The Christmas countdown has begun and I assume that Praying College Moms everywhere anticipate a warm and loving grateful brood of adult children will arrive back home for the holidays. I sigh as I reminisce about one homecoming my two college-aged boys gave me. To set the scene, a fire crackled as Celine Dion Christmas songs played softly. Fresh-baked cookies awaited my little lambkins. Outdoor lights were strung, stockings hung, and, truly, my head danced with "visions of sugar plums" as I watched the driveway for the old green van that signaled their arrival home from school!
As you may remember from And So We Pray, chapter 5, when at last the front door flew open, I ran to embrace my smelly, unshaven boys and tripped over the bags they lay at my feet. Laundry. They dodged my attempts at hugs, grabbed cookies, and made a break for their rooms, on the way to the showers (at least I was grateful for that)! The boys said they were getting cleaned up to go out with friends. These two beloved sons of mine had no intention of spending an evening by the fire nibbling cookies with mom.
How does a Praying College Mom cope with disappointments like these? Or, perhaps, even larger ones like broken holiday curfews? Resistance to spending time with the family? Drunkenness at holiday parties? Entitlements? (clean laundry, extra spending money, expensive gifts?) Even the strongest of Catholic families sometimes find holidays with college kids can be, well, a little rocky.
Praying College Moms face every disappointment first by praying--maybe not in the moment if we're caught off guard--but certainly as a first recourse. And then, inspired by the Holy Spirit (the best possible parental "go to") they act with prudence and grace. A friend of mine had a turbulent Thanksgiving with her adult children involving broken curfews and excessive drinking. She and her husband prayed about what to do. They decided to reiterate in writing what the family stands for and why, and to set some expectations for the approaching Christmas holiday. They call their letter to the kids "OUR FAMILY'S TEN COMMANDMENTS."
To begin, the couple explained that they think of their home as a "sanctuary" and a "Christ-center domestic church." As such, broken curfews and drunkenness amount to breaches against the "sanctity" of their home and are not tolerated. They called their Ten Commandments "laws of love" to "govern our home and behavior," and they invited their children to "join us with renewed efforts in (living) these."
With my friend's permission, here are her FAMILY TEN COMMANDMENTS:
1. God is number ONE in our home, therefore all we do should reflect that everyday-- but with out exception-- we go to Church on Sundays. If you are in our home, if you are staying with us, you will be expected to go to Church on Sundays.
2. Be kind and loving and "put yourself out" for others, being respectful and pleasant even if you don't feel like it.
3. Don't drink to excess--do not come home drunk. This is absolutely unacceptable and dangerous behavior. And if you come in late (not drunk!:) and wake the dog-- you need to handle him as it wakes up the whole family-- not cool.
4. Stick to the plans. If we "make a plan" and you agree to it, you are going to be expected to stick with it- even if you get a much better offer. This is the right thing to do --in any situation. Please be thoughtful and respectful of other's feelings, time and effort.
5. Clean up after yourself and your guests. This is our home. Whether it is your room or the kitchen or the family room couch, please keep it clean. And if we have guests (and we almost always do) help clean up after them too. That means dishes, clothes, folding up blankets or whatever. Please keep it all clean. Unload or load-no need to ask--just do.
6. Friends are welcome, but please ask us first. Sometimes we just need "family" other times friends are great.
7. The opposite sex is never allowed to hang out or sleep in your rooms until you are married. (Hope this goes without saying and this has not been an issue, but just wanted to be very clear.)
8. If you use the hide-out key--put it back.
9. If you are staying in our home and know you are not coming home at night for ANY REASON-please TEXT and let us know where you are for safety reasons.
10. Please always remember: This is our HOME. It is not a hotel or a dorm or a rented apartment--it is our sanctified, peaceful and holy space. It is our nest that we have strived very hard to build and to protect and in which we want to happily and harmoniously live. We want to guard and protect it and your younger siblings' sweetness and innocence as well (as we did yours) so if you want to watch "adult tv" before 9:00pm please go down stairs. The "family room" is for all and if the program is not for ALL -it is not fair to ALL.
Not every family's ten commandments will look alike, but the exercise of writing them out as a couple is a good one for clarifying what you expect of adult children. Everyone in the family benefits from this clarity--parents communicate better and adult children know--in black and white--what their parents have decided are THE FAMILY TEN!