Nancy Ward, author and general editor of Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies passes on the news that the Kindle edition is available free through Labor Day. I was delighted to be asked to contribute my own conversion story, and Nancy did a super job of herding me and many others through the process of getting our mini-chapters ready to go.
Having skimmed through the final product, I would especially recommend this book for parish groups at that just-getting-going phase of the missionary life, where you want to share the joy of Jesus with other people, but honestly you don’t know where to start or what to say. Nancy is gentle, encouraging, and fully in touch with the world of the everyday Catholic.
Since the Kindle sale is apparently running through the whole long weekend, if you can get your group members to quick download it now, you can all have it ready to go when the time for your next book club launches.
I wrote to the DRE at the start of the school year, explaining that my teen wanted to be confirmed but that I was in the middle of a new job that was requiring 70-80 hour work weeks, so I really *could not* be the hand-holding parent going to a bazillion meetings and all that. I requested that the parish come up with a formation program my teen could complete without parent attendance, and what with it being she, not I, getting confirmed, it seemed reasonable.
Despite the steady nagging of teens to become “adults in the faith,” the parish struggled intensely with the idea of working directly with a teenager. I can get this, because I work directly with young persons, so I know that they are not universally organized and conscientious. Teaching children to become adults requires risk-taking and persistence. DRE’s thus tend to have an Augustinian wish: Give these teens responsibility, oh Lord, but not yet.
Over at the Register, Jason Craig writes “Why Confirmation is Not a Mere Rite of Passage.” I give it a hearty amen in part because I have shown up to a couple parent Confirmation-prep things lately, and apparently the indoctrination at religious ed on the “becoming an adult in the faith” is so strong that when I whispered to my teen a corrective to the presenter’s assertion that the sacrament of Confirmation was about you as a teen confirming you wanted to be Catholic, she whispered back, surprised, “It’s not??” I let the deacon feel my ire. The mother is not amused by pseudo-theology.
The mother is, however, grateful. If you’re going to lay into the parish staff for their irresponsibility, you have to be willing to do the work to offer something better. We came home from that dreadful formation meeting with a challenge: What is the point of Confirmation? It’s all well and good to say it gives you the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but what does that mean? How is it different from Baptism and the Eucharist?
A few days contemplation bore much fruit. My husband and I, and hopefully the kids as well, found ourselves moved very deeply as we considered with awe the reality of this sacrament which, described imprecisely, is for your relationship with the Holy Spirit what the Eucharist is for your relationship with Jesus Christ. That intimate union, that indwelling, that receiving of life . . . to speak of the action of the Trinity is risk material heresy, but whoa! You want to shake a few shoulders and shout at the bishop with his well-meaning video for teens DO YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS YOU ARE FAILING TO TELL THESE KIDS?!! Tithing and church service are great, and yeah I’d like more priests too (though I want to find out if there’s a trustworthy seminary first), but seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, guys! Confirmation is one of the seven great mystical things, and you are missing out terribly if you think it is just a glorified membership drive.
Fortunately, the sacrament doesn’t wear off. Even if your parish has hidden the glory of the Holy Spirit under the table cloth of mandatory service hours, and your teen’s formation program consists of Catholic-brand career-counseling, God in His humility is waiting, like the preschooler behind the door calling out “I’m hiding come find me!” Ignore the distractions. Go into the quiet room where God dwells and find Him there. He wants to live in you. He wants to make you His home. He wants to make His life your life. You were made for this.
The children are taught to list the Gifts of the Holy Spirit when asked what it is they receive at Confirmation. You’re supposed to say that, instead of “Green light for my quince,” or “To get my parents off my back,” when they ask why you want to be confirmed. There’s an awful lot of talking about the gifts, and using the gifts, and of course you had to work hard attending classes and doing service projects and writing papers in order to be allowed to have the gifts.
It is so much noise. Blather. Idiocy. Too smart for your own good. Ditch the growing-up talk, because it is a childlike faith that our Lord requests. Children, unsophisticated, believing, accepting, are unafraid to ask for what Confirmation is: I want the Power of God to live inside me.
Hathaway’s funeral was perfect. Chanted Extraordinary Form Requiem Mass at the old but not old-old St. Mary’s church in Aiken, then procession to the graveside for a Melkite burial. Nothing says “four last things” like a Dies Irae in the hands of a good cantor.
