Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Be a Mercy, Not a Burden

I wrote "Be a mercy, not a burden" on my wipe-off board this morning.

I wrote it as a note to myself, after another lecture tuned out by my adolescent daughter.

Elder Porphyrios says, "Pray and then speak. That's what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you'll become tiresome and when they grow u pthey'll feel a kind of oppression."
I fear that for my children, because I live in it. I drive myself in a kind of oppression.

When I gave birth to Ophelia, one of my sisters gave me a cutsy plaque that read,  "Say 'Yes' as often as possible." I thought, maybe that is what will free her from this same oppression that haunts me.  Maybe I pondered that ridiculous idea because I grew up within a big family and without as much stuff. Now I look around at stuff- the tyrannies of want and distraction and amusement- and I know saying yes to more TV time, less time at church, less self-discipline, more mess in rooms and more fast food is not healthy. Prayer for my children is better than giving all they ask. Shape their discipline with prayer, not hounding.
The good elder continues: "Prefer prayer and speak to them through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts. That is, you shouldn't give guidance to your children with a voice that they hear with their ears."
Be a mercy. I was thinking about it as I walked with my husband. We discussed our summer, quickly filling with obligations, such as our mission trip, camp, family vacation and my job travels. My daughter frustrated me the other night, tearfully begging to spend her 16th birthday in Indiana, not Guatemala. She will be, but that isn't her point. I have to remind myself, "Be a mercy." And again, when my husband said she had not cleaned the cat litter for weeks. I will be a mercy, I thought. I let it go. My husband can supervise her through this. He will because kitty is scratching off her own skin and fur due to unhealthy litter. I tried to be a mercy when she meandered downstairs just now, making her father late for Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. He didn't jump her either. Earlier he stayed her brother's vengeful threats after she shut the computer off in the middle of his use of it.
Be a mercy. I'm afraid I will forget this tomorrow. I need to work on this in Lent, but I don't feel I will achieve it. I can only start. In my recent confession, I was bemoaning this poor parenting, how I am always throttling and lecturing my children.

 "I'm so lazy and hard-hearted. I fall back on lecturing because I cannot think of anything better." He told me that he has never known me to be lazy and the Fathers say that 'hardening of the heart' is a metaphor. It is actually our will that hardens. Our hearts are soft. My heart, and I needed to hear someone tell me this, is soft for my children. True-- I think-- but I fear giving myself undo credit. When I inspect the vista of my conscience, it is a vast plain of wretched and obnoxious pestering and complaining.

 It is my will, my over-discipline, which is an over-correction I have adopted to cover for my years of laziness in my youth. Trust me, I was a lazy youth. I want to be a lazy adult but little voices drive me forward. I have become a workaholic to fix this. If I am not in motion I carry unnecessary guilt. Then heave it out upon my children. My children are not mine to control. Khalil Gibran reminds parents of that in "The Prophet."

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
The elder knows this when he says pray for your children, rather than lecture. They are God's, not mine. I should speak to God about my children, saying:
"Lord Jesus Christ, give Your light to my children. I
en-trust them to You. You gave them to me, but I am weak and unable to guide
them, so, please, illuminate them." And God will speak to them and they will
say to themselves, "Oh dear, I shouldn't have upset mommy by doing that!"
And with the grace of God this will come from their heart.'

Elder Porphyrios