What is it about parenting that can make us too controlling? How do we find the happy medium between guiding children and instilling independence? Do we care too much or are we missing something? What is the heart of the matter? How do we become holy parents?
The situation which raised these questions for me happened one Saturday in June when my husband and I went with the owners of local horse farm and my daughter to her third horse show. Being our third show, we have become more aware of some questionable parenting we have been habitually doing, and have had regular adult witnesses to it. What were we doing, you may ask? We were being too “helpful;” too “correcting;” too “coach-like;” and confusing it all with being “parent-like.” I, personally, have been allowing myself to be very critical. I have struggled with this as a mom, sister, friend and neighbor. Now I am seeing myself in the mirror, and something needs to change.
The first part of the day sounded like this: “hurry up, get ready,” “did you learn the pattern,” “you better go practice more,” “eat something,” “drink something,” “why are you upset?” “remember this and do that.” Then when she was away from us, I would gently complain to the owners on how she seems not to care, even though I know she does; and worse, overanalyzing the psyche of her behavior. They, being the kind people they are, were so patient with my immaturity. They only responded with kind words, encouragement, and understanding, allowing the subject to dissipate, and open me to self-awareness.
The first pivotal opportunity of change that day began when the announcer broadcast, “There is a palomino loose and he has headed down the street.” Immediately, I knew it was the horse my daughter was going to ride. Quite a few of us headed in the direction of the horse’s path. My daughter and her trainer went running across the field. They hopped a ride with a man in a jeep and later with another man on a four-wheeler to find the horse. This man knew where it went, where all horses go… to the apple orchard! They found the horse and he came to them easily.
Meanwhile, waiting at the trailer, I was very upset. Finally after venting, I said a quiet prayer asking God to help me not to say a harsh word to my daughter when she returns. “She is upset enough already.” Soon, ease and calm soothed me when the owners voiced a forgiving “they-did-not-mind,” and “It’s all a learning experience. No worries.” It was their horse, and I was so embarrassed at the situation. But they were understanding and mature enough to know everything is a learning experience.
I voiced to my husband while waiting for the horse’s return that I did not want to say anything to our daughter that would make her feel worse; he agreed. Next, we looked across the field to see her and the trainer coming back with the horse. The trainer wore a smile and exclaimed, “that was fun!” Her words eased me even further. Compassion for my daughter stirred when I saw her face slowly returning to refreshment after shedding many tears. “It’s all good, Sweety.” And we listened to her story of their adventure.
Thankfully they made it back just in time for our daughter to get ready to show. Everyone had time for physical and mental refreshment. My husband kept encouraging our daughter. I, however, began to tell her what she needs to do to get ready. I did not say anything harsh, but I felt myself wavering between my let’s-get-things-done attitude and a new one of sincere support.
My second pivotal opportunity for change came as the afternoon progressed. My daughter was doing increasingly well in the show classes. Her trainer was attentive to her; advising her…and us. The trainer was heading toward my daughter and politely, kindly, yet firmly said to us, “Let me instruct.” That was all I needed to gain the motivation to change. My husband and I looked at each other and admitted our fault, acknowledging: “We need to just encourage our daughter, and let her trainer do the rest.” We went right to work at trying to do so and were able to rejoice in our daughter’s success in ending the day with a blue ribbon from a competitive class.
We are so proud of our daughter. I am so grateful for the peacefulness, firmness, and kindness from the owners and trainer. Their correct reactions toward our negative behavior helped so very much. Thankful to God for what I learned that day and the variety of personal inner thoughts I continue to ponder, there are two lessons that really stood out to me from this experience, and that I hope will speak to you.
First, we need others so we can grow in virtue. Every interaction with anyone is a chance to grow in holiness. Even when we fail in practicing virtue, we immediately are given the opportunity to learn from our weakness, which opens up another chance to act with virtue. I am reminded of Romans 5:20, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.”
Second, interaction with Christ is the key opportunity we need for ongoing, lasting healing. It begins with knowing ourselves as we truly are. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal where I need healing so I am not so critical. This was not my own idea, it was prompted by the advice on a CD called Healing and Holiness by Vinny Flynn (ironically, Flynn is the name of the horse, too! HA!) This Mary Foundation CD encourages its listeners to go beyond recognizing the sins we have committed and discover the healing we need which is the root of our sin. Vinny Flynn reminds us that Christ wants to HEAL us, not just forgive because forgiveness is only part of the healing.
So, bringing to prayer, “where do I need to be healed, Lord?” opens us to healing. Then when we bring it all, sins and wounds, to Confession and Holy Mass, Christ will take it away and replace it with His holy life. I had a personal experience with this when I lived in fear which fueled my anxiety. Knowing my fear was not technically a sin, I knew I still needed to be healed from it, so I gave it to Christ in Confession. I knew He would replace it with grace. The more I confessed it, the more it lost its grip on my life. I know what Vinny Flynn teaches is absolutely true and am glad he shares it ever so well.
I encourage you to obtain this free CD, Healing and Holiness, at www.catholicity.com and apply it to your own lives, and share it with others.
When in your own lives have you seen yourself more clearly? How did the Sacraments help you heal?