As our line of cars, lights on, hazards flashing, police escort, ambled down US 1 towards the cemetery, traffic of course made way. But this is a land where funerals are still taken seriously, and even on the four-lane highway where there was no practical need to do so, most vehicles coming the other direction pulled to the side, stopped, and put on their lights, paying their respects. You have no idea of it, I thought as I passed driver after driver putting life on hold for two minutes of stillness in honor of a complete stranger, but you are witness to the funeral of one of the world’s great men.
John’s daughter asked (shortly after his death) if I could speak at the funeral meal. After the perfection of the funeral homily and the solemnity of the mass and burial, what I had prepared seemed woefully inadequate. It also was not very gentle, but fortunately there was a line-up of nice friendly people to follow, including a dear friend with the gift for coming across as a big, chummy teddy bear while he reminded the audience of the value of redemptive suffering and the need for masses and holy hours of reparation.
I’m sure most people did not like what I had to say, but the one person it was written for thanked me for saying it. Below is the text, with most of the typos removed.
When we try to explain the difference between men and women, we tend to resort to stereotypes. We know that men possess, on average, more physical strength than women, so we use examples of large, muscular men performing heavy manual labor. We know that men have an inborn, undeniable vocation as providers and protectors, so we reach for clear examples of those. When we think of providers, we might give the example of a successful business owner, or an accomplished professional; or we might think of an ordinary workman or farmer putting in long hours at physically grueling labor in order to provide a simple but decent living for even a very large family. We know that men are created to be protectors of the family and community, and thus we look to the sacrificial life of men who have careers in the military or as law enforcement officers. These are not bad examples. But they don’t get to the heart of what it means to be a man.
John Hathaway had the rare and excruciating vocation of showing the world what it means to be a man.
You could not look at John and think “typical big strong muscular man.” (Though at times he astonished me at how strong he was.) But what is a man’s strength for? It is for serving God and serving his family. John Hathaway used every ounce of his physical strength in fulfilling his vocation as husband, father, and Christian. I remember him telling me the story of literally crawling to Holy Communion one time, so determined he was to receive Our Lord despite whatever parish he was visiting not noticing he needed the sacrament brought to him in the pew. John was a wealth of medical knowledge – if I had a difficult medical question, he was on the short list of people I’d go to with such questions – because he was utterly focused on husbanding his strength, as the expression goes, so that he would be as strong as he possibly could be in order to serve his wife, his children, and God.
As a provider, John fell in the terrible predicament of those who are extremely talented but not in financially lucrative ways. He was an English professor in a nation where adjunct professors sometimes literally live out of their cars because they cannot afford rent. Many men find themselves in this position, willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their families, but thrust into overwhelming circumstances beyond their control. The despair this can cause men is at times deadly.
John Hathaway deployed extraordinary determination and perseverance and ingenuity in figuring out, day after day, year after year, how to provide for his family. And he did provide. He absolutely embodied what it means for a husband and father to be a provider.
As a protector I want to talk about John’s role in defending his children’s very lives.
We live in a time when it is legally and politically and socially acceptable to say that John and Allie and Gianna and Josef and Clara should simply be killed. They should never have been allowed to be conceived, for fear they not measure up to some ideal standard of human health. Allie, the same Allie who has been a pillar of strength and a fount of practical help to Mary over this past harrowing week; the same Allie who is delightfully talented and devoted to sharing her talents with the community . . . is someone that even Christians will sometimes say, “it would have been better if she’d never been born.”
I would say John’s life work was one steady, undying protest against that evil. He tirelessly spoke and wrote and worked to persuade the world that his children deserve to live.
This vocation of his was painful. It was physically and spiritually exhausting. He deployed every spiritual and physical weapon at his disposal against the constant and at times overpowering despair and darkness that descended on his life.
I can recall at times literally thanking John for still being alive. I thanked him for the depths of the agony he endured by dint of continuing to pursue medical care in order that he might, for as long as possible, be present in this life to his family. I thanked him selfishly: I knew that death would be easier and more pleasant for him, and I knew that when that time came I would feel his absence profoundly. John was a delightful person to know and to talk to and to be with.
