I haven't mentioned that I now live with five, count 'em five teenagers in my house. How did that happen? Well, it all starts with my sister in law, seventeen year old Milagros who was languishing in her brother's place on Long Island. A year ago, she and her older brother Manuel, age 20, immigrated to the US. We had been waiting for them for years, as their mother sponsored them. She was not learning English, not going to school or Mass, or making friends, just watching TV and eating. Miserable. Utterly miserable.
As a mother and an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher of 20 years, I couldn't stand the thought of a young girl wasting her life like this, while living within the chaotic household of a brother whose 'domestic partnership' was spinning out of control (don't get me started).
So we moved her up to Connecticut, and she attended the Academy of the Holy Family with Gabbi. Then we saw the same syndrome with her brother, who failed his ESL class due to his 30 year old brother's terrible example. He had failed that class twice, first when I taught it to him in 2002 and AGAIN in 2009. Enough is enough, I decided, and brought him up after Christmas. Both Manuel and Milagros realized that they wanted good jobs which required education, and that their brother Jose was not going anywhere because of his lazy attitude towards learning. Now they attend weekly Mass, youth group, ESL classes, Manuel has a good paying job, and both are timidly attempting to be part of our bilingual family. We are nearing successful integration.
So now, I had Gabbi, age 16, Milagros, 17, Bella 12, Manuel, 20 and one January day when I was hoarse from Scarlet fever, a friend who has an 18 year old daughter who was not doing well in school, asked if she could board with us and attend the Academy as well. I said yes. Now Elena, age 18 completes my collection of teenagers. Add a petulant 8 year old Christina and you have yourself a challenge to discipline. What was I thinking you say? I don't know, sometimes I say 'yes' too quickly however, this time I was right because the grace of daily Mass is carrying me through this.
It has had it's ups and downs, yet, sparing you the lurid details, I will merely say that I have had to be more rigid in this boarding school atmosphere, by establishing myself as queen of the castle, better known as "She who maketh the rules and enforceth them. Or else." But I needed some help drawing the line on teenage 'tudes.
Enter my saviour, Dr Ray Guarendi, whose 10 kids include five teens with backgrounds which make the most experienced mother shudder. I figured he'd have the answers and yesterday, on a long drive, to Isabella's doctor, we were listening to his CD at Lighthouse Media, with our sides hurting from laughter.
His main point is that we need to take the reins from the so called experts who told us we are 'parenting neanderthals' because we believe in things like right and wrong, And want our children to be virtuous, God seeking, self sacrificing adults. We have to make rules and ENFORCE THEM. Over and over and over and over. ...till their little hormone-addled brains get it. I'm boss, they're not. Period.
And they better give me R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
So, tonight, when Bella decided she could get away with yelling at me for my 'behavior', she landed a 200 word essay on why that was wrong. She did it, and I think felt unexpectedly proud of the result. . 'It was wrong to yell at Mom, it hurt her feelings, it was disrespectful, it broke the Fourth Commandment. Jesus didn't like it, because it is mean, the Blessed Mother didn't like it because it was disrespectful, St Therese didn't like it. . . all the way to God the father, who was watching and wasn't pleased. "
It took half the Litany of Saints to reach 200 words! Sound familiar, Dr Ray fans?
She was copying Dr Guarendi's description of one of his son's essays. A wise-apple move, to be sure, BUT it got her attention and reminded her of something important. The Lord and His saints DO care about how she treats her mother, AND that I am not the meanest mother in the world; Mrs Guarendi must be a real ogre!
As my mother used to scream at the top of her lungs when things got out of hand in the Crafa house, "you don't have to like me, but YOU MUST RESPECT ME".
Thank God I DID learn to respect Mom, follow the rules she set, no matter how silly it seemed to have table manners when you were sitting accross from your wrestling little brothers. Now I understand the value in raising disciplined young adults, who can accommplish their dreams in this world, and meet their loved ones in the next. Speaking of loved ones in the hereafter,
Good for you, Mom. Thanks for the intercession.