I’ve got a new post up over in Your Comfy Kitchen and a recipe for Lebanese lamb or beef supreme with mint and yogurt. I wish there were an “aroma” button on blogs because if you smelled this cooking you would make it for dinner tonight. We live on ten acres and my husband was mowing last night. The aroma of this dinner wafted through the windows and he was in, in no time. He had three helpings. Anyway, I can’t take credit for the recipe. My Lebanese sito (grandmother) in-law taught me how to make it. If you’ve wanted to try your hand at Middle Eastern cooking but have been waiting for something easy, here you go! Have a great Saturday and happy cooking-
What have I done for my spouse today?
What have I done to help make his life easier, more meaningful, happier?
How have I supported him/her? Have I prayed for him/her? Have I spoken an encouraging word? Have I hugged him/her? Given an encouraging pat? A gentle kiss? An eye-lock with the message of my devotion and even yearning?
In what way have I helped him/her on this journey of life and eased the natural burdens of it?
Does he/she know I love him/her?
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Corinthians 13: 1-7
My grandfather was very devoted to my grandmother. Whenever we gathered at their home for a holiday meal, everyone crowded around the table and then Grandpa Kloska said grace. Then, with Grandma (who had worked very hard in the kitchen preparing the large Polish meal) sitting down, he promptly served her FIRST. This made an impression on me. Amidst many guests, Grandpa put Grandma first. I hope to set a similar example to my children and always put my husband first, as my spouse and greatest helpmate.
Click here to read about your influence on the man you love.
Angela just turned seven. The other night she asked me to read with her before bed. She snuggled under her covers. I grabbed my pillow to get comfy beside her and after reading two or three books with her (I can’t remember exactly) I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up I forgot my pillow and went to my room.
In the morning Angela was carrying the pillow around, hugging it and holding it close to her. I even saw her with her eyes closed, breathing in deeply as she cradled the pillow near her face. I have noticed this has happened before when I’ve accidentally left my pillow in her room. She carries it around and holds it close until eventually she puts it down and I place it back in its rightful place on my bed.
I love my pillow too. I paid extra for it because it is king-sized and soft, high-quality down. After years of having cheap pillows, I finally bought myself a nice one last summer because I was having neck problems. Yesterday, after watching Angela carrying it around and obviously deriving so much pleasure from holding it to her face, I felt kind of guilty- the children’s pillows are not as nice as mine.
“Angela, do you like that pillow?” I asked, already knowing the answer and thinking to myself, I’m going to have to get her one too.
“Mommy, I LOVE this pillow,” she replied, and as if to prove it she closed her eyes, took a whiff and hugged it even closer.
“I know,” I said, “it’s a great pillow. It’s soft and comfortable and cool and white.” I was going to tell her we could go to Target and get her one too but she suddenly stopped and just looked up at me square in the face.
“That’s not why I like it,” she said.
I looked at her a little confused.
“I like your pillow-I love your pillow- because it smells like YOU.”
Then it hit me. Have you ever had one of those moments that confirms what you already know but in a way that you did not know it before? Well that’s what happened to me then.
Children don’t need things. They need their mothers. A mother’s presence is comforting, soothing, quieting, calming, necessary, no, essential. Our children need us. Our children crave us. And when we are not around, temporarily, they will smell us, think of us, dream of us even in our pillows.
This is why I stay at home with my children, to be a comfort, love and support for them. They can have my pillow during the night, but during the day they can have ME.
He looked terrified.
He was 13 years old, diagnosed with lymphoma, and a guest at a Leukemia/Lymphoma Society fundraiser where my husband was helping, and which I was attending for the first time. He wore a baseball cap to cover his bald head, and kept pulling it down as if no one would know as long as he kept it on.
When I saw him from across the room I immediately recognized the look on his face. It was a look of panic and fear, one that I had had myself when I had first been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Why did this happen? What does this mean? Am I going to die?
During the fundraising auction I never saw him smile, although I did see him mouth “thank you” when the emcee presented him with a gift certificate for a trip with his family to Indianapolis. Thousands of dollars were raised for research that day as Notre Dame banners and footballs were auctioned off as well as guitars signed by rock-and-rollers whose names every teenager would recognize. In the air was frivolity and generosity. But the success of a fundraiser and its light-hearted manner means little to you when you’re fighting for your life. That queasy feeling of uncertainty doesn’t go away just because you break for a fancy lunch with your grandma and a bunch of other nice people.
Even when you’re 13.
Especially when you’re 13.