In closing I want to commend Mary for her choice of a husband. She has faithfully withstood no end of criticism for marrying a man who lacked the superficial traits that are idolized by our society. But she has known what others don’t see: That she married a man who truly embodied manliness to its fullness. He cherished her, he sacrificed daily for her and the children, and gave his life and every ounce of his strength to providing for and protecting his family. He made his own and by extension their relationship with Jesus Christ his number one priority. He was everything any man could ever aspire to be.
The pale and fleeting beauty of the Shadowlands, as seen in the Jesuit church in Quito, Ecuador. Photo by Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA.
The 14-year-old, she of recent heart-surgery fame, got to talking about wanting to be the one to design the rooms for a much-wanted minor renovation of our living space. (Tip: When your children double in size, they need slightly more bedroom space than back in the glory days when you could squeeze them all into bunks like pint-sized sailors.)
The girl likes to design and decorate. She keeps begging to design my classroom for this fall (yes, me with a regular teaching job — whoa!). She has built whole neighborhoods in Minecraft, year after year of new communities. She went through a phase where she played World of Tanks with the prime object of driving around looking at the houses. And of course there have been countless 3-D models built — wood block, plastic block, cardboard doll houses, you name it.
So I told her if she wanted to design her brother’s new bedroom, she needed to get on Google SketchUp and do it there.
She grabbed the good computer (smart kid — knows when she can get away with claiming the parents’ computer) and started searching around. Periodically she’d call out with a question from the other room, but after enough times of me calling back, “Look up a tutorial on YouTube and watch that,” she quit asking for help and just figured it all out. Which was necessary, since I have never actually used SketchUp. I just knew it existed.
Five or six hours in, she declared,”This is addictive. It’s like Minecraft for adults.”
Which is when I quick started googling architecture schools. I kinda like the look of Benedictine’s program — nice balance of real art and real engineering courses (you have to dig up the student handbook-catalog to see the whole program laid out — wish they’d stick the course of study up on the website directly). By nightfall her father was already giving her the talk about how if she wanted to be an architect she’d need to spend a summer framing houses. It is possible the parents can be a little intense at times. But he’s right, of course. I pointed out she’d end up wickedly fit, and SuperHusband added she’d end up with a killer tan. The latter seemed to pique her interest.
We’re on day two of the SketchUp marathon, and if nothing else, she’s found a way to pass a long and uneventful post-op recovery. Whether it turns into a profession or not, it’s good for a teen to discover she can teach herself genuine adult professional skills.
In other news: The boy made it to his apartment in France despite getting delayed and re-routed. I was pretty proud when I learned he’d managed to get himself and two other beleaguered travelers across Paris to catch the last TGV of the night to their destination city — complete with standing his ground with the evasive SNCF employee who was reluctant to let foreigners know national secrets about catching trains. (Eventually a supervisor showed up and insisted the minion answer questions because it was obvious the boy wasn’t going to leave until he was assisted, and the supervisor wanted to go home for the night. Mr. Boy reports all the other Parisians were quite helpful, there was just that one throwback from the days before the French discovered that “customer service” is a thing that can help draw customers to your tourist-centered economy.)
Is it nerve-wracking wondering if your sweet little baby whom you swear was only born five minutes ago is going to have to find a place to sleep in a strange city late at night? Sure. But sooner or later, a kid has to learn these arts. And he had the sense to know that if you arrive at your destination at midnight, you scrap the plan to walk to your apartment and hail a cab instead. When you let your kids practice the adult skills, they start developing the adult instincts. It is good.
So imagine for a moment that in the space of two weeks you learn that your kid has a potentially life-threatening (but otherwise probably benign) tumor in her heart, and then you travel out of town to get it removed via open-heart surgery, and then you come home after and basically you’re done.* In two weeks.
That’s crazy. Far too crazy to be eligible for fiction, what with no foreshadowing, no crises, and a shocking denouement in which you get home and have to forbid your kid to clean her room, until you finally break down after a couple hours and let her clean her room.
Also it can’t be fiction because everyone was fine. A little edgy, sure, definitely some adrenaline happened. Garden-variety hospital snafus happened (ex: The Night of the Beeping Monitors). There was sunburn during the lead-up to the climax, and also my sister sitting alone on the beach nobly guarding my phone, which was actually with me in the beach parking lot talking to the insurance people. But mostly everything was fine.
