It has officially been two months as the Director of Children & Youth at St. James the Less and it has been a gift getting to know the kids and teens of our parish as well as some of their pals from the community (yes, friends are always welcome!) In such a curious, unpredictable time, they have shared all kinds of concerns at our events and online zoom calls, such as, “…I don’t know when I’m going to be able to play sports again…” or, “I miss seeing my friends.” Our youth are experiencing much of the feelings and questions that we all have during this pandemic; anger, disappointment, anxiety, and of course, “Where is God?”
Calling all youth, from littles to teens! Our dates are firmed up for our August Compassion Camp—a five-week Sunday series designed to provide some hands-on work around caring; for each other, our world and ourselves. As we ready ourselves for a modified version of school—whatever that might look like—it is extra important to take care of the hearts and minds of our youth. Connecting to one another and to the nourishing presence of God can help our kids develop trust and faith during these unpredictable times.
As a young adult I read Nelson Mandela’s story and his famous quote, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” I have parented with this in my mind. I teach my kids to view all people as equally valuable. Skin, gender, sexual orientation, economic level, language, nationality, whatever the differences are, do not have anything to do with human value. And yet I have raised them in predominantly white affluent society. And actions speak louder than words. I worry about that. They simply do not spend much time with people of any color but their own.
To wear or not wear the face mask, has become the question. Standing in line at Glenview’s Dairy Bar Sunday afternoon gave me a chance to do some people watching. The couple behind me both had their home made masks on, one with a big floral print. The couple in front of me, one had a mask on the other did not. The students in front of them had masks on snug around their ears but pulled down under their chins.
Wearing or not wearing a mask can mean a variety of things that we cannot deduce simply by people watching. Was the couple in front of me from two different political persuasions, believing two different perspectives on the virus, or was one an asthmatic? The students clearly knew they needed a mask to at least be served but chose not to cover their nose or mouths. I was the only one who read into the instructions and waited in line alone. It is easy for me to be gentle and generous with people around me who make their choices, but it is really challenging to be a parent and explain it all.
Balance in family life is supported by attentive and reflective listening. Misunderstandings often stem from not listening fully to each other.
Winnie the Pooh often gets in these everyday muddles. One example is when Christopher Robin leaves a note for Winnie the Pooh that says, “Gone out, busy. Back Soon. C.R.” and poor Pooh gets confused and thinks a monster named ‘Backsoon” has taken his dear friend away. Pooh goes on to alarm everyone else and together they imagine a large purple scary monster named Backsoon has abducted Christopher.
When Chad and I got married, the pastor read from the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit. He read these lines,
“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
On a walk the other day, I asked Mabel to describe what sheltering at home has been like for her with a metaphor or simile. At first she said, “MOOOOOOM, quit being a priest.” Then after some time she piped up, “It’s like I used to be able to go where I wanted and now I am like a dog on a leash.” You said it Mabel, we all feel cooped up, corralled, and confined.
As parents we have great power for our children. We can support the integration of their experiences of being cooped up into resources for a more resilient spirit.
Being a parent is a great joy, full of wonderful moments and responsibility we are grateful for; and parenting is also a long exercise in patience.
All of us fail at staying composed, now and again, we lack the perseverance needed, and we lose our temper or our cool. When our endurance fails and the final piece of straw breaks the camel’s back, we lose patience with our children, the circumstances, ourselves or just life as it is.
The tenants of our Christian faith does not say much on the practicalities of parenting and yet Jesus is an amazing guide on how to be human. This actually helps a lot as I navigate the stressors of home/work life. The basics on being a thoughtful human is perhaps the most central gift we give to our kids.
This week I am noticing that sheltering at home makes alone time a challenge to find. More is asked of parents with less time for reflection. For example, I used to take a day off each week while the girls were at school and Chad at work. Now my day off is with a house of people with needs, ideas, and wants. It takes more effort to find some time alone. And it is difficult for me to be a good thoughtful human without some personal space.
s my family shelters at home some things have not changed. We still argue about who should do the dishes - only there are more to do. We are constantly out of milk. And the dog begs for treats all day long. One major change has occurred, we have been dancing. I don’t mean turn on Beyonce or Journey and free dance. I mean choreographed routines. Yes it is true, and don’t ask, I am not including any videos here. Bethany and Mabel are the leaders of course, but the stand out performance is consistently Chad.
To celebrate Easter with extended family, my sister arranged a talent show over Zoom. Our entry was a choreographed comedic dance routine to a medley of four songs: I Will Survive, Billy Jean, River Dance, and concluding with a Rick Roll (Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley.) Just take a moment to recall all the songs, this collection will put a smile on your face.