So after the lunch, I wanted to connect. Having just finished treatment myself for lymphoma and being declared in remission, I wanted this boy to know he’d be okay, that the pain of the chemo would end and his life could go on. I filtered through the crowd to the other end of the restaurant and found him standing against the wall. After introducing myself and telling him I had just finished treatment myself, I tried to encourage him. Things would get better, I said. That crummy taste in his mouth would go away and his muscles would stop hurting from treatment. No more nausea. No more sleepless nights from shooting pains in his arms and legs. Then, for good measure, I did what any other mother would do in such circumstances. I lifted my wig to show him our common denominator — a bald head. He smiled.
Some things are easier dealt with when someone else has been there first. Something that would mortify my own children should I do it in public in front of them seemed like the right thing to do in those circumstances. Two bald heads made a perfect bonding moment. My hairlessness gave credibility in a way nothing else could. When I told that boy he’d be okay, I hoped he’d believe me because I had actually been where he was. I hadn’t thought life could go on when I became ill, but it did.
Similarly, when my sister-in-law Theresa lost her husband in a tragic plane crash, she didn’t think life could go on. For months afterward, she exchanged emails with a young woman who had experienced the sudden loss of her own husband. This woman completely understood what Theresa was experiencing. The wondering, “Why?” The excruciating hurt. What to tell her two young toddlers? In time, Theresa’s heart began to heal. She began to find joy in her life again.
One day Ken came into her life. They fell in love. On a brisk fall evening, as the leaves began to change color, Theresa and Ken married. That night, Ken gave Theresa his ring, and he also produced, out of his pocket, two small rings for Theresa’s two little daughters. He placed the rings on their fingers, as he had placed a ring on their mother’s, and promised to love, honor and protect them all. There wasn’t a dry eye in the whole chapel. Today, two kids later, Theresa fields phone calls from young widows. She knows what to say and her answers ring true because she has been in their shoes. They believe they can live again and love again because she has.
Our tragedies are chances to be angels to others. And opportunities are everywhere. At a cub scout meeting, down the pew to the left, right next door. And, of course, across the room at a fundraising lunch. To have a companion down an uncertain path, if even for a moment, is a gift indeed. And while one follows today, he may lead tomorrow. And the cycle of community goes on. “Church” with a little “c”. That’s us. There for each other when things get tough. Our gift to one another can be as simple as sharing our experiences and trials, and sometimes, when the time is right, even a bald head.
I talked with Jerry Weber on THE CATHOLIC REVOLVER about my experience with cancer some time ago. If you are interested, you can listen by clicking the image or red boldfaced words. I would never have chosen to endure cancer, but there were some amazing blessings that came out of the experience.
Host Jerry Weber
The above article appeared on Catholic Exchange. For more quality articles of inspiration and daily Catholic living, click HERE.
bald head photo credit: clipart.com
My daughter Grace would like you to know about the benefits of ballet. I promised her if she wrote a nice couple paragraphs about what she thinks I would publish it on my blog. So, here it is- Grace’s “Benefits of Ballet” :
Ballet can do so much for a person… Read more HERE.
Ballet can do so much for a person. First, it helps you learn discipline. In ballet, you must listen to the instructor and pay attention so that you will get the combination and the corrections the instructor gives you. In between combinations, center or bar, you must stand quietly in the back until its time to do it. Also, you learn discipline from dancing the movement precisely. If a dancer does not have discipline, and does not listen and take the corrections he or she gets, it is more likely that that person won’t improve as much otherwise is possible.
Second, ballet is great for your health. When you get to the certain level in dance where you dance almost 24/7 (like me), then you really stay in shape! But even if you only dance once a week, if you do the steps correctly and try to work the right muscles, you get the same work out only a little less intense. Dance is also good from an eating perspective. Eating the right healthy foods when you’re taking ballet classes is a good way of keeping in good, physical shape. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and even granola bars every now and then are a smart way to keep healthy. Dairy products are good to eat as well. Some good drinks would be water (of course), Emergen-C (it is a drink that athletes use.), orange juice, etc. There are certainly many healthful benefits from dancing ballet.
Third, ballet exposes you to classical music and artistic dance form that you probably wouldn’t be experience elsewhere on a regular basis. When you rehearse The Nutcracker, for example, night after night you are hearing Tchaikovsky’s composition. You learn to distinguish between different musical instruments and see firsthand how music can depict deep feeling and emotion. Learning about classical music is valuable and will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Fourth, in ballet, you learn to have good posture and it gives you GREAT confidence. When I am out in public I find myself standing up like I would in class or on stage. Posture is very important when it comes to performances. It is very significant that you always stand up as tall as you can be. Also, the confidence ballet gives you can really improve you as a person. You learn to try new things and keep going if you don’t get the steps, and it’s not just in ballet. In your every-day life you can be more confident in a lot of things you do. Ballet really helps with posture and confidence.