Truth: While we were busy with our dramatic medical incident, many friends were enduring much worse suffering. That is, if by “worse” you mean people-actually-died ‘n stuff.
Since there can therefore be no riveting memoir, here’s my how-to quick guide on How to Throw a Successful Medical Crisis in Just Two Weeks!
1. Try to recruit about a thousand people to pray for you. If you do this, then your most anxiety-prone child of the bunch can be the one who needs to have her sternum cracked and her heart sliced open, and it’ll be fine. By “a thousand” what I mean is: The actual, literal number 1,000. That’s my ballpark estimate of how many seriously praying people were on this job. Do that. You want these people. What they do matters.
2. Happen to invite the exact right relatives to come stay with you. Try to get them to arrive for vacation the day before you go in to receive the shocking diagnosis. Whom to invite? The ones who keep the house clean, provide competent medical advice, have a couple cousins of just the right ages and personalities to provide 24/7 emotional support for the kids, and who are restless enough to keep everyone busy with activities so you don’t have much time to sit around dreading things.
2a. Dessert. The children insist you want to invite the relatives who firmly believe in running out to the store to buy three boxes of brownie mix, because there weren’t any brownies in the house. I say if you do the dishes, vacuum, and wash the sheets before you leave . . . you make all the brownies you want, I can be healthy again after you go home.
3. Go to the beach. Oh, you just want to sit around googling statistics about rare surgical procedures? That’s why you arranged for your sister to show up: Because she is going to take you to the beach, and once you’ve viewed one excision of a right ventricular mass you’ve viewed them all. Go to the beach. Your kid is gonna have a very boring and painful summer once surgery happens. For goodness sake go to the beach.
4. Comparative Advantage for the win. So you are going to ask all your friends with relevant experience for their advice, and then you will take it. One of the things you’ll learn is that there are different types of work for different people at different times.
The aunt who is perfectly capable of watching your healthy kids is the person who needs the power of attorney so she can do her thing and not need to call you at just the wrong time.
The ICU nurse who has gotten your kid stable post-op, and she is not tired, and she is one-on-one with your kid, is the person who should stay up all night after surgery watching your kid while you go to the hotel and get as much sleep as you can.
The spouse who does better on disrupted sleep should take night shift in the step-down unit.
The spouse who does better at asking hard questions and won’t be intimidated by the platoon of physicians descending on your room during rounds should do day shift.
The people who cook astonishingly good food available at local restaurants should feed you during shift change.
5. A sane parent is a priceless treasure. There is no substitute for a parent who is willing to do whatever it takes to support a child in a medical crisis. Thus more sides to the shape of parental-sanity:
(A) If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to do the whatever it takes when the need arises.
(B) Whatever it takes includes doing some hard things, but not all the hard things. If you don’t have to be there doing a thing, go do something that makes you better able to do the things only you can do.
So yeah: I totally made a teenager deliver me my good cruiser so I could go on a bike ride when it was my turn to get out and get some fresh air. Yes, the spouse and I got out for couple-time during shift change, so we could see daylight, talk to each other without interruptions, eat something good and be ready to go back in for more.
6. You can just be real about the situation. Back to that whole 1,000-person prayer team: Yes, the SuperHusband and I, and everyone else, were worried and scared. Left to my own devices, not only could I worry about this child’s impending doom, I could also conjure up scenarios in which other children met tragic fates while we were all distracted by the one having the official crisis. Drowning? Fatal car accident? Nobody’s safe! Ever!
Nobody is ever safe. Our kid came through surgery just fine, and other people were receiving bad news. Our days were getting better and better while other people’s lives were getting worse and worse. It’s a fallen world. You don’t have to pick a single All-Purpose Mood that somehow perfectly matches the gravity of the situation, because the truth is that the situation is complicated, and some really good things are happening and so are some bad things. So just whatever. Don’t feel beholden to the Feelings Police.
7. Eternity is for real. The thought of my kid dying is unbearable. Also: It could happen on my watch. Indeed, the expected death rate for my children is 100%, so unless we all die in the same train wreck, some of us get to be bereaved.
This is awful. Believing in God doesn’t take away the intense grief that comes with losing someone you love.
