My mother used to read to me every day when I was a child. She was also an example to me by reading the newspaper every day and devouring the Newsweek Magazine when it arrived on Tuesdays.
When I had my children, it was imperative to me that I continue the reading tradition. My children had separate rooms. At bedtime, I would start in my son’s room, read two books with him, turn off his light, and then visit my daughter. I would read two books with her and then turn out the light. More often than not, her little voice would come to me from the darkness. “Mom?” “Can I talk to you for a minute?” I soon learned that she felt safest under the cloak of darkness. I would come back in her room and listen to her most private thoughts and concerns.
So, while my mother did most things really well, I didn’t think she excelled at listening. I made a vow that I would be the best listener ever! So, when my daughter wanted to talk at the most inopportune times, I always said YES. When she wouldn’t stop talking, I always encouraged her to say everything on her mind. And I promised not to judge or preach, but rather mentor her decisions.
Don’t get me wrong. I always reserved the right to share my opinion. I would make it clear if I did not think she was making the right decision, but it was she who had to learn to live with the consequences of her choices.
One time my daughter came into my room around midnight. (I had gone to bed around 9:00 and was enjoying some great REM sleep.) “Mom?” “I’ve been on the phone with my friend and he’s talking about committing suicide. What can we do?” I called his parents. Woke them up. Potentially saved the life of their teenage son.
Both my parents smoked when I was a child. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I knew it was something I wanted to avoid and I vowed that I would never have anything to do with it. Sally felt the same as I, but our oldest sister smoked in college (a combination of peer pressure and “how bad can it be if my parents are doing it?”) Good or bad, we were influenced by our parents’ example.
In every thing we do and every thing we say, we are an example to those around us. Whether it is a good example or a bad one, people are watching.
We have power and influence without even knowing it. Don’t you have a teacher who made a difference in your life? Or an adult neighbor? Or a priest?
Share your good example, including the example of how to live as an Engaged Catholic. Remember, not only are “people” watching…GOD is watching!
Because next week is Mothers Day, I would like to share a little poem I wrote about my son when he was 2. At the end of the poem, I thought about how all-consuming young parenthood is, and how transient. I knew it would be gone all too soon and that I would miss those days…
From the corner of my eye I spy
a little golden head.
Who can it be
playing peek-a-boo with me?
All I can see is a little golden head.
Then I hear a giggle, and see a wiggle.
There are lots of toes, and a nose,
and a little golden head.
I wake now to find
my dreams left behind;
I am caught in fond memories
of a little golden head.