Fifth, dancing ballet with others helps you learn great teamwork and how to work together as a group toward a common goal. Dancers must stay in their lines, and try to be in sync. Dancers cover for one another and often must learn multiple roles in case another dancer becomes injured or sick. It is an amazing feeling to take a bow together after a great performance. Dancing encourages teamwork. The ability to work with others can last a lifetime.
And last but not least, ballet is FUN!! You get to dance in pointe shoes and wear beautiful costumes, the roles can be very enjoyable and you meet new friends too! It’s really fun to not just act but live the part and be your own character! Although it can be difficult, ballet is very fun and rewarding.
It was early winter, 1987. I was 24.
I slipped into the bathroom for a blessed moment alone, just days after the birth of my first-born son. His had been a difficult birth. He was a challenging baby, not sleeping for more than an hour at a time, and fussy when he was awake. He didn’t nurse well. Or maybe I didn’t nurse well. I was an inexperienced mother and severely sleep-deprived as well as lacking confidence in my ability to care for and to raise this child whom I would have gladly died for on the spot if necessary. I loved him so much. At this moment, at this exact time, he had dozed off in his bassinet. I took the opportunity to splash some cold water on my tired face and sit on the closed toilet seat in the little peach-colored, plastic-tiled bathroom in our first house not bigger than my current living room and kitchen put together. It was a strange place for a prayer, but somehow it seemed right and the words just poured from my heart.
“Dear Lord, I don’t know if You will see fit to bless me with more children. I hope that you do, but if you don’t I want to say THANK YOU for this beautiful child. I love him so much. Thank you for entrusting him to me and David. Please help us raise him to glorify You. I dedicate him to you now. Please protect him spiritually, mentally, emotionally for his whole life until he returns to You at the end of it. If I forget to pray each day, take each breath of mine as a prayer for him and any other children you send. Let every sacrifice of mine that I forget to offer, be offered for him, and them. Please help me be a good mother and wife. Please help me know how I am supposed to raise him. ….And please, please help me get some sleep tonight. Amen.”
And that was it.
I brushed a stray hair from my face, took a deep breath and emerged from the bathroom ready to continue. Or, should I say, begin.
Twenty four years later, my husband and I are “finished” raising this first child, although he is not “finished”, as none of us are until the day we die. God saw fit to bless us with eight additional souls to raise. He took five more for Himself early on, and we are confident we will meet them in heaven some day. I’ve thought often about sitting in my little bathroom so many years ago, and the prayer that I felt so deeply, so vividly in my heart. It has been easier, and yet harder than I ever imagined, raising our Catholic kids.
Someone recently asked me, “What do I need to know, about raising Catholic children in today’s world?” I had to stop and think about it, for the answer is both “nothing” and “everything”. A new mother needs to know “nothing” in that God’s grace truly will provide. Sacramental marital graces will pull her and her spouse through many tough and dark times, with no credit to her or to him. Nothing really and truly can prepare a mother for the moment her child is first placed in her arms and she and her spouse are suddenly totally responsible for this precious little soul. Yet, parents must do “everything” they can do to raise him in the Faith and then trust that God will complete the work.
I think there is a danger in thinking that a person is “done” at 18, that a child is “raised well” (or not) by then. After all, which of us is totally complete, finally the person God calls us to be even before we hit the second decade age mark? Moving towards God and towards heaven takes an entire life’s work. In the early years, parents are critical in launching the child in this direction. Later on, the decision, responsibility and privilege will be his own. But it is a process, and we have to remember that.
That being said, what should good parents know in order to raise their children well in the Faith? And what should parents do?
What Parents Should Know
Knowing several things will help Catholic parents navigate the exciting world of raising their children well. First, parents should know that the world, generally, will not support their efforts to raise their children in the Catholic faith. That’s not being negative. It’s stating a fact, which is also nothing new. Since the time Jesus walked the earth Christian beliefs and Christians themselves have been persecuted. We need to arm ourselves with a joyful demeanor and live the Christian live fully without expecting it to be easy or to be applauded. The world will frequently contradict our desires to be modest, chaste, kind, generous, patient, temperate, and holy. We must be modest, chaste, kind, generous, patient, temperate and holy anyway. The world will tell us to pursue materialism, earthly goods, fame, power, “success”. We must reject that and reach for higher goals, and teach our children to do the same. We have to expect to be revolutionaries, of sorts, radically living in peace, for Christ. And remember, revolutionaries don’t necessarily have support groups.
