Thursday, September 14, 2017

Maybe Grandma Was Right.

The advice for a long life seems often to boil down to eating proper dinners 'like grandma used to make'.  That is, cook from scratch and eat food that remembers where it came from.  I read an article today by a cardiologist saying precisely this.  Our low fat, low carb, processed ready made diets are doing us more harm than good.  He suggests returning to eating the way we did in the past, with dinner beginning with a chopping knife...just like Grandma would have done.

Interestingly, what did our grandmothers have in common? They were by and large in the home caring for families. They had time and the esteem of society on their side.  By contrast we have an incessant drive to get women OUT of the home, to cast off the shackles of motherhood and into any old menial job so that they can have dignity and the stimulation which the 'mind numbing' tasks of home and family can NEVER provide.  We have a subliminal attitude that women at home are doing nothing, that they don't have a job, that they are bored, lacking stimulation and unfulfilled. Wasting brains and ability.  I've heard it a million times.  Mind-numbing and home are two words which have become inextricably linked, simply by repetition.  Personally, not once has my mind ever been numb while caring for my home...many's the time I felt my brain cells had rotted when I was in meaningful employment.

Can any of us remember our grandmothers as stressed, over scheduled, under appreciated and resentful?  Can we remember them as bored, unproductive and consider what they did as a waste of ability? I know I remember both my grandmothers and my own mother as amazing capable ladies whose cooking abilities I could only dream of imitating.  My mother and grandmother were master crafts women, my grandmother able to knit complex Aran Sweaters in a few days while holding conversation.  I have tried knitting Aran patterns and have barely managed a line or two without having to unpick my mistakes.

I'm not saying that women who don't engage in paid work are always considered unproductive.  Once we are involved in something else...something separate from the home.  In that case we may well be fulfilled.  Be it volunteering, study, a cottage business, writing, blogging...In those things lie our value as seen from the lofty ramparts of our society.  Women are encouraged to do something...anything  so that they can identify as that thing and not as the 'nothing' status of SAHM.  But the precise work of the home?  Nothing is considered more demeaning, more backward, more 'submissive', more  unfulfilling for a woman than making a bed, cleaning floors, hanging laundry in one's own home for one's own family.  So much so that rarely does a week go by as some article laments how women are still doing this stuff.   Mind you, were a woman to start a small business and receive money do for others what she freely does for her family, now that would be contributive to society, that  woman would now be a business lady with status and value even though she is doing exactly what she previously did.

Or perhaps we can still identify as the thing we did in a different life, in a distant memory.  I remember filling out a birth registration for my fourth child.  I had LONG given up my old job with zero intention or desire ever to return to it.  The lady taking the registration asked what was 'Mother's Employment'.  I replied Full Time Parent.  'Oh no...snigger...we can't have that!  What were you BEFORE?'   So against my will, my child's birth certificate falsely identifies me as something I wasn't and which I had no desire to be.  All to protect me from the shame of what I actually was.

I wonder if we look back at those home cooked dinners, breads and cakes, at the cosy clean homes we would return to daily and rejoice that those days are gone?  Are we delighted that all too often we are so busy and stressed and overworked that the best we can hope for at dinner time is something ripped from a printed box and shoved in an oven? Is that a big life improvement over that of the women who cooked and cleaned with babies in tow and who afterwards sat down to pick up their knitting and who always seemed to be calm and content and spread that to their families? Do we look back in dismay that children walked to schools and activities because the family had one car, if that, and women weren't tied to evening traffic leaving little to no time for chopping vegetables or stirring pots?  My memory of my mother strongly revolves around kitchens and the aroma of cooking food and chatting to her as she prepared meals or knitted cardigans and blankets for the next baby.  My memory of my mother, my grandmother and every other woman in my circle of experience is women who were highly valued, around whom life revolved, women whose worth was never questioned.  In a lot of ways they were the ideal.  As C.S. Lewis once put it: 'The homemaker has the ultimate career.  All other careers exist for one purpose only - and that is to support the ultimate career'  Not so now, my dear, not so.

I'm not saying life was idyllic and rosy. Sure, they worked hard, sure times were tough but I think we know enough by now to realise that tough times and hard work aren't impediments to happiness and equally that prosperity doesn't necessarily equate contentment.

