Sunday, May 28, 2017

This Is How We Do It

Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - This Is How We Do ItI made a rare appearance in church a few ago to attend my youngest daughter’s First Communion rehearsal.  My cradle Catholic wife, who took the sole responsibility of ushering our 8-year-old back and forth to CCD and church every Sunday for the last few years, was out of town for her new job training, so I filled in.  To be honest, I didn’t want to go.

Despite converting to Catholicism a few years ago after completing RCIA, I never found the immense comfort in the church and its rituals that my ‘growin’ up Catholic’ counterparts touted.  In fact, I still feel the exact opposite in mass…uncomfortable as an outsider.  My daughter’s excitement during the rehearsal and nervousness over the upcoming milestone reminded me of my purpose, though, and I relaxed and leaned into the pew.  

After the coordinator gave the specific instructions to the kids on how to act, when to walk, and where to sit, Father Grassi, our longtime pastor who is retiring at the end of this year, grabbed the mic and gave the parents some ‘helpful hints’ about how to make this event go down smoothly.

“Have your kids here at 9:30am.  Not 9:40, not 5 till 10, not quarter of, but 9:30am.  Parents, don’t make your kids suffer on one of the most important days of their lives because of your inability to be on time.  They need time to calm down, pray, and prepare for this monumental day in their lives.  Don’t put your schedule above their needs.”

Bam.  He told us.  And I heard him, loud and clear.  I’d never considered the ramifications of my own tardiness on my kids.

“And pictures, I’m going to talk about pictures.  They are not allowed during the mass.  Have some respect for the celebration and your child.  Take part in their special day by praying for them as they walk in instead of flashing a light in their eyes.  Be present.”

He went on to say that he would halt mass and ask people to leave if they take photos, which I thought was pretty awesome that he was so firm in his conviction.

The rehearsal ended, the real deal took place the following Saturday, and us parents all did as we were told and the first communicants entered the next phase of their lives with flying colors, and life resumed as normal.

However, Father Grassi’s words still stick with me and seem to apply in every situation I’ve encountered since.  Not the tardiness and the camera stuff, but the idea of taking the time to give the “this is how we do it” speech in a way that not only sets up an expectation, but also explains why said expectation is set.  

I told my daughter that it’s not acceptable to have her beau in your bedroom alone with the door closed, as it can create too much opportunity and blur the level of formality that a young relationship typically has, as well as give a very specific impression to others when done with a group of people around outside the bedroom door.  She needed to know.

While we can agree that kids need this for sure, I don’t think it’s really any different with adults.  We need to set boundaries and intention for others, as well as hear and acknowledge others’ expectancy.  Of course people don’t always meet our expectations, nor us theirs, but by spelling it out each and every time, there’s NEVER a moment when we don’t understand why something went sideways.

Think about it in terms of a job.  We’re usually given a title and a job description and training on how to execute those tasks.  If you don’t meet the written expectation, there’s no surprise when you get written up or fired for lack of performance.  
Stacy Snyder - ParentUnplugged - This Is How We Do It
Photo of Father Grassi courtesy

How about as a spouse, a mother, a friend, a patient, or a mentor?  While these don’t traditionally come with a pre-printed playbook, they run a hell of a lot smoother when we take some basic stabs at formulating rules of play!

While most people subconsciously seek boundaries, even if for the sole intent to cross them, we  have difficulty dishing out those same rules of engagement.  Why is that?  Are we afraid of ridicule, or worse yet, rejection?

As an adult with a decent education and prolonged exposure to society, business, culture, diversity and their respective norms, I still need some schoolin' from time to time on something as simple as being late. That I can accept.  Yet it’s not as easy to draw out the lines of expectation for others.  

Can I ask someone to leave when they’ve overstayed their welcome?  Can I tell a client we can no longer work together over respect issues?  Can I chase a new passion even though I have not yet fulfilled the last?  

While these questions reek of discomfort, each is answered with a resounding YES when your hand has been laid out.

I’m tired and have a long day tomorrow so it’s time to wrap it up.  I can’t do my best work when I’m distracted by the way you treat everyone around you as less than.  I need to be heard in order to survive so I keep testing the mediums until I get it right.

It all comes down to my favorite topic, which is living in the world of reality versus adhering to the stories we tell ourselves based on our own insecurities.

My favorite author, Armistead Maupin of Tales of the City, says, “The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.”

This is my mantra.  This is how I roll.  Thank you Father Grassi for teaching me a lesson while existing within my world. 

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