Yes, there may be pockets here and there of support, of like-minded people who are striving to raise their children the way that we are, and finding these folks will be blessed relief and consolation, like cold water is to a thirsty soul. Indeed, we should seek out like-minded parents to network and brainstorm with them, but we must not expect to rely on them in all cases, at all times. God alone will be our perfect strength as we seek to do His will, well, in our families.
Second, parents should also know that children learn far more from example than preaching or formal lessons. The best way we can raise good Catholic children is to be good Catholic people ourselves. Children learn temperance by seeing us model that. They learn kindness of speech by seeing that exemplified in us. They learn to love the Mass and sacraments when we love the Mass and sacraments and bring them with us to experience them. We don’t need to preach to the children the importance of praying the rosary, although sharing stories and the Church’s guidance in this regard is good. We need to give them little plastic rosaries when they are just toddlers and snuggle with them on our laps as we recite the mysteries and pray this prayer ourselves. Our Catholic faith must be totally and entirely integrated in our lives, both for our own good and so our children can absorb it.
Third, parents should know that perseverance is essential because suffering often comes with the territory of raising children. This can be difficult to understand when one in the midst of it, especially at the beginning. We might initially address child-raising like we have other ‘projects’- We make a plan. We give our best efforts. We expect immediate positive results because we have tried so hard and done our research. Yet, raising good Catholic children is not like any other “project”. It takes more time, more faith, more trust than anything else we have ever done. Sometimes situations arise in child-rearing that challenge us to the very core of ourselves and elicit suffering, sometimes great suffering. This is perfectly normal. You see, God molds us as we mold our children. These are “growing pains”, of sorts. The growth toward holiness , in fact should, be a family endeavor. If we stay close to Him we have nothing to fear and are assured of “success”, in His time, in His way.
One day when I was at Mass, I suddenly and surely felt that a distinct part of the vocation of mothers is to suffer for their children. I sincerely believe that when we unite our daily sufferings to those of Jesus on the cross, our suffering can be redemptive. Our children may be buoyed by our generosity and spirit of acceptance when they would otherwise be tempted to falter just by our offering our sufferings for them. The more children we have the more prayers we ought to be offering, and the more willing we ought to be to accept life’s little and big crosses for them. Our children’s eternal salvation may depend on it. I can’t help but think of good St. Monica who followed her selfish and sinful son to Rome, and then to Milan, literally hounding him with prayers. It is said that a bishop once said to a distraught Monica, “Surely a son of so many tears and prayers will not be lost.” And we all know the outcome of that story- St. Monica became a great saint, as did her son St. Augustine, who was also named a Doctor of the Church. . We would all do well to emulate the example of Saint Monica and be relentless prayer warriors for our children.
What Parents Should Do
There is no formula for raising good Catholic children into good Catholic adults, but we can utilize a strategy that many parents have discovered and which really isn’t that complicated. It is best remembered by thinking of the seven Rs: Receive, Read, Remember, Remain, Rely, Rejoice, Relax.
-Receive the sacraments soon and frequently. This cannot be emphasized enough. Baptize babies immediately. If Aunt Martha can’t make it for two months to see the baby, go ahead and throw the baptismal party when it’s convenient for her, but don’t postpone the sacrament to fit her or anyone’s schedule. It is most important that the child receive his baptism as soon as possible after birth. It is less important that mom is up for visitors, and more important that the baby enter the Church. On a similar note, make a family confession date every single month. Some families like to go out for ice cream afterwards or plan another little treat. The sacrament of confession is critical for the spiritual growth of everyone. We wouldn’t dream of going months without showering, which cleanses our bodies, so why should we consider going more than a month without Confession, which cleanses our souls? Last, we should take the children to Mass more than once a week on Sunday. An entire book can be written why, but suffice it to say here they will grow spiritually, learn how to better behave and we mothers will reap benefits as well.
-Read to your child. Start with simple toddler bible stories when they are small, then move on to other Catholic board books and short stories which teach the Faith in simple terms. Incorporate these into evening story time. As your child grows older, add the “real” bible, the catechism, enriching words from all sources. Take the time to teach your children simple apologetics. The complexity of the apologetics books chosen can grow with your child’s age and wisdom. Snuggling on the sofa with a good book and your child can be bonding like few things are, and will help your child grow in Faith if you choose the right reading.
-Remember that you are not alone. Your spouse is your partner in raising your child in the Faith. Daddies offer perspectives and wisdom that mommies can’t, simply because they are men and we are not. Be a team player and be open to your spouse’s ideas and suggestions.
