Haley Scott DeMaria

Archive for March, 2015

Right now, at this moment, I am haunted and saddened by a story that hits close to home. Jamie and I lived in the western suburbs of Philadelphia for the first four years of our marriage. We loved it. It is a beautiful community. Our two sons were born there, and we built our dream home to raise our family there, until his job called us elsewhere. I still have friends from our time in PA who recently shared the story of an 8th grade boy who went missing last Wednesday night after receiving an email from his school about a failed assignment. He left on his own accord just before the snowstorm and freezing temperatures. Photographs of this beautiful child were posted all over the Main Line and downtown Philadelphia, as well as on social media, until his body was found on Sunday afternoon. On Monday it was released that he took his own life. He was just 13-years-old. My oldest son is 13.

Please know, I pass no judgment on the parents, the family or the school who informed a student of a failing grade via email. My heart hurts for this family I have never met, who lives in a community I know is loving, faith-filled and strong. My plea is to all parents to stop the competitive parenting.

Our children are stressed enough. They live in a pressure-cooker world where there is too much emphasis on being first, being the best, winning the game, the race or the school competition. Whatever it is, we need to stop it. Have I contributed to it? Yes. But I am also aware that it needs to stop.

Your child, my child, is not the best, the smartest, the strongest, the fastest, the…whatever. Nor do they need to be. We need to let our children be CHILDREN. And more importantly, we need to let them be themselves. We need to celebrate who they are, not what we think they are, or what we want them to be.

I am a competitive person. We all know that – and it’s served me well. But when I think of what I want for my children, my prayer for them everyday (and my only prayer for them) is for their health, their safety and their happiness. That’s it. But that’s enough.

I don’t need them to be the first in their grade to read, have the highest batting average, be the best in science class, or score the most points in a game. (For those of you who sit next to me on the bleachers, you might find this hard to believe. I know, I know…I too am a work in progress.) But truly, it’s very simple…Healthy. Safe. Happy.

My 13-year-old will go to college in 5 1/2 years. That thought gives me pause because it’s not a lot of time. It will go quickly – and then he’ll face life with real stresses: getting a job, paying bills, navigating insurance, providing for a family, a partner, a dog, or with whomever he chooses to share his life. Right now, he’s a kid. He shouldn’t be stressed. He shouldn’t worry about a missed assignment, a failing grade, striking out at bat, missing a lay-up or the game-losing shot.
That. Doesn’t. Matter. Because I will love him no less no matter what he does or doesn’t do. And I will lovingly help him navigate these childhood challenges.

Of course as parents we know that we’ll always love our children. But it doesn’t matter that we know this; our children need to know. They need to feel our love no matter what.

But as parents we have created this culture of competitive parenting that somehow makes it okay to put pressure on our children to be different than who they are. And that’s not right. Let them stress when they are adults and worry about their own children. But for the time you have left with your child under your roof: Just love them. Let them be who they are. Embrace their flaws and love them for their differences, their failures and their talents. And say a prayer of thanksgiving each night your child is Safe, Healthy and Happy. Because at the end of the day, at the end of our lives, that’s really all that matters.

God Bless the families who are hurting today. We share your pain and will honor your child’s memory by striving to end this culture of competitive parenting. We have to; our children’s health, safety and happiness depends on it.

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  • FATHER HESBURGH, part three

    As the University and the Notre Dame family from around the world gathers in South Bend this week to honor, celebrate and reflect upon the life of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, we are reminded of a man who lived a great life and made a great impact, all while remaining true to his main goal in life: to be a great priest. We all have our stories of Father Ted. This is part three of three.

    Come, Holy Spirit.

    This was Fr. Ted’s favorite prayer. Simple and powerful, just like the man himself.

    As a student at Notre Dame, I did not rely on this prayer often. Probably not at all. But as I have grown in my life as an alumna, and as a Catholic, I have come to appreciate the peace of the prayer. For with the Holy Spirit, we are strengthened.

    There is no greater example of this in my life than May 20, 2012. As I processed into Notre Dame Stadium next to Fr. John Jenkins, at the end of the platform party, I was excitedly terrified to give the commencement address to the graduates. And 25,000 others.

    When Fr. John asked me how I was feeling, I responded, “I just keep repeating Fr. Ted’s prayer, Come, Holy Spirit.”

    Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit. Between the Holy Spirit and my teammates, knew I would be fine.

    And I was more than fine. That day remains one of the highlights of my life. I remember sitting on the stage (in the shade) knowing how hot it was for the graduates in their robes. I remember looking up into the press box and seeing my two boys peering through the open window. And I remember looking directly in front of me, over the students, at the man dressed all in black sitting in the front row of the stadium gold seats. Fr. Ted. If he could sit in the 90-degree heat, we all could.

