Melodious Parenting: Insights from the Bells of Notre Dame

Notre Dame cathedral celebrates 850 years this 2013. To give you perspective, the United States of America boasts 237 years. The Chateau de Versailles began as a hunting lodge 344 years ago. 521 years ago Christopher Columbus discovered the American shores.

Big and Beautiful

To commemorate this historic event, the cathedral will be installing new bells. They have been exposed in the sanctuary of Notre Dame cathedral during the month of February for the throngs of folk to admire. Huge bells. Some weigh more than one ton. Beautiful bells. Each is smooth on the inside and uniquely decorated on the exterior with its name (one of the new bells is named “Denis”!  Click here to zoom on the photo.) engraved upon it and bearing an original design: a tapestry of keys, a tempest, leaves and waves... But bells are not made for their beauty or brawn. They are made to ring.

These magnificent bells are now being installed where, for centuries, they will not be seen. They will be heard. This is the fulfillment of their mission.

Not Beauty nor Brawn, but Ring!

What is the fulfillment of our mission as parents? Is it the beauty and brawn of our precious cuties or to hear them ring when they’re out of our view?

Too often I hear the phrase “good” mom/dad or “bad” parent. It especially jars me when parents of little tykes refer to themselves this way. (They have seen nothing yet.) The quality of parenting does not get evaluated daily.
How can you and I measure the “quality” of our parenting? By how the kids act when we are no longer around. Our job as moms and dads is not to keep our children on display in the sanctuary of our homes. It’s to prepare them for loving, living, and making a living on their own. That’s how they will spend the majority of their lives. The true test of the value of our parenting comes when the children have left our nest.

Developing Ring Tone

Hummm. You’re not convinced? Let’s take an example.

Who are the “better” parents?

- Family A: Dad makes sure his child sits down to do her homework, nudges her along when she gets distracted, encourages her again to persevere (a.k.a. nagging), pre-corrects the homework and has her redo it, and smiles approvingly when she comes home with a good grade.

- Family B: Mom says, “Homework time.” Junior finishes his with the speed of light and Mom lifts an eyebrow quizzically. Not surprisingly, his grade is medium. Mom and Junior spend more time reviewing the comments on his homework than he spent doing it! She reminds him that his reputation is more easily made than changed. For what does he want to be known?

Does Family B sound pretty interesting...but we act like Family A?

Now, who are the “better” parents?

- Family Z: Zoe gets her first job. The boss regularly catches her texting and on Facebook when the task he requested is still not done. She doesn’t know how to concentrate without someone looking over her shoulders. She hands him an incomplete job expecting him to “pre-correct.” He lets her know this is unsatisfactory. She’s horrified and calls home asking whether she could sue her boss. The mother telephones Zoe’s boss to coach him on how to best work with her daughter.

- Family Y: Yan gets his first job. Dad tells him,“Go show them your stuff, son.” Yan knows what it’s like to fail because he’s done it before and it sure did not feel good. His parents helped him learn from the trials and to try again... and again. He now knows the taste of a job well done. Great flavor! Worth pursuing. At work, he presents his best. He receives critiques but instead of taking them personally, he turned them into learning opportunities. When he calls home it’s to report enthusiastically on how he has addressed the latest challenge.

Of course these are exaggerations, although I personally know parents who have called their children’s employers!

I almost did it myself once—calling a friend for whom my son babysat. She regularly kept him for up to an hour afterwards, without pay, to help with various chores. This delayed our family dinner. Finally, instead of calling my friend, I told my son it was his problem. Either he is at home on time for family dinner or he eats out on his own budget. (Our home is not a restaurant for whomever to eat as he chooses. Sounds tough? It is. It is the way we manage to schedule family meals.) He quickly learned how to respectfully set limits with her. Not easy. That’s why we were so proud of him. That’s why I’m not tempted to do it again. The family gained so much from letting our son grow up.

The Bells Tell

All of Paris hears the bells of Notre Dame. Our children will come in contact with a great many people and challenges. Let’s be careful that, out of love (short-sighted), we keep them immobile and chained down. To the parents with the long-term in mind: let it rip!

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