-Remain steadfast. Endure. My husband is a golfer. He relates to life on a sport’s level. He recently put it this way: “I can control my swing and mindset on the golf course, but not the weather. It may rain. The wind may blow. I can’t control that. But I tee up the ball with the proper mindset and orchestrate the mechanics of my swing the best I can. I think positively and keep moving forward.” Life is not a game of golf, but the idea of controlling what we can and trusting the rest to God is a good plan.
-Rely on God’s good graces. Trust Him.
-Rejoice. Be thankful. Enjoy each moment, each stage and yes, each challenge. As we strive to raise our children well we will see personal growth too. God is so good.
-Relax. Give yourself a break when you need one, and find ways to spiritually re-charge. Attend a bible study at your parish alone, take time for personal prayer, or meet a like-minded friend for lunch and exchange of ideas. Try hard but don’t expect perfection right off the bat. If you falter, forgive yourself and get up and try again. Remember a fool sits enjoying a mud puddle, but an equal fool may recognize his situation yet sits and laments his fate in the puddle without trying to get out. A wise person recognizes when she is deep “in the mud”, gets up, wipes herself off (Confession) and tries again, careful to avoid the puddle the next time. An eighth “R” might also be to recognize that “success” is not measured by external cues alone. God works in mysterious ways in the deep recesses of the human soul. He is working on our children as He is working on us.
Prayer of Parents for Their Children
O Good God, we thank Thee, that Thou hast given us children, made them heirs of heaven by holy Baptism, and entrusted to us their training. Penetrate us with a sense of our responsibility; assist us in the care of their health, but especially in the preservation of their innocence and purity of heart. Grant that we may teach them early to know and serve Thee, and to love Thee, with their whole heart. Grant that we ourselves may carefully avoid all that we must forbid them, and may assiduously practice all that we should teach them. We commend them, O God to Thy paternal care and to the guardianship of Thy holy angels. Bless our efforts, O heavenly Father, and let our children develop to Thy honor and persevere in virtue till the end! Amen
From Handbook for Parents by Father Paul Wickens, (Neumann Press)
Same boys with me last fall at ages 24 and 23
** Article first appeared on Integrated Catholic Life. See more quality articles about integrating your life and faith HERE. **
Two book reviews posted in one week? This is so NOT like me- but this book compelled me to do so. Hallie Lord aka Betty Beguiles, the modern expert on beauty, romance and style, has written/edited a wonderful book on the above mentioned topics. You can read my full review over at Integrated Catholic Life here. In the meantime, I’ll summarize thus-
Ten amazing writers contribute to this can’t-put-down work. You’ll want a copy of this!
Happy Friday- Have a great weekend!
A Special Mother is Born by Leticia Velasquez is an amazing and moving book for and about “special mothers”, ordinary women called to live to their fullest potential by parenting children with special needs such as autism, Down syndrome, Trisonomy 18 and aspergers. The book contains touching personal accounts (and pictures!) of families chosen by God to raise children with developmental disabilities and other special needs. Each story, by a different contributor, is an honest look at challenges faced by these families. Each story shares one mother’s fears, hopes, challenges, joys and eventual strong faith. The stories are riveting, inspirational and … beautiful.
Each story has its own mesmerizing beginning. One contributor, Lisa Barker, begins “Boo was born with silvery hair and appeared as if she’d just been whisked away from the fairies.” I was drawn into this description of Lisa’s daughter Rebecca and quickly read and turned page after page, devouring the account of little Boo’s life and of her mother’s wisdom and unique perspective interspersed throughout the pages.
Another personal account in the book begins, “Miracles do happen. They just don’t always look the way we think they’re supposed to look.” And I can assure you, after reading this particular story, this was a truly a story of miracles!
Time and time again, the blessings of raising special needs children are revealed. The reader gets a rare peek into the personal thoughts of mothers who are engaged in the challenging but rewarding l task of loving and raising a child who is labeled “different” . “I can do all things in Christ Who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13) is a recurring theme of the book and anyone who needs a dose of hope will find it in the pages of A Special Mother is Born.
After these moving testimonies of life, author Leticia offers a well -documented short history of the eugenics movement, and how America has come to reject those persons deemed less than perfect. The history is concise, clear and just the right length for the reader to understand and commit to memory for use, perhaps, in later discussions with others.
Next comes an account of Leticia’s debut into the public world and work of speaking up for disabled children and encouraging others to embrace a pro-life view as she became an activist promoting life on Capitol Hill. Her moving speech given in Washington, D.C. is reproduced in the book.
One of the most practical and valuable parts of the book is the appendix of pro-life resources for special needs parenting, making A Special Mother is Born a real help for families facing challenges of a special needs diagnosis.
Many hearts will be touched by this beautiful book. I recommend it wholeheartedly!