    At the end of the ceremony, after Fr. John’s final blessing of – and charge to – the graduates, Fr. John announced that Fr. Hesburgh would celebrate his 95th birthday later that week. With that, the graduates turned around and spontaneously sang “Happy Birthday.” It was awesome. And moving. And touching. Just as it was today to hear Fr. John’s words during Fr. Ted’s funeral mass, and to see the students line the path from the Basilica to Holy Cross Community Cemetery. Fr. Ted’s legacy lives on.

    Fr. Ted’s prayer carried me that day. It will carry many of us for the rest of our lives. #ThankYouFrTed

    Come, Holy Spirit.

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  • FATHER HESBURGH, part two

    As the University and the Notre Dame family from around the world gathers in South Bend this week to honor, celebrate and reflect upon the life of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, we are reminded of a man who lived a great life and made a great impact, all while remaining true to his main goal in life: to be a great priest. We all have our stories of Father Ted. These are mine.

    The second time I met Father Hesburgh was at a Notre Dame women’s basketball game on December 8, 2012. I remember the date exactly because December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I remember the year because we were celebrating 40 years of women’s athletics at Notre Dame (as an extension of 40 years of Title IX). I thought this was perfectly appropriate and fitting.

    Father Ted was a champion of civil rights. He was also a champion of women’s rights. He made the unpopular decision to admit women to Notre Dame. In a video we showed at the basketball game that day (see below), Fr. Ted says of the decision, “Women are becoming more importing in the world, as they should….we’re the greatest Catholic University that ever existed and women should not be kept from having that experience.”

    Most people know that outside of my family, my greatest accomplishment and sense of pride stems from being a Notre Dame student-athlete. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have gone to Notre Dame and to swim for the Fighting Irish.

    Today, as we say goodbye, we once again say, “Thank you Fr. Ted.”

    Thank you Fr. Ted

     

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  • FATHER HESBURGH, part one

    As the University and the Notre Dame family from around the world gathers in South Bend this week to honor, celebrate and reflect upon the life of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, we are reminded of a man who lived a great life and made a great impact, all while remaining true to his main goal in life: to be a great priest. We all have our stories of Father Ted. These are mine.

    I only met Father Ted twice: in his office and at Purcell Pavilion. My third encounter with him was from afar, but that perhaps had the greatest impact on the greatest number of people.

    My first time meeting Father Hesburgh was at a private mass he said for the past presidents of the Notre Dame Alumni Association. Once a year, the past presidents of NDAA gather on campus for meetings and are invited to the 13th floor of the Hesburgh Library: Fr. Ted’s office. I was invited to attend by a dear friend who thought I would enjoy meeting Father Hesburgh (he was right). Fr. Ted was 91 at the time…a time when one never knew how many opportunities we had left to meet him.

    It was a small gathering, maybe about 25-30 people, and I was amazed at how quiet the mass was. No one moved. It was as if no one was breathing. We were all in awe; quiet and still to listen to this powerful yet humble man who was doing what he loved most: saying mass. I remember he shared with us that he says mass everyday, and that he hopes he can say mass each day for the rest of his life. I was comforted to read that Father Hesburgh did indeed, attend and participate in mass on his final day.

    I had the opportunity to meet him afterwards. Even at 91 he was patient and gracious with each of us who were in awe of his presence. I imagine he greeted everyone with such warmth and with such generosity of time. In his honor, I hope we can all spend this week remembering to be warm and gracious with our time and service to others.

     

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  • A BETTER YOU

    I just returned from a Women’s Wellness Weekend / Women’s Summit / A Better You Retreat in Charlottesville, VA. (We used all three of those names for the event, so I’m not sure what to call it!)

    It was a weekend for women – by women – to Discover, Renew and Reflect. It was a “girls’ weekend planned for you.” It was a time to nourish your Mind, Body and Soul. It was wonderful.

    I planned this event with two other women, each with their own focus, gifts and strengths. We spent the past 18 months planning, refining, scheduling and building a weekend of inspiration for other women. And ourselves. I was so looking forward to learning from my Weekend/Summit/Retreat partners, and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was even more inspired!

    Friday morning, I woke up excited to embark on this new adventure, and then heard the news that Father Hesburgh had died. It was a sad day, and is a sad time for those in the Notre Dame family. And yet what I have learned through the weekend, is how inspiring he has been to many, many beyond the Notre Dame family. I look forward to learning more.

    I have no doubt that our Weekend/Summit/Retreat for women was a success because we had Father Ted watching over us. And as one attendee remarked, “What you are doing to help others this weekend is a tribute to his legacy.”

    It is a privilege to honor his legacy in this meaningful way.

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