)
  • Make time to teach to reduce frustration for everyone
  • Observe the children working and revise when necessary
    • Re-teach and model
    • Adjust expectations
    • Provide motivation (creating a reward system to implement by the end of Lent)
    • Teach the importance of hard work
    • Teach about redemptive suffering (and enter into it with them!)
    • Suggest ways to make the work easier
    • Change the time of day they are performing the task
    • Allow them to choose tasks
    • Read stories of saints that exhibit determination or hard work
    • Use logical consequences
    • Remove privileges
  • Make sure everyone is getting the grace they need to perform their duties

A few questions for you:
  • Specifically, how do you open up the channels of grace to God for every member of your family?
  • How do you hold yourself accountable to be a channel of God's love?
  • Are you and your husband on the same team in the discipline department?  What changes need to happen?  How can you be more consistent?  
  • What are you doing (small or big) to gradually develop your children's inner moral compass?
  • Are there problem areas or "hot spots" that regularly collect clutter in your home?  The kitchen counter or dining room table?  Can you set a goal to find a home for the items on those surfaces during Lent?  Do you have too many things and need to live more simply?
  • Are you building time into your schedule to do everything that needs to be done?  Do you include time for things like meal preparation or clean-up?  How can you limit the feelings of frustration or being rushed?
  • How have you taught your other family members to maintain a routine?  Do you have any tips to share?
  • What did I forget?  I've only been a parent for 4 years, so I know I still have a lot to learn!  Share away, please and thank you!  
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In the next posts in this series, I will write about:
  • The 5th "P": Provider
  • What Our Family Rule looks like, and where I am with putting it together

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