But here’s what it does do: It means you aren’t hanging all your faith on doctors. You can be sensible and do practical things to try to ensure the best odds possible on your kid’s survival, but the weight of Everything Forever And Ever Amen doesn’t hang on your shoulders, and it doesn’t hang on the doctors’ shoulders. When you know that God has everything under control, you don’t have to be in a non-stop panic, frantically trying to save your kid from eternal nothingness.
You ask God to spare you the suffering, and hopefully He spares you the suffering. But you also know that the separation of death is temporary, and no matter how bad things get in this life, no matter how black your grief, no matter how much your life sinks into the abyss of loss if the worst should happen, it isn’t the end of the story.
And then if your kid’s not dead and actually she’s recovering pretty well, you can leave her to the spouse who has day shift and get out for fresh air and sanity.
*It’s not done until Pathology says it’s done . . . but we’re not going there right now.
Still, the pediatrician came into the exam room and did a once-over to make sure the girl was healthy before giving the shot. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, lungs, heart.
It was all pleasant chit-chat until the stethoscope came out.
I quieted down so the doctor could listen, and the listening grew more and more intense. She asked to L. to lie down, and did all the possible angles with that stethoscope.
And then she said she was referring us for an echo. “Sounds similar to a common benign murmur that occurs at her age, but I think it’s a little bit more pronunced than it should be. We should take a look.”
Okay. No big deal. The referral went into the black hole of office bureacracy, and honestly the chief reason I got on the stick and made administrators get an appointment time pinned down was because the kid wanted a clean bill of health for sport camp.
The echo tech told us she’d do the ultrasound, and later in the day a cardiologist would look over the files. He’d send a note to the pediatrician, and she could follow up with us if need be.
I watched with interest, but also with the confident ignorance of people who have seen enough ultrasounds to know that the shapes on the screen don’t look like the pictures in the textbook.
And then as she wrapped up, the echo tech said, “I’m just going to go speak to the doctor now and have him look at this.”
That was when I knew things were up.
So one thing that kept grabbing my eye during the echo was a pulsing ball at the middle of the screen. It looked kinda like a ping-pong ball bobbing in a lake. I told myself it was probably a weird view of some body part being caught at just the wrong angle. It was inconceivable to me that it might actually be a pulsing ball of . . . something.
Here’s a picture of the human heart, not drawn to scale:
At the bottom in blue is the right ventricle. One does not store a blue ping-pong ball in one’s ventricle.
But there it is, a probable myxoma, extremely rare for a young teen, extremely rare in this location. For various reasons, most of them called you do not want a pulmonary embolism, out it must go.
We were not expecting this. We were expecting to be told someone’s valves were going through a growth spurt and would be ship-shape again in due time.
We were not expecting: Please keep your heart rate down until we can open your chest in a couple days and get this thing out.
The kid cried, not at the prospect of pain or death, but at the prospect of missing out on sport camp. Also she had grave reservations about hospital food.
She’s a good Catholic all around.
There’s something else about expectations that happened.
When the cardiologist came in, he joked around a bit. He had a little banter about no boyfriends until you finish grad school, and later: Don’t be an orthodontist kid, be a surgeon! It was all couched in the expectation that of course you’ll go to grad school. He was the good dad of jocular firmness, the kind that cracks terrible puns and grounds you until your homework is done.
I don’t know if he plans that talk or it’s just how he is.
Here’s what he knew about our kid before he walked in the room: She was referred from the pediatrician who works at the non-profit clinic in the ‘hood, and she needed open-heart surgery.
Kids in either of those situations can feel like they don’t have much of a future.
In two minutes of joking, he communicated this: You have a future! You’re gonna do great things!
God provides. If the appointment referral hadn’t fallen into the black hole, we would have had all this information two weeks earlier. Because there was a delay — a delay that has done no harm, even though it could have — we are hitting just exactly the moment on the calendar when we have a maximum of support through a tough week, and exactly the right amount of time to get through extended recovery before school starts.
Also, the hospital the cardiologist wants to work with lets you order your own meals, and there’s food the kid likes on that menu.
I couldn’t have expected any of this. But the silver lining is so bright right now it’ll make your eyes water.
I spent an hour on the phone with the bank today trying to figure out why my daughter couldn’t log into her new bank account. Everyone else’s online access was working fine, including my ability to see into her (joint) account from my own ID.