More reviews and find it on Amazon HERE.
Being a good mother-in-law and/or being a good daughter-in-law is easier than one might think. It involves a little common sense, sacrificial love and the right frame of mind. The suggestions below have come from talking with many, many daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law. It comes from anecdotal evidence, not scientific proof. Keep that in mind but I think you’ll find that there is a lot to ponder and quite a bit of truth in the suggestions below. May your relationship with your mother-in-law and any daughters-in-law you may have or someday have be reflective of the love between Old Testament Ruth and Naomi. If you don’t recall their story, start here:
A nice summary of the story is here as well: http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.13.Ruth.htm
If circumstances do not permit this type of deep and meaningful relationship, simply proceed through life with love and kindness. Be realistic about what your mother-in-law or daughter-in-law will be or do. Some will never be what they can and should be, and that may very well not be your fault. People respond and act from a variety of determinants including childhood experiences, personality, and personal decisions. Setting boundaries may be necessary for self-protection in any relationship, but always one must respond in love and kindness with others, even while being firm. Fortunately, negative in-law relationships are the worst-case scenarios, and most mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships can be fulfilling even if not perfect. With a little TLC, and by following the advice below, most mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships can improve and be rewarding and positive, which is a blessing not only to them but also to the children/grandchildren and the husband/son, and everyone around them.
First, we will consider how to be a good mother-in-law.
-Do not criticize your daughter-in-law’s hair, her clothes, her house, her children, publicly or even privately to your friends. Do not roll your eyes or make sarcastic remarks. If someone’s physical or moral being is in imminent danger, you may, in fact, should intervene, but do so the way you would want to be approached. Do this kindly, and not in an embarrassing or accusatory way.
-Recognize that your daughter-in-law has unique gifts and talents, which are not necessarily the same as yours. Recognize that she has unique weaknesses and stresses/struggles, as well, which are not the same as yours. Compliment her on the former. Ignore or support her in the latter.
-Understand that you both love her husband, your son. Don’t force your son to choose between her and you. In other words, don’t compete. Don’t try to prove you are the ‘alpha female’ and dictate how holidays are to be celebrated, where the two of them should live, how they should raise their children etc. A man “leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body” (Gn 2:24). That being said, realize in giving birth to your son and raising him for the Lord that you will always have a special place in your son’s heart. You have paved the way for him to be a man of God, a good husband and father. You are special to him in a way that no other person can be. You nursed him as a baby and cared for him as a child. You taught him about life and now must release him to follow his own mission as you did yours. No one can take this relationship and special bond from you. Don’t be threatened by his wife. He can love her well because you taught him how to love. Your son doesn’t love you less because he loves his wife. It is not a competition. She is not your rival.
-Respect your son’s new family. Do not drop in unannounced. Do not demand that your son cater to your wishes. Do not ask him to stop what he is doing to come to your house on a whim and fix a window or paint a room or fix the plumbing. If you need help, it is fine to ask but don’t treat him as your teenaged son with Saturday chores. Respect his position as husband to his wife. Feel free to request your son’s help if you need it, but do so respectfully. If his wife is wise and kind she will encourage him to help you with reasonable requests. Do not speak ill of your daughter-in-law to your son. Ever.
-Treat your daughter in law equally as you would your own daughter. Feelings are not love. Chosen actions demonstrate love, which is a decision. It is natural you may have stronger feelings for your own flesh and blood daughter but your daughter-in -law should never see that. She is your adopted daughter now. In St. Therese’s biography we read that she treated one of the sisters in her convent, whom she did not particularly like, with extra love and kindness, so much that after she died other sisters thought that the one she really did not like was her favorite. God allows crosses in our lives to help us reach spiritual maturity. Treat your daughter-in-law the way you would have liked to be treated by your mother-in-law.
-If you don’t like something, bite your tongue. Don’t assume your daughter-in-law wants advice on her hair, her house, her clothes, her parenting. Give advice only when she asks or if someone is in immediate serious physical or moral danger. Trust that your son chose a good helpmate. Bite your tongue. Bite your tongue. Chew gum if you have to. Bite your tongue.
-Miscellaneous thoughts: Buy a thoughtful present (it doesn’t need to be expensive) for her birthday. Be available. Trust her judgment. Compliment when you see her doing something well. Offer to babysit but don’t demand. Respect her way of raising her children, your grandchildren. Don’t just call your son on his cell phone. Call her occasionally too. Don’t exclude, but do include. Try to build your own relationship with this girl your son loves enough to devote the rest of his life to. Be encouraging. Be cheerful. Pray for her. Be patient with her. She is young. She will make mistakes. You did too. Forgive. Overlook. Remember your own mother-in-law.
