Author Archive for Lisa Stack

Marian Mothering: Gentle Discipline Rooted in Respect

I have written and re-written this article more times than I’d like to admit.  Every time I thought that I had finished, something just felt off. After a lot of reflection and a great discussion with my husband, I realized that my challenge is with the word ‘discipline’ itself. 

If you were to ask anyone besides my husband, they would very likely say that  I don’t discipline at all.  To most outsiders, I am probably a little too relaxed, and we’re just lucky with a well-behaved child.  We are very lucky to have such a wonderful child, but we also work very hard to create a respectful relationship that allows us to be a little more relaxed.  We don’t discipline her.  We respect her, recognize her wonderful spirit, and work to fulfill our role as parents by anticipating unnecessary challenges.  This process takes time, love, and a great amount of prayer for Mary’s intervention.

On the outside, you will see a beautiful girl making snacks for herself, choosing her own colorful outfits, and usually, stomping in the closest mud puddle.  She also has a say in what we have for dinner (usually “corn-on-the-bob”), and helps plan our vegetable garden.  Many of the choices that she has would be off-limits in some households, but to us, there is no need to exercise unnecessary control.  She is clothed, so why would it matter if she is wearing a pink flower dress with a shamrock sweater and green rain boots?  The girl loves color.   She also often chooses her favorite ‘corn-on-the-bob’ or peas for a dinner vegetable, but she’s eating vegetables!  It’s OK if we eat them a little more often than we would like.  We respect her, and so she gets to exercise her voice. 

That being said, we draw very strict lines when it comes to safety.  A hand is always held when we are in crowded areas, parking lots, and close to water.  She is not allowed to wander off on the property without one of us, carseat is a must, and stairs are not yet tackled alone.  These lines, and a few others, were drawn early and with many patient conversations.  Unless the situation becomes dangerous, we always have a quick conversation explaining our reasoning behind something that we have to do, and we always give her the option to remove herself before we help her. 

This method, as you can imagine, requires a bit more time and patience than other methods.  However, we have found that giving her the opportunity to make these decisions, and arriving at a point where she can say ‘ok, I understand that it is not safe’ fosters her intrinsic confidence and trust.  It can be challenging to be patient.  Sometimes, when I’m tired, or I have to eat again to battle the insatiable pregnancy hunger, I think for a moment about just removing her from the situation and coping with the consequences later.  I am happy to say that I really can’t recall a moment where I have done this, but the thought serves as a reminder that I need to turn to Mary more often for the strength to recognize that Clare has her own unique needs, and I have to let go of my desire for unnecessary control in certain situations.

Clare is an actual person.  She isn’t just a malleable child.  She functions with passion, purpose, and intent.  She also may have a plan and mission for the day that makes perfect sense to her, but I don’t completely understand.  In these moments, I turn to Mary for guidance and reassurance.  I recall her respect for Christ’s mission, even though she didn’t completely understand the magnitude of His purpose.  She likely didn’t understand all of His intentions as well, as we are reminded in the story of Jesus remaining in the temple when Mary and Joseph left to return to Nazareth. 

When I find myself becoming frustrated, I try to remember that I may not completely understand Clare’s intention in a particular situation, and that she is of course inherently good.  She does not begin her day thinking “How can I make this challenging for mom?”.  Instead, she goes about her day trying to learn, enjoy, and grow.  As her mother, it is my job to work to understand her needs and desires, and to recognize that it is OK if they are different from my own.  We work together to love and enjoy our day, while deepening our respect and trust for each other.

Mary has served as a wonderful teacher to us, showing us that we are nurturing and fostering a beautiful light of spirit.  We’ve created a great balance of play and conversation, rooted in respect.  For us, this balance of quiet and peaceful discipline remains, as long as we always return to Mary’s example of her great love and respect for Christ’s magnificent mission.

Fostering Initiative and Spirituality: Little Acts of Stewardship

Lisa Stack with daughter Clare

Every morning after breakfast, my daughter Clare takes a long look out the window and announces that it is time to refill the bird feeder.  “The birds are hungry, Mom-mom”, she says with great concern.  Caring for our feathered friends has become a cherished daily task for her – – and she takes it very, very seriously. 

As I take down the feeder, she comments on how much her friends have eaten in the past day, recalls the various species that she observed, and scans the yard for her favorite family of dark-eyed juncos.  As she carefully scoops out just enough seed to fill the feeder she notes that any spills are okay, because Chippy (our resident chipmunk) will eat them. Most days, Chippy is very well-fed. 

Watching her care for her world with such conviction, I’m amazed that she has taken on such an important task of stewardship, completely by herself.  Although this great ritual does sometimes take a bit longer than I’d like, and it can be challenging on days when we have appointments, I’ve learned to restructure my day to accommodate one of her first expressions of taking the initiative with a cause that she feels great passion for.  By giving her the space and opportunity to nurture this great love that she has, I hope that this will translate into future convictions in both faith and values.