The tech guy finally suggests we try logging in using someone’s mobile app. Two phone-wielding teenagers are lurking in the living room. There is assorted stalling, but finally IT Boy Young Man is drafted for the job.
I show him the new password we’re trying to enter on the “change password” screen that is our gateway to the new account. (You can’t proceed with the bank-issued password, for obvious reasons. Kindly choose something the lady at the bank doesn’t know.) This is where we keep failing. We fill out the form and nothing happens when we click “continue” but there is no error message either. Just nothing.
ITYM starts to enter the data on the post-it-note I hand him. The new password ends in a question mark.
Um, okay. That sounds like something you would say, child of mine. “So how about trying the password but without the question mark at the end?”
He tries it. We’re in. I try it on the PC, we’re in.
I helpfully tell the tech guy at the bank what the problem was, since we can’t possibly be the only people ever who accidentally thought up a password that looked to the machine like a deadly weapon.
We’re not convinced the bank guy is taking notes.
I’m thinking: I could have saved an hour if I’d used my in-house guy instead of calling customer service. Also, I’m glad the bank has thought up a few security precautions, even if their help desk team does dwell in ignorance.
So I have this devotion to St. Anthony that is mostly about finding things. Typical Catholic.
This spring the relics of St. Anthony toured the Diocese of Charleston, and of course I had to go. My specific prayer request was about figuring out (“finding”) my new small-v vocation, now that my last homeschooler is in school. I’ve been feeling the waters in a lot of different directions, but nothing was quite coming together. A lot of things were definitely NOT coming together.
So yesterday afternoon after four days forced offline, and a period of prayer and fasting as well (though not as much prayer as I’d like to be able to say I accomplished — just small and targeted prayers), in the space of an hour I got an e-mail accepting a book proposal for a book I can write this summer, and one for a teaching job that starts in the fall. Perfect combination: I can write this summer while being with the family, and then have work in the fall about the time the manuscript is done.
(No announcements yet — details and contracts still need to be hammered out.)
This morning I got up, and you should know that my usual routine is to make a hot beverage and open the Scriptures, either picking up from where I left off in the Bible (Ezekiel at the moment), or from the day’s Mass readings, or Morning Prayer with iBreviary. One or another, it just depends. I had to shake off some scrupulosity and give myself the freedom to just go with whatever was going to work that day.
So today while the hot water was supposedly warming up, I was sitting in front of the PC goofing off, Missal in my lap to go sit outside and pray the readings once the drink was ready. (You can talk to people online first thing in the morning, no problem, but everyone knows that Jesus wants you to have your hot drink in hand before you converse with Him. Yeah right. Cue Coffee with Jesus.) Eventually I figured out the kettle wasn’t plugged in, eventually I remembered I was supposed to be praying instead of reading online, and thus eventually I made it out to the porch.
Hitch: My bookmark in the Missal wasn’t on the right day, and I was too lazy to go back inside and look up what day we’re on.
But hey, there are saints days in the back, so I figured, I’ll go see if anyone’s having a feast today.
Hitch: That requires knowing what day it is.
But I did some hard thinking (rather than go inside and check the date, hmmn) and remembered that yesterday was the 12th, I think, so that made today most likely the 13th. I flip to June 13th and who should the saint be but . . . St. Anthony of Padua. My guy.
But interestingly, my edition of the Daily Roman Missal doesn’t talk about St. Anthony finding your parking space for you. What it talks about is this: Here’s a saint who was a phenomenal evangelist. He preached from the Scriptures so thoroughly, with such a reliance on the Gospels, that he got called the “Evangelical Doctor.”
Whoa. St. Anthony I barely knew you.
And yes, I’d read the biography before, but it went in one ear and out the other — great Franciscan saint, middle ages, preaching or miracles or something, blah blah blah. Mostly you could count on him to find things, and also one year one of the kids in my class did a great St. Anthony costume for religious ed. That was truly all I remembered.
I mean, come on, find my hotel for me, that’s all I need.
But also, I asked for his intercession on the question of my vocation. And on the vigil of the feast day (which was already the feast day in Padua), I got invited to:
Write a book on evangelization.
Teach in a school where evangelization and Scripture study are the top priorities.
Sooo . . . yes. Ask and you shall receive. Mind whom you ask for help, though.
