With 23 years between my two children, I entered a different world in 1995 when my second child was born, of the demands and responsibilities put upon children from their own parents. Back in 1971, the over-achiever parenting style was unknown by me. However, as a new old-schooled mom, I was unfamiliar and terribly confused with the aggressive parenting style that I continued to offer my second child similar choices as my first, which initially came from my mother’s devout teachings "to feel what another feels by walking in the other's shoes." To this day, I’m pleased with the results by putting her advice into action.
These challenges of decision-making surfaced the strongest after I was a single parent back in 1976, since I was overwhelmed by the demands of working-outside-the-home and shouldering all the responsibilities of raising my first child alone. The commitments were such a strain for me, and thankfully; I recalled my mother's wisdom and imagined how stressing it may also feel for my five-year-old daughter, trying to be everything for everyone! Even more so, my mother’s advice to "feel what another feels by walking in the other's shoes" is ingenious to me, and remains the infallible truth of God, regardless of the new-generation style of parenting.
One example of my mother’s wisdom: When my first husband was critically ill and in the hospital. I was spending endless days and nights by his side, while my daughter stayed with my mother. Every night, I’d come home after my daughter had fallen asleep just minutes earlier. I was already feeling guilty for leaving the hospital, and now I had to deal with my mom’s remarks that I didn’t get home soon enough to tuck my daughter into bed another night! My missing to tuck her in went on for days and weeks, on end, because I wasn’t leaving the hospital a half-hour earlier. Heartbroken, I wondered why mom didn’t realize that I didn’t have a choice. While all along, she could only hear my daughter crying, “Mom-mom, when are mommy and daddy ever coming home?” My mother went on to explain to me that she’s only a five-year-old and doesn’t understand the difference, whether you are in the hospital taking care of her seriously ill father, or working, or even out shopping! At the time, I felt my mother was insensitive to the situation I was in. I’ve since realized that she was right, having learnt that young children feel even more emotional pain and emptiness from one or both parent's absences, regardless of the reasons we’re not there! In truth, she was really living through the larger picture, by having put herself in all our places. She felt the brokenness of a son-in-law, a daughter, and a five-year-old granddaughter being so vulnerable in her early, formative years.
Sharing her foresight has been my passion, since I’ve seen the tear when this is not considered and continues to exist, regardless of it coming from parents over-working, or a mission of tending to the sick, or higher demands a parent has that take them away from their little ones. What I believe we’re missing is not listening to our important guidance, by busying ourselves with what society supposes to be of value. Perhaps, my experience of over-load and the pressure to keep-up is partly what brought me to this conclusion of not going along with the flow of modern suggestions. Although, I believe it was my mother’s words of wisdom that she instilled in me that I finally established a healthier balance.
What's even more is, through my research, most of the stories that I’ve heard from parents who suggested the new high achievement method to their children; the parent themselves had a loving support system in touch with their feelings and holding their back. That I wonder if parents examined their own lives when they were a child, and recalled who was there for them; then ask themselves if their own children "have" as much support as they had as a child. My question here is a compassionate one for our children and parents, “What more can we do for our children to keep the softness around them?" My wise mother said, “When we become a new mother, we no longer only think for one; we have to think for someone else. We have to imagine being in their heart and walking in their shoes to hear what they are saying." I’ve learned her words are sound and true. It’s the best advice and a solution from the beginning, which otherwise could be an oversight. It’s being in their presence and taking action the way God does.
My mother's valuable advice has shown me the way to make softer choices for my children, and continues to be the most powerful guide that works miracles with 'all' my relationships.
Causes Catherine Nagle Supports
Westwind Foster Family Agency, Christian Children's Fund, Compassion International, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Invisible Children, Save the Children