I recently had the opportunity to chat with Valerie Meehan, mom of Chris Meehan, star of The Dating Project, an upcoming documentary about the state of male/female relationships and “dating” in today’s culture. Check out our recent Catholic Momcast interview with Chris here.
Valerie makes an appearance in the The Dating Project, but her real “stardom” comes as a veteran mom of eight and grandmother of many. She has such wisdom to share! Read on learn more …
Q. How did you meet your husband and what was your first date like?
Ed and I were both members of Old St. Mary’s Adult Club. We had many activities including golf. I overheard a conversation about golf lessons and I joined the group and said I would like to take golf lessons. Immediately Edward said, “Do you have a car?” I said, “Yes.” He said he would set it up with the golf pro. I don’t remember which golf course it was but it was somewhere on the coast. We drove there. We had arranged to have the lesson in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and come to my apartment for a steak dinner. Of course, I had not shopped for the steak but I lived next door to a great grocery store which was open until 7 p.m. so I did not worry.
I picked up Ed at his boarding house (Mrs. Butner’s). Several of the Old St. Mary’s Irish stalwarts roomed there. I remember they were still eating breakfast and there were several liftings of the eyebrows as we waltzed off to our lesson.
We had the lesson. I remember nothing about it and then proceeded to play 18 holes of golf. I did not confide to Ed that I had never played 18 holes of golf! I do not believe we did finish the holes. I found golf balls all over the course. Perhaps one was mine. I did not even think about that.
Finally, it was too dark to play anymore. We got in the car and came home to my apartment. Of course it was well past 7 p.m.. The store was closed. The only thing I had in the larder was a can of Dinty Moore stew. Ed suggested we chop an onion in it, which we did. I also promised him I would have the steak dinner at a later time, which we did. This was the summer of 1955. I was on vacation from teaching school (City College of San Francisco). He had a 9 to 5 job. I had just gotten my MA in Education and I had declared to my CCSF office mates that I was going to work on my MRS. Little did I know!
Q. What are some way that relationships between men and women differ today from when you were dating?
I think nowadays there is no neutral, safe comfortable place to meet. At Old St. Mary’s Center, we were all Catholics, free to marry, ages up to 50 years old. We had juke box dancing any night of the week, a coffee bar, and a regular bar across the street for alcoholic drinks. Every two weeks we had an obligatory meeting at which we discussed Catholic ideals and conduct in some fashion. We had a structure — president, secretary, activity person etc. We had excursions to play golf, swim, dine and dance. Sometimes we carpooled. Our once a year weekend we went by bus to Sonoma Mission Inn. All low key, seldom twosomes, just to have fun together. I do not know of a single marriage within our group that failed by divorce.
Q. It can be hard to be a mom of grown children. How do you find peace between wanting to support your children, but not being able to control all of their life decisions?
I agree. It is hard to be a mom of grown children. Some come to me for help; some do not. It is heart-rending to see conduct that you feel is harmful and disruptive and say nothing. It is important to be a presence to them. I feel one has to be available, rarely pushy, always interested. A listening post. Sometimes a helping monetary hand is needed. Sometimes this is a bad thing. I am a person of modest means, so this is a very limited gift at most. I have non desire to control all of their decisions. This is their life and they will have to live with their own decisions.
Q. How important do you think a mother’s prayers are for her children? How do you practice prayer for your children?
I believe praying for my children is the most important thing I can do. I include them in my morning prayers. I implore prayers from religious groups. The Missionaries of Charity sisters and Padre Pio are especially powerful in their prayers. I ask priest friends, family to pray for all my children. I use the Memore novena all the time when I feel this is a special crisis. I use every means I can find.
Q. What advice would you give to a young mom today who worries about how her child will ever find and marry a good person?
Today we do not have Old St. Mary’s Adult Club, but we do have our homes and our activities. I would invite your children’s friends to meet at your house. One of my daughters-in-law arranges games and contests for Easter fun. Simple things like hide and seek, mystery clues, cooking in small units.
If you do not have yards and houses conducive to this, find parks or the beach. Be inventive. Make it fun, always serve good food, don’t be heavy handed (too many rules). Model the behavior you expect. Practical jokes are not good as there is always a mean element. Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. If you don’t have any good ideas, ask other people for them, use the Internet.
What you want is it make being with you and in your house to be a fun place to be but it has rules. Make the rules good ones and ones you can keep. Don’t waffle. If you start when the children are young, it will carry over when they are teens.
I never let my children stay anywhere overnight. This eliminates having to decide which house is safe and which is not. Know where your children are and what they are doing. Try not to be judgmental, although sometimes you have to be.
People meet marriageable people through good friends and relatives. Also get them off the phone and into society.
My grandson, Edward Schmalz, is a co-owner of one place that creates community. It is a board game café in Kansas City, Mo, the Pawn & Pint, which gets people around a table playing and talking together.
Circumstances and personalities differ but to meet someone special your young person has to be out in society. Encourage them to do something fun that is not electronic. Swim, river raft, hike, play bridge or games they like. If physical activity is included, it is better for the young.
Enjoy life yourself. Don’t become the life of your children’s party though. Being a member of a teen book club saved my husband from being a bootlegger. Joining the American Chemistry Society got me mingling with people too. And encourage your children to pray for a good mate and to be a good friend. Listen to other people. Get out of the house and do something good.
Check out our recent Catholic Momcast with Valerie’s son, Chris Meehan, star of The Dating Project.
And, finally, here is the official trailer for The Dating Project, so you can learn more about this important film and purchase your tickets for its April 17 release date!