-Demonstrate temperance. Don’t eat in excess. Don’t drink in excess. Demonstrate the behavior you hope she will emulate, but show, don’t tell. Be a model for her. Be the older woman she will want to be like. Help her grow in wisdom and grace. Leave pettiness behind. Thank God for this new daughter into your family and pray that she and your son will grow in holiness and goodness and that you will be a Titus 2 woman, showing example and love to them for the rest of your life.
Now for the daughters-in-law- Here is how to be a good daughter in law….
-Respect the mother of your husband. Respect and honor her as the one who raised him to be the man you love. Recognize that she has gifts and talents, which are not necessarily the same as yours. Recognize that she has unique weaknesses and stresses/struggles, which are not the same as yours. Focus on the former. Try to ignore or support her in the latter. If you want to show appreciation for the man who is your husband, send his mother flowers on his birthday and thank her for giving him life. On special days send a note that you appreciate the man he is and the role she played in raising him well. Compliment your husband in the presence of his mother. She will take it personally. As she should.
-Do not criticize your mother-in-law’s hair, her clothes, her house, her food, her attitude, publicly or even privately to your friends. Do not roll your eyes or make sarcastic remarks. If you want to build a relationship with her, you must not, repeat must not make disparaging remarks about her to your sister, your mother, your friend. You may certainly ask advice of a close confidant, but try to treat her the way you would want to be treated. She is not perfect. Neither are you. Imagine your son’s future wife talking about you. What would you want her to say?
- Understand that you both love your husband, her son. Don’t force your husband to choose between her and you. You are not rivals. Your husband owes his mother honor and respect, but he is your husband first now. Try to encourage his relationship with his mother. If he tends to forget birthdays, remind him about hers. Ask him if he would like you to select a nice gift for her. Encourage him to offer her help if she seems to need it. If she is a widow this will be more necessary than if not. Invite your in-laws over for Sunday dinner once a month or on some regular basis. Your husband will appreciate the effort and so will his parents. Do not speak ill of your mother-in-law to your husband. If there is an issue between you that needs to be discussed you may bring it up, but do not complain about petty things. It’s not fair to him and pits her against you.
-Treat your mother-in-law the way you would treat your own mother. . Treat her with the respect and honor you would treat your own mother. Feelings are not love. Actions demonstrate love, which is a decision. It is natural that you will have stronger feelings for your own mother than for your mother-in-law, but she doesn’t need to know that. (see above) Show her extra love and kindness even if she irritates you, annoys you and makes you feel stressed. It is fine to distance yourself from critical people, but important to be pleasant in everyone’s company. Your husband will appreciate this effort.
-Ask your mother-in-law’s opinion. She is probably dying to give it. You don’t always have to follow her advice, but she has many years of experience and probably some wisdom in some areas. Try to learn from her. Ask for some of your husband’s favorite recipes from her. Include her in your husband’s birthday celebrations. Invite her over. Encourage your husband to spend time with his mother on special days such as her birthday. Be generous if she needs occasional help. Don’t be selfish with your husband’s time. She gave him life. You are his wife. Realize you both love your husband. Don’t compete. Don’t try to prove you are the ‘alpha female’. Do not demand that she cater to your wishes. Sacrifice for each other.
-Pray for her. It can be a difficult transition, as well as satisfying, to watch a son grow up, move out and start a family of his own. It can be difficult for a mother-in-law to face the aging process in general- a decline in others needing her, a decline, perhaps in health and in her mind, beauty. Validate her worth and positive attributes when you can. Be a friend. Love her.
As I pulled out of the high school parking lot yesterday after dropping off my daughter, I noticed a long line of cars waiting to turn in. Blinking turn signals flickered in the early morning light and I couldn’t help but notice how the traffic had exploded since the time I had arrived. My daughter and I had experienced an easy in, and an easy out, whereas the drivers waiting clearly had not.
The difference in time between our arrival and theirs? Really, just a minute.
In the mid-1990s, I had taken my (then) four little children swimming at the pool. After enjoying a few hours splashing in the water with them in the late afternoon, I had changed their clothes in the dressing room, folded the towels, gathered the goggles, lugged the inflatable rings, arm bands, diving sticks and a cooler that held our snacks, and loaded up the stroller with the stuff and the children. After transferring this all into the trunk and finally buckling everyone in my oldest whined, “My baaaaaaaathing suit… I think I left it in the dressing room!” I really didn’t want to unbuckle everyone and trudge back in. It was past dinnertime and I was tired. I knew the lifeguards would find the suit and set it aside. I could call when we got home- we could pick it up tomorrow. But my son wailed and carried on and I decided finally to unbuckle everyone and go back to retrieve the much loved suit. It was right where he had left it, and it had just taken a moment to retrieve.
