Oh.my.stars. My last blog post was a month ago. FOUR WEEKS AGO! What have I been doing in the past four weeks? Well, I was sick most of January and for a week in February. It wasn’t a constant thing, but an aggravatingly off again, on again thing. So weird.
I kept telling my husband, “I want ordinary time! I just want normal back!”
I am finally back to my normal, which makes me happy. And part of that routine is blogging about motherhood and how to help our children grow up to be giant killers. (Maybe that is not your goal, ha. But I love the idea of growing crazy strong adult children in our crazy mixed-up culture. I desire adult children that know themselves well, that know who they are and “whose” they are, so they can guide others to their center, which is always Christ.)
For those of you that are new to this site, first of all, welcome. My name is Lori Doerneman, I have been married for over thirty years to my husband Russ and we have eight very large children. I always tell people we have a ton of children and well, it’s literally true. I love my kids so much. They have helped me grow in ways that I could not have ever imagined when I started this gig of motherhood 28 years ago.
Okay. So in my last post, which seems like years ago, I made the point that when we parent our kids, we take whatever they are doing at face value. My oldest son, Eric, helped me understand that when things enter into a child’s world that they don’t want their parents to know about, they hide them from us.
Eric said it’s like an invisible line is created by the child, where they hide things that they don't want their parents to see under that line. That is not such a surprising concept. I think that’s something we have all probably done in our lifetime.
However, what Eric brought to my attention is how, when a child hides something below “their line,” they splinter, living two different existences.
Find out more about that: What it Means to “Parent Below the Line.”
Today I’d like to give a follow-up to that post. The topic today: What is Looks Like to “Parent Below the Line.”
Okay, as Eric stated so eloquently, UNDER that invisible line are all of the things that our children hide from us. When they hide things, there is usually some type of shame involved. “If you knew this about me, you wouldn’t love me anymore.”
I am typing very slowly right now, because this next thought has been incredibly life-changing for me: How You Approach Your Child (stuck in sin~ below the line) is Everything.
To me, when I do this well, it's like I am entering a secret chamber to the heart of Christianity.
And perhaps it is.
What is this secret? You and I want to be seen. Loved. Accepted. As we are. WHEN we are seen.loved.accepted.as.we.are, it changes us. Totally and completely.
Let me share this in story form.
I, Lori Doerneman, hurt someone by a choice I made about 40 years ago. I didn’t know the fall-out of that situation until recently (someone shared the hurt it had caused) and let me tell you, the understanding of my own sinful, selfishness crushed me.
Have you ever been overwhelmed at your own sin?
I felt like I was mortally wounded. Seriously. I felt like I was bleeding out. So what did I do? I got to the confessional and poured out my heart to the priest.
What did he do?
He listened. And then he extended the mercy of God to me. I was seen “as is” and I was told, “I love you, child.”
It was a “Mary Magdalene Moment.”
It was a “My Grace is Big Enough” moment.
I felt renewed, like I was born again. And to be honest, that is what TRULY HAPPENED in the confessional that morning. I was not given a bandage.
He made me a new creation.
How did I respond? Well, I felt liberated (no longer weighed down with guilt) and glorified (He reminded me of my beloved daughter status) and dignified (you are mine, which means you are enough).
That is what grace does.
And so as I went about my life, I was able to enter in more fully, which means I sang more, smiled more and felt like I had a little wand of joy which I more or less sprinkled over everyone.
People. That transformation came from being unconditionally loved. Gratefulness and joy are natural responses when we are seen and loved as we are, in the muck and nastiness of self.
And unconditional love is what your children need from you. This is a huge shift, or at least it was for me.
See, I thought (for many years) that it was about mothering in such a way so I could attain kids with fabulously good BEHAVIOR. I seriously thought that if I did A, B and C, I could “get” perfect kids.
That’s not how it works.
What does work: loving your imperfect kids with your imperfect love which is continually growing and evolving and deepening as you understand how much YOU are loved by Christ.
Yes, teach them moral values. Yes, teach them right from wrong. Yes, give them chores to do and ways to contribute. But also: see below their line and love them below that line.