As she grows and ventures out into the world beyond bird feeders and the calls of dark-eyed juncos, her faith will be tested, questioned, and possibly ridiculed.  I hope that the world isn’t too hard on her, but I know that she must face these questions.  One day, she will wonder why we believe, why we feel so strongly about our values, and why we defend them daily.  She will also reach a point where she has to make an educated decision to choose to continue on this path of faith for herself, and then defend that decision daily.  Our job as her parents is to make sure that she feels confident enough to apply the great initiative that she is just now exploring to her own self-discovery of faith, and also normalize the outward existence of faith within our home.  She has a long journey of discernment ahead, and she has already started down the road of independent exploration.

We can’t choose her faith for her.  Of course I hope that she one day finds the same love for Catholicism that we have, but she will have to choose this faith for herself.  What we can do, however, is weave faith into our everyday conversations.  We normalize questioning and theology in our home.  We also encourage challenges to our family’s faith, as we feel they push us to further define our beliefs.  We live our faith, actively.  This can be seen in very outward expressions like attending Mass, discussing grief, and praying together; however, we also have many subtle moments of alms giving, stewardship, and pure love for our family unit.  We cannot expect her to follow in our footsteps and create her own faithful expressions if she doesn’t feel the permission and confidence to do so.

Whether she is feeding her dear friends, digging holes in the garden, or creating special artwork as a gift for someone else, she’s pursuing her own natural desires.  We do our best to encourage these ‘jobs’ (as she calls them), because we want her to know that her values and beliefs are important, whatever they may be. 

Her faith will continue to evolve slowly and quietly. In this safe and nonjudgmental environment, we hope that she will one day feel confident to take the initiative to ask those challenging questions, defend her beliefs, and preserve her values.  As her faith slowly evolves, we will be there waiting to listen and share.

Marian Mothering: A Brief Introduction

Editor’s Note: I am thrilled to present to you Lisa Stack’s inaugural article on Marian Mothering.  Lisa will write a monthly column on this topic.  Welcome Lisa!

Lisa Stack with daughter Clare

I’m Lisa, Catholic  mom to a beautiful daughter and a son on the way!  On a monthly basis, I will share with you on CAPC my practice of mothering in Mary’s image.  This is a method that has evolved (and continues to do so) over time with great reflection on my role as a mother, and how this role enhances my faith.

This is not a guide to parenting; it is a journey to further understanding our role as ‘Mom’ and how we can deepen our connection with Christ, through Mary.  While it may initially appear complicated, it is simply a two-step practice of taking each challenge or joyous event and applying the following two questions:

  1. How did (or would) Mary approach a similar moment with Christ?
  2. How does my appreciation for Mary as a fellow mother, further my understanding and love for Christ?

In light of this month’s Table Topic, I will explain a brief example of this practice using my personal struggle in recognizing Clare’s independence, while yearning for her to stay my sweet baby forever.

Over the past few months, Clare has taken great steps to learn what it means to care for herself.  She prefers to wash her own hair, brush her own teeth, select her own clothes, and even dress herself.  She hasn’t exactly mastered these tasks yet, and I find myself wanting to jump in and help – but I don’t.  I take the challenging road of waiting patiently, until she asks me for help.  I hate to see her get frustrated when she just can’t get her foot into the right pant leg, but I know that she has to do it herself.  She desperately wants to do it herself, and I respect her process.

Initially, I found myself experiencing grief over her increasing independence.  I knew that it would come eventually, but I didn’t understand how challenging it would be for me to watch her grow and change so quickly.  As my heart ached, I looked to Mary for an example of strength. She, too, had to let her child grow and change.  She had to let Him venture out into a world alone, where not everyone would love Him.  I imagined her wanting to keep Him close and safe, knowing that others would not understand His mission.

Although Mary may have wanted to keep Christ for herself, like I want to keep Clare, she let Him go.  I drew from her strength, and her unconditional love.  I also appreciated Christ in a new light.  I saw Him through the eyes of a mother, not just as one of the many He sacrificed His life for.  Suddenly, the thought of letting Christ go out into a world where many would reject and persecute Him became far more painful, and my love for Him grew.

Imagine, for a moment, watching your child struggling to put their own pants on, while knowing that they were the son or daughter of God?  What strength and love Mary must have had to not just pick Him up and hide somewhere to keep Him safe.  What faith she must have had in God, to trust in His plan, even when it caused such great pain.

Although there is a great difference between Christ’s great sacrifice, and Clare’s morning ritual, I have come to a greater understanding of both Mary’s strength and Christ’s great mission.  When I find myself feeling grief over Clare’s independence, I remind myself of Mary’s strength, and the importance of respecting a child’s mission – even if it is, for the moment, conquering purple leggings.