Some short biographies for those who want to parse out yet more parallels:
So Saturday the internet went out, and here’s what happened next: Mr. Boy, now officially all graduated and legal and I guess technically Mr. Young Man, says to my husband, “Would you like me to clean the house, or would you like me to get on the phone with AT&T and get our service fixed?”
Now he does not have superhuman powers, so it still took until Tuesday for AT&T to actually show up. But they did, and the friendly service guy, who is not at fault for AT&T’s corporate lapses, worked with Mr. Young Man to figure out what had happened and get it fixed. (It was them not us . . . my IT Boy Man would have fixed it if it were us.)
Here is another thing that happened on Saturday: My 16-year-old and I got into a huge fight about the state of our front yard, eventually came to a truce-type-moment, and she proceeded to carry out a massive landscaping renovation. First thing Monday she phone around to mulch dealers, got the best price on pinestraw, calculated how much she’d need, drove the truck (and I drove the other truck) out to pick it up, loaded the truck with a bazillion bales of pinestraw, and came home and made our yard look 10,000 times better . . . and then pressured-washed the driveway.
So how do you get yourself some teenagers who are able to take the initiative and do responsible things?
By letting them take the initiative and learn to do responsible things.
For the boy, I’d say the turning point was letting him unschool 7th grade science. Every day he was required to read or do some kind of science thing, and make a note of what that was. I knew I could count on him to educate himself in that area, and indeed he did. Mostly he read technology websites that year. In later years we bought him computer pieces for his birthday or Christmas when he wanted to build or re-build a computer. By spring of 12th grade he’d landed his first regular IT job. He’s 18 and pretty much already has a profession, because we let him do the thing he was interested in. We didn’t send him to lessons or anything complicated. We let him experiment and take risks and just do the thing. There was a lot of trial-and-error involved, but it was his trial, not ours, and now he knows how to avoid the errors.
I’ve already documented some of E.’s artful adventures. Note that nearly all the things from this beautiful backyard patio area have now been moved around for other decorating needs. Having a child who can paint means never knowing where your paintbrushes are (except when they are left sitting by the kitchen sink). The reason the girl is confident she can take on a front-yard renovation is because she’s been let loose with the weed-whacker and the leaf-blower and the pressure-washer many times before, even though she doesn’t always do it the way I wish she would. (See: Bitter Argument Saturday Morning, Why Did You Chop Down That Oak Sapling?)
Now notice here that my IT guy did not help with the lawn. Note that my lawn girl did not lift a finger to fix the internet (shout-out to the grandparents who pay for her data plan . . . she had internet while I didn’t, ha.) There will come a time when they are older and they’ll have to take on a certain number of big projects that they don’t particularly care to do. At 16 & 18, a realistic expectation is that your kids will go big and deep on the things that are most important to them.
But that’s a good start. If they learn in their teens that they can take an interest in something, master all the skills, and be turning out professional-grade work as a result? I think that’s about where they need to be.
So parents, if you are terrified of the mess your kids are going to make, or you are tempted to over-program and over-schedule their lives, or you worry that your kids aren’t “well-rounded” because they tend to focus mostly on one or two types of interests and not ALL THE THINGS, relax.
Set a few boundaries, sure. But mostly: Just let your kids do things.
The reason you are doing this is because the SuperHusband is tasked with putting together a survey for a project, and he was under the impression he needed to use an expensive and limited survey service, when actually, thanks to the powers of Big Brother Big Shifty Uncle Google Who’s Probably No Worse Than The Other Snake Oil Salesmen, it is not necessary to pay for someone to collect up all your secrets to sell to the Russians, you can do it for free.
So no, I’m not asking for any secret information. Okay, yes I am. I want to find out what makes you so super. Oh just go look.
(Things I’m not asking for: Your name, your e-mail address, your birth-century, your mother’s maiden name, your childhood pet, one picture of you and only you . . . none of that. You’ll see. It’s just a sample survey so the SuperHusband can watch data be collected and see how it works. In this case, he’ll be learning all about the causes of your superness, so make it good.)
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia, CC 4.0 . . . this is what turned up when I did a search on “poll.” Go figure. At no point in the survey do I directly ask you for the size of your fish. There is a short-answer space where you could mention that if applicable, though. Just sayin’.