A friend called me last week in a panic. Her teenage daughter was lying to her and she didn’t know what to do about it. Should she confront her? Ignore her? Ground her for life?
Her situation was not unique. The truth of the matter: our children are going to push limits and boundaries and experiment. When they make stupid choices, out of embarrassment or maybe even out of self-preservation, they WILL want to hide things from us below that line.
But what erases that line: they need to know that you love them unconditionally. And that they CAN trust you, no matter what.
As we talked over the situation, I told my friend that she needs to extend unconditional love to her daughter. She needs, in essence, to “Mary Magdalen” her daughter.
Her first thought was, “Lori. If I love her in her sin, that seems like I am accepting her lying as an okay behavior.”
That was a normal response, don’t you think? I have heard the same thing from many moms. I used to live there, too.
But praise God, He is much bigger than us. He sees past our sin. His whole GOAL is reconciliation. He wants us in HIS HEART.
I'll say it again, since this is the surprise aspect of "Parenting Below the Line": How You Approach Your Child (stuck in sin~ below the line) is like Entering a Secret Chamber to the Heart of Christianity.
What is this secret chamber? Unconditional Love.
What that looks and feels like to a child:
It’s about attunement with your child. It’s about truly seeing the HEART and parenting the HEART over the BEHAVIOR.
Now, a huge side note. Our children are living in a time of TREMENDOUS PRESSURE. Most children have seen and experienced MORE distorted images and humanity on the screen than any child needs to see.
Your home and more importantly, your relationship with them can be a safe place where they can get away from some of that pressure.
Create rituals that support the relationships in your family. One thing that we have implemented is a “time of sharing” each evening. Russ and I only have three kids left in the home, Malaysia, Thomas and David. It’s been a new kind of family. We are smallish.
One way that I love to pray is through the rosary. I love love love Our Lady and I love love love the rosary. My husband and kids don’t find the kind of joy that I find in it. And yes, I sort of want to force it, but as it became apparent that they were just putting in their prayer time, mumbling words while “praying” the rosary, I shifted gears.
For several months we did nothing together as a family. And that wasn’t exactly life-giving. I knew we needed to spend authentic time together.
We went back to a good idea given to me by my daughter-in-law’s father, Kevin Ragas, “Rose, Thorn and Buds.” You can read more about that in this post: “A Little Bit of Advice…for the Frazzled.”
Basically, we gather in the living room and everyone shares something good that happened during the day as well as a struggle that they had. It’s become a time to truly connect to one another. I like my kids. I like hearing about their thoughts. Such a simple thing, I know. But it promotes emotional intimacy and it builds something strong within us. And I love all of that.
So, to recap:
There will probably be times when your child hides things from you.
Be willing to parent them below that line.
How to do that? Let God parent YOU below your own line. Allow Him access to your crud. Allow the Mary Magdalen Moment in your own life.
That transference of grace will allow you to offer grace to your child, loving them unconditionally.
Being seen as we are and loved anyway is utterly transformational.
Understand that our kids have a lot of pressure on them nowadays.
Work on ways to build emotional intimacy in your own family to counter that pressure.
If you ever want more specific help on this, we created a proactive parenting course for parents like you. If you want to parent the heart of your child, find out more here.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME TODAY! I LOVE THIS TOPIC OF PARENTING BELOW THE LINE. I believe in us as parents.
P.S. Last weekend I hosted my first ever MARRIAGE RETREAT. It was fun to create. I will tell you that I learned a ton about my own husband and our relationship, which surprised me.
Our marriage, which has been strong for a long time, became even better as we discussed some key topics.
I am having my next marriage retreat at the end of March, 2022. Many of the older women at the retreat said this: “Lori, I needed this the first years of my marriage.” I totally agreed with them...if I only knew then what I know now, SO MANY MISTAKES COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED!
So. If you are newly married (under seven years) this retreat will be super good for you. But no matter how long you have been married, you will still benefit!
One last thing: I have been giving retreats in parishes and in homes. If that is something you think your friends or community would benefit from, please reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, I heard this several years ago and I find it incredibly appropriate: We are walking each other home. Thank you for being on the journey with me.
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