By Carrie McCormack
EACH family has their preferred way to work, play and pray as a family.
When we are in the presence of children we must remember they have not yet received the formation of Church, culture and family that we have.
So it’s important to give children time and space to communicate who they are, despite how small or young.
In our mothers’ group we aim to make the child’s way our point of unity and the parents become assistants to infancy. Using a carefully prepared space with particular activities that nurture the child we see the children engage with simple activities with repetition.
The children experience going at their own pace and show satisfaction and a growth in their confidence.
This is an opportunity for parents to see their children in a new way.
The parents’ minds are opened as they assist their child to master one activity through repetition.
The child shows signs of contemplation and peace.
This is a source of great joy for families as they get to know who their child is more and more.
I have six siblings and most of my memory of childhood is covered with a feeling of chaos.
I thought this was normal.
Now having my own children I am learning about the dignity of the child and their love for order, repetition and personal space – all three of which did not feature in my childhood.
GK Chesterton writes about children’s love of repetition in his book Orthodoxy. He writes: “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.”
We hope to make children feel completely welcome and at ease so they can be who they are and satisfy their desire to grow.
There is nothing futuristic about the space we create. In fact, to the adult eye, it looks quite boring.
However, each week, the families come into the space and the whole environment is animated.
The children show so much joy in the mundane and repetitive nature of the activities.
Maria Montessori, a Catholic doctor from Rome, wrote about the need for adults to consider the child’s environment and adjust to the child’s needs so to avoid being a hindrance.
At mothers’ group we are always observing the children as they use the space.
If something is a hindrance to the child we remove or modify it.
At times this means changing ourselves.
For a short time every week when we gather we give a concerted effort to achieve this.
In our effort to be radically child-friendly, we create a learning environment for everyone.
We don’t expect everyday life to be exactly like this, but the desire is there.
This weekly experience is like yeast in the leaven as we see the kingdom grow in our homes.
The parents who come say “it’s like being in training together with my co-workers, I can practise the skills I need to communicate with my kids”.
Another parent said: “I am becoming a better parent because of this group.”
Family life is filled with mundane and repeated work. It’s easy to feel like a robot and lose sight of where we are going in the vocation of family.
This weekly experience is like being in boot-camp training together.
The work of the family is really hard work and it’s really important to regularly acknowledge and affirm this.
We see that we are assisting families to keep moving towards making children welcome in this world and to become clear communicators of the faith to the next generation.
Chesterton sums it up superbly: “But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon … It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
What a revelation. Our Father is young, he is ageless. Children are so fierce and free and let us not frustrate and dismiss them but make room for them.
Let us be more like children.
Carrie McCormack is a Brisbane mother of four and founder of Mother Effect.