Two Oregon Catholic moms, who also have decades of experience in Catholic education, offer advice for parents: See the big picture instead of sweating the small stuff.
“Don’t worry about the little things,” says Sue Gerding, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Jordan and a mother of five adult children with husband Ben. “Don’t worry if your house is not as clean as before kids came along. Enjoy the kids as they grow up.”
If anyone had cause to worry, it was Gerding. Each of her children were second lieutenants in the U.S. Army and served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some repeatedly.
“I learned to trust God the most during those times,” she says. “There was nothing much to do but pray.”
Gerding also had a bout with cancer.
She was a stay-at-home mom until her youngest was in high school, then earned a master’s degree in teaching from Willamette University and has long taught at Lourdes Charter School.
Gerding was 25 when she became a mother. Most days with five youngsters were wonderful, even if chaotic. But some days were difficult, she says. It was the hard times that made her a better woman — more patient, tolerant and compassionate.
If her children — four girls and one boy — needed firm discipline, which was rare, she dispensed it. Soon, the kids developed a sense of the common good, and no one wanted to be the one to break the peace.
Her chief role model was her own mother, who was unflappable. Her mother-in-law, also a good example, was highly supportive and a strong Catholic.
Gerding finds it’s easier to be in the moment as a grandmother — which she is eight times over. She cherishes each minute spent reading a book, playing in the park or baking cookies.
Let them make mistakes
Jeannie Ray-Timoney also is a mother of four girls and one boy, all grown. Though herself a disciplined college athlete and longtime coach of Catholic Youth Organization basketball and volleyball, Ray-Timoney cautions parents against being overly directive or protective.
“You’ve got to let them make mistakes. They learn from mistakes,” she says.
Ray-Timoney, holder of a doctorate in education and associate superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Portland, says she and husband Mark chose to be authoritative rather than authoritarian.
“We were still in charge, but we were willing to listen to the kids,” she says. “We wanted our kids to be self-sufficient.”
As it turns out, she says, the kids all have “strong character,” based on the family motto: Love God and love neighbor.
Like Gerding, Ray-Timoney went back to school as a mom to study education. For a long time, she would sit down with her kids to do her homework.
A grandmother of seven with two more on the way, Ray-Timoney says being a mother made her realize how much God is a part of everything. She also started thinking more about others and less about herself, but always made sure to conserve solitude, like running or playing sports.
“It makes me a better mom to go run or go to the gym,” she says.
Her suggestion for parents: “Continue to talk to your kids so you know what’s going on in their lives.”
Among her favorite Scripture passages for parents: “Love is patient, love is kind . . . ” from St. Paul and the parable of the Prodigal Son, which she looks at as the story of a parent who always has open arms.
“Being a parent is a hard job,” Ray-Timoney says. “It takes a lot of patience and a lot of prayer. You just do the best you can.”