May 13, 2011

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Create a past worth remembering when we are grown

Cynthia DewesWhen we were kids, May was the entire spring season because we lived in Minnesota. Until then, it was winter or something suspiciously like it.

So we would spend our school recess in the woods behind the building looking for bloodroots and

jack-in-the-pulpits. There would still be chilly spots requiring a sweater in the shade, but we didn’t care—it was spring!

Before we picked the flowers, we made May baskets out of construction paper in art class. Those were the days when, on May 1, you would hang a May basket full of wildflowers on the doorknob of your grandma or a favorite neighbor lady, knock on the door, then run and hide.

Even if Grandma knew who left this sweet gift, she would feign surprise and exclaim, “Oh, look! Someone has left me a lovely bunch of flowers.” Then the donor would pop out of hiding to receive a big hug and probably a cookie. It was spring all around.

There were other highlights in May. The Brownies had their ceremony of “flying up” to the big-deal level of Girl Scouts. And there was the annual class picnic down by the lagoon next to Lake Minnetonka with the beach nearby promising summer fun ahead. The girls chanted as they skipped rope, and the boys teased the girls with snakes when they weren’t running bases.

Of course, those were the good old days as we like to remember them. Nostalgia is great, and we all like to indulge in it once in a while. But this is the Easter season and Easter is all about the future, not the past except for correcting its mistakes.

What happens today becomes a memory for someone who is a child now. Nostalgia is a pleasant experience when the memories we retrieve are happy ones, and adults—including parents, teachers and mentors of all kinds—have a duty to help make such good memories possible.

We start with basic values, which make life stable and fulfilling for children in physical, emotional and spiritual ways.

We don’t have to be rich or well-educated to give them basic material sustenance, but if we’re out of work or impoverished we must take responsibility and ask others for help.

We also offer loving support and encouragement in whatever they are involved in, and we never let them forget that God loves them all the time as we do—no matter what.

In other words, we don’t practice serial monogamy or sexual roulette in uncommitted relationships if we want to raise children—as in raise children, not just live in the same house with them.

We don’t embarrass them by being drunk, starting fights, yelling at store clerks or ignoring requests to come to their school for conferences or big events. We don’t cheat, lie, threaten or act the fool most of the time. We don’t bully others or condone those who do.

We don’t have to be a perfect parent. I’m not sure such a person exists. But we always have to be honest with children, admit our mistakes and apologize when we make them. And mean it. Children have remarkable radar for phoniness, and if there is one thing they can’t forgive in a parent, it’s phoniness.

If we manage to do all this hard stuff, there is a reward in the fact that they, in turn, will be loving parents who perpetuate the values that make for an Easter-inspired society. What a legacy.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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