Where has contentment gone?  It took leave of us without us noticing.  We've been too busy to notice the stealth with which it departed.  In retrospect, it doesn't take much effort to see the effects of it's loss.  Remember homes were places of peace where we would recharge instead of centres of rushed coordination of activities where mothers are reduced to cart horse event managers who might love the idea of sitting down to knit or paint...or to cook a dinner from scratch, but just don't have time? Who exactly has benefited from the downgrading of the role of  women at home? It sure as hell ain't women! Or children, Or health, Or marriages, Or family life. Who has benefited?  That's what I'd like to know.  The processed food industry is the only thing I can think of.

No wonder our hearts and bodies are rebelling.

Could it be that Grandma had the right idea.  Could it be that the way things were done might possibly have been...better?  Just a question.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Young Teens And Fatima

This morning, 13th May, I was dropping our two younger middle children, now young teens,  to various places involving about 20 minutes in the car.  I told one who is singing in the choir for the school's 1st Communion to wait in the church for me to pick him up after the initial crowd has dispersed because the church and the parking area are both small. 

I suggested he spend those 10 minutes praying and maybe considering the children of Fatima and the lives they lived.  They asked me why I am talking about Fatima these days and I told them that today is the 100th Anniversary and asked them whether they knew anything about it or the children.  Being younger in the family, it's easy to fall through the stools as regards religious formation (Fatima coming under the category of things we would do well to believe but not necessary to the faith).  We sometimes put so much effort in giving the older children a strong moral, doctrinal, philosophical education that we forget to do the same for the younger ones.  It's something parents especially of large families need to constantly be aware of.  Osmosis has only a part to play, they must also be personally instructed (that's my theory anyway). 

Anyway, it turns out to my shame that they knew little to nothing about Fatima.  So in the space of the short drive I summarised what had happened and how it has fitted into European history.  How they have been praying the prayer the angel told the children to recite during the rosary.  About communism and it's rotten fruit, about angels and Pope Leo XIII.  They were absolutely fascinated, full of questions and dying to watch some of the programming which will surely be on EWTN today.

I dropped off the first child and had time alone with the other, the older of the two, as she needed to go to the other side of town.  That short conversation led to her opening her heart about her faith as regards her peers, how she can live it in a world in which religion, and especially Catholicism, is considered strange and how to stay joyful even when it's difficult. 

She was especially drawn to the explanation of how love frees us from laws with the example that it's not law which prevents her from killing her beloved little sister, it's love.  The law doesn't even apply to her because she doesn't want to do that thing anyway.  The more we fall in love with Jesus, the less we are bound by laws.  That is very freeing knowledge to have...that 'The Truth will set you free'.  Can you even imagine how liberating that is for any teenager who thinks, and whose friends think, that God is a party pooper and that religion is nothing but oppressive rules.  When she sees the 'rule' being her love of her sister there's no hint of coercion or oppression. 

On the other hand, I pointed out how Jesus was always so tender with sinners, especially sexual sinners such as the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well because he knew they were looking for him, just in the wrong place like so many young people are doing, even some she already knows.  God's little ones wandering precariously, objectively blameless, because who has ever told them? Just like the biblical sheep without a shepherd, and how she needs to be tender toward everyone, never thinking badly of them.  She was drinking it in!! As she got out of the car she turned and said "This is so INTERESTING!" 

Two things:

(1) Don't be afraid to talk to your children, all your children not just the first one or two, about faith.  They are dependent on you because nobody else is going to tell them. Don't underestimate their thirst.  Don't presume they'll find this not boring topic boring.  If you are still amazed they'll pick that up.  How can we not be amazed at all these things? 

(2) Time and again I have found the best conversations with my children have been in the car while I am driving.  It makes it easier for them to open their hearts.  I wonder if it's because there's no eye contact and it's a calm environment.  It reminds me of confession, where the priest leans in a listening pose as opposed to a conversational one.  It's easier for the penitent to offload what can at times be embarrassing.  

(3) It's still morning on 13th May and already I'm seeing fruits blossom. What a great day this is! 

(4) You cannot tell your children what you don't know yourself.

Yes, well spotted, that's four things. A girl can change her mind.