From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace: Families cope with looming war

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the March 20, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

As war with Iraq looms there are days when I lack the energy for the daily tasks of parenting. Folding laundry seems insignificant and useless in light of headlines about bombs and debate over just war.

Since the beginning of time, women have struggled to balance the basic needs of their children with the issues of the greater community. Still, it comes down to each mother figuring out for herself how to do this.

Jeanne, the mother of two teenagers, says it takes a team effort for her family to cope. Her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves, has been called up to active duty.

“The kids have to do more chores, and be more responsible,” says Jeanne. “I tell them, you need to be tough little soldiers. We support the president. Daddy has sworn to do whatever the president says. You probably don’t want him to go, but you can’t say that. He doesn’t want to go either, but he has to.

“We have to be supportive. When the parents are positive, the kids do better,” says Jeanne. “My husband, he’s a Catholic guy, he doesn’t want war. He wants to be at his regular job teaching middle school, but he’s going to be on duty for awhile. We don’t dwell on the stuff that’s hard. We pray for the president and for government leaders to make good decisions.”

Eileen, mother of daughters aged 10 and 13, also struggles to parent in these times.

“I myself can’t get away from feelings of impending doom, and my anger at this administration knows no bounds,” she says. “I am not very subtle in my outbursts about the direction the White House is going, and of course the girls hear this.

“The main struggle I have as a parent is the very real tendency to lose hope. I have had days when the world situation looked so bleak to me that I came within a thread of losing all hope. But, always, I have found something that gives me hope again. Sometimes it is as simple as having my daughter climb into my lap for a snuggle. I know the most important thing I can give my girls right now is hope that all shall be well. My struggle as a parent boils down to the basics: keep my heart open and make room for God’s love, joy, and peace. Otherwise, I am doomed to the pit of despair.”

Clinical Psychologist Craig Lammers says it important for parents to pay attention if their children ask questions about war. “You really need to listen to try and find out what the child is asking,” he says. “Find out what they really need to know and give as honest a reply as possible based on the age of the child and the information they can understand.”

Dr. Lammers says if children’s concerns are not addressed, they are likely to come up with their own answers which will usually be worse than reality and tend to generate even more anxiety.

Even if school age children are not asking questions, it is likely they are well aware we are on the brink of war. Dr. Lammers suggests it is “good medicine” for parents to bring up the topic.

“Maybe at dinner, ask, ‘What are you kids hearing about war with Iraq?’” he says. “You may end up with quite a discussion. If not, you’ve planted a seed and if they do have questions later, they’ll know they can go to mom or dad with them. The door is open.”

People who share one faith disagree on the subject of this war. It divides families, strains relations between neighbors and colleagues, causes friends to stick with small talk and erupts into angry words between strangers. Maybe some days folding the laundry is the most constructive thing I can do. I’m learning to listen and trust that when God wants more of me, I’ll know it.

© 2003, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a free-lance and children’s writer living in Spokane.)

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