Originally published on Aleteia, republished with their permission
My tweens and teens want to choose their own disciplines, but I’ve got a few ideas for them.
When my children were younger, Lent was easy. Well, not easy, but simple. Whatever our Lenten discipline, (giving up sweets, TV, eating out) it was a family affair. WE denied ourselves chocolate or gave up our favorite show. There was unity and solidarity and our “suffering” served to bring us, not only closer to God, but to each other.
However, as they have gotten older, my children have understandably insisted on choosing their own Lenten disciplines. This makes sense. While one might feel the need to deny herself sweets, another might feel called to cut back on social media. Still another might decide to stop eating anything green (a suggestion that was quickly and decidedly discouraged).
The veggie fast aside, my kids usually do a fairly good job of discerning what they need to do to prepare for Easter. That said, I, ever the helpful mother, am always ready to selflessly ignore the log in my own eye and offer my not-so-little saints-in-the-making some helpful and practical suggestions as to what they should give up (and take on) so that they might grow in virtue during the Lenten season and beyond!
Give up sibling rivalry. Think of it! Forty days without teasing, arguing, rough housing, or yelling “shotgun!” Talk about a Heavenly reward — well, at least for me.
Take on unloading the dishwasher without being asked. And if you can do it in such a way that I don’t have to follow up and rearrange all the dishes, surely that is worth at least a partial indulgence.
Take on feeding the dog (like you promised). Maybe this doesn’t count as a corporal work of mercy, but it definitely falls under “Honor thy father and thy mother.”
Give up that pile of laundry that that is perpetually stacked at the foot of your bed. Seriously. Are those clothes clean or dirty? Outgrown? Out of season? Some combination of all of these? Lent seems like a good time to seek some clarity.
Give up asking me for help with your math homework. With God all things are possible. But not with Mama.
Give up chocolate. At least give up the good stuff that I keep hidden behind the bran flakes. I don’t know which one of you has been into my private stash, but that is definitely a violation of both the 4th and 7th commandments. Not cool.
Take on your shoes, your jacket, and your backpack … all the way to your room and stop leaving them on the floor by the front door. I know that “Prepare ye the way” is more of an Advent thing, but it applies here too.
Take on my favorite Netflix shows. Imagine all the hours we could enjoy over the next 40 days watching The Crown and Call the Midwife, maybe a few episodes of The Great British Baking Show together. I know Lent is about drawing nearer to God, but there’s no reason you can’t spend a little time drawing nearer to me, too.
Give up rolling your eyes, muttering under your breath, and texting each other about me when I am sitting in the same room.That’s right. God isn’t the only one who sees all.
Take on a few more hugs, a little more time to linger at the table after dinner, and give up growing up so quickly. Okay, maybe that last one is out of your control, but oh how I wish you could!
Of course, as the season progresses, I’m sure I will be able to add to this list. In the meantime, I think my children will find my suggestions extremely edifying. Either way, I hope at the very least my prayers and my love will aid them on their journey toward Easter.
Now to get started on their examinations of conscience!