ON MY MIND: Not for the faint of heart

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

September is here. Back to school is here. Stores and ads have called us to come buy, buy, buy. Parents have sent kids to preschool, regular school, college, away from home for the first time or last time. Other parents are feeling nostalgic at this time of year. My father-in-law raised 11 children. After they grew up and left home, fall was always a bittersweet time for him. Those passing school busses reminded him of days that were gone, yet so dear in his heart.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. I remember being pregnant for my first child and worrying if I would know how to parent and what to do — if I was woman enough for the job that comes with a lifetime contract. Somehow, truly through the grace of God, we rise to the occasion. We become mother and/or father. This, like marriage, is for better or for worse.

Hope brightens our days as we begin this lifetime of parenting. We hope our child will have a happy life. We hope they will always be healthy. We hope they will have faith to guide them. We hope they never have any pain. Hope doesn’t necessarily have reality in it.

Hope is a mixture of expectation and desire. Added to that are dreams, wishes, and even, ambition.

One of my heroes was Robert F. Kennedy. He said, “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” This sort of sums up parenting.

There were many times when I had angst over my children. I guess, to be honest, I still do, even though they are all seasoned adults.

I remember sitting with teachers, principals, counselors and coaches. Each memory is filled with concern and worry over something going on with one of my children. I remember a male teacher who had tears run down his cheek as he told us he didn’t know what to do. Neither did we.

There were times when I was full of discouragement, my hope was dimmed. Others lifted the veil and helped me to see light. They gave me hope with their words and encouragement. They had belief when mine was ebbing. They gave me hope in the unseen.

I look back and all the things I worried about worked out OK. Life is never a smooth path. There are always bumps, valleys to climb out of and peaks to climb up. We believe in our children. We encourage them. We do what we can to make their journey easier.

Hope is wishing something would happen. Faith is believing something will happen. Courage is making something happen. These aren’t always easy to do.

Once my little grandson said, “I quit the family.” We all laughed and understood that he didn’t like the restrictions the family was putting on what he wanted to do. To be honest, we have probably all wanted to quit the family at times. I mean, it is hard, really hard, to always be tied to this gang called family.

No matter the age of our children, we are their best encourager. Albius Tibullus said, “Hope ever urges us on, and tells us tomorrow will be better.”

That sums up a big part of our job as a parent. When their minds say, “give up,” hope whispers, “one more try.” We can be the hope whisperer.

Often there are things we can do, actions we can take to help our children. But, sometimes, there is nothing we can do. These are the times when we get to do our most important parenting task, prayer.

I pray a lot for my children. I pray over and over and over. Sometimes I wonder why God isn’t answering when I think he should. Sometimes I wonder why he isn’t answering the way I think he should. Then I remember that it is not my place to question God. It is my place to pray to him and have hope that he will answer in my time frame and with the answer I want. I also realize that that is just a wish. I have to have faith that God knows best and will do whatever he does in his own timing. When I am at my best, I pray for God’s will. I am often not at my best and I pray for what I want when I want it. I have hope God understands me. My life itself is a sign of hope, after all.

When I had these children, I thought they were in my hands. Little did I know that before I knew it, those hands would become bent with arthritis, covered with wrinkled skin and empty of those daily parenting tasks. Those hands now have another job.

Now those hands do my parenting tasks with phone calls, emails, texting, Facebook, touching, hugging, writing notes. Those hands play games with them and hold their hands when the opportunity arises. Those hands cook for them, do for them and reach out to them.

The greatest power, though, is when I put my hands together and lift them up to God, with hope and faith. Prayer has turned out to be one of my very best parenting skills. And I am reminded of the parenting trio – faith, hope and love, which is also known as, mother/father/God.

Editor’s Note: Maureen Burns recently won first place in the Best Essay-Diocesan Magazines category in the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada 2012 contest. Her piece, “The grand miracle of forgiveness,” was published in Faith, the magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Lansing. Judge’s comments included: “Excellent storytelling and inclusion of relevant, illustrative personal observation and experience, drawn together in an organized fashion to illuminate a point and support an argument.”

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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