On the way home I noticed the traffic was horrible. Cars were backed up for miles. I craned my neck to see what the hold up was. As we inched forward I saw that there had been an accident, a terrible, terrible accident, on our side of the road. Listening later to the story on the news, the announcer recounted the driver’s death at the scene and said that the uncharacteristically strong evening summer sun had temporarily blinded the man, the driver of the vehicle in the accident I had seen. The ensuing crash of the car killed him.
I already knew that the man was traveling on the same road in the same direction that I had been that day but knowing the accident was likely caused from merely the sun’s position and glare gave me the chills. Then I heard something else that has haunted me ever since – the exact time of the accident was precisely the time our little mini van would have been at the place that the accident occurred if we had simply come home after swimming. Had I not gone back for my son’s bathing suit, our vehicle would have been in the identical place that the temporarily blinding sun shone and the accident occurred, making it distinctly possible not only that the accident could have occurred to us, but it might even likely have occurred to us. The difference in time between the now dead man’s traveling time and ours? Once again, just a minute.
So many things are – or are not – on account of just a minute. We’ve all read stories of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack tragedy where people who worked in the Twin Towers were supposed to be at work, but one little thing triggered another and they ended up not being there. One dawdled for second cup of coffee; another lingered in a grocery store; one stopped for a Band-Aid… Just a minute can make a lifetime-or-death difference.
“Just a minute” is so significant. In just a minute you can utter a heartfelt prayer that changes a life, lock eyes with someone you love, conveying a feeling of understanding or emotional and physical yearning, enjoy God’s goodness in the chortle of your chubby baby boy, catch a 12 month old first-time walker from a nasty tumble, capture a whiff of the perfume your teacher once wore and immediately be transported back to kindergarten in the third desk from the left next to the window… In just a minute you can look your husband in the eye, straighten his collar and kiss his nose. You can hug your uniformed, dirt-covered football-playing teenage son after a game, see the tears in his eyes and whisper you’re proud of him. You can smile, or frown, encourage, discourage, curse or give thanks. Love or hate. All these things, in just a minute.
Time is God’s gift to us. Our choices are little stitches in a piece of fabric, which is colored and patterned by God’s providence, chosen just for us. The direction of the stitches, the size of the stitches, whether we stitch is entirely up to us. What do we do when we waste time? We give away something more valuable than money, more beautiful than a well-made garment. When we waste time we squander the very fabric of life, and lose so much more than… well, so much more than just a minute.
In less than or just a minute we can:
- Change a diaper
- Stop our car
- Start reading a book
- Say a prayer
- Wipe a nose
These things are not big deals in and of themselves… or are they? What if a book is not begun? It will be left unread. Will that result in an idea not thought, a dream not lived, a person not bettered, a little piece of the world unimproved? What if a baby’s diaper is not changed? A child’s nose not wiped? Not the end of the world, you say, but a rash or dirty face will ensue. What happens when a prayer is unsaid? If we believe that God listens and in a mysterious way our prayers can actually change the world for the better, what happens if we don’t bother? What happens when a car is not stopped when it should be, perhaps when a child runs in front of it? How is the world different because of one-minute choices made, or, by default, not?
What is the value of a minute? We are born in a minute. We die in a minute. In fact, a minute literally can be the difference between life and death for an infant since an abortion in the United States is legal a minute before birth, and illegal just a minute afterwards.
In just a minute we can sweep off the porch of dust and dirt. We can open a window. We can inhale a breath of fresh air. What is the porch? What is the dust? What air will we breath in for just a minute and what changes will that bring?
In math, a complex problem can be broken down into little steps. A simple addition or subtraction error in one of those steps can make the whole problem wrong- Author Darren Hardy writes in his book The Compound Effect, that if the nose of a plane intended for New York is pointed just one percent off course in Los Angeles, the result will be the plane ending up 150 in the wrong place, perhaps Dover, Delaware.. Small things mean a lot, and if the accurate completion of a math computation is important (as any engineer or high school student will attest that it is), and if making it to a prescribed destination is important (as any cross country traveler going to an important meeting or family Christmas dinner will tell you it is ) then how much more important is using wisely the small component of the very thing that makes up our the years of our lives… time?
Our lives are made up of years, broken down into months, days, hours. Ultimately it is made up of minutes. What will we do to make the most of ours? Do we have, will we make, what will we do with just a minute?
“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” (attributed to several sources, including Pope Paul VI)