I once heard someone say: “My grandparents could trust society to support their morals – today we are undermined at every step.”
I know the feeling. After teaching, volunteering, and getting to know the culture at large, my husband and I decided to home school, move out to the country, and try to give our kids a sane start in life. That being said, our kids must deal successfully with our society and culture at some point. Ignorance is not bliss. If they aren’t well formed in the intimacy of family, they won’t have much to add to the public forum.
Here a few salient points I have learned as a Catholic mother after 19+ years of raising kids.
1) Presence is more important than presents. Time and attention will cover a multitude of ills. When little kids want things or act up, it is often an attempt to fill a vacant place inside. Being together, talking things out, reading stories together (you read the higher level ones – they “read” the picture books) and working, playing & praying side by side brings light to the deepest, darkest places of the soul.
2) Discipline is not supposed to mean losing control in a screaming fit. Discipline means good habits endorsed by routine. It is easier to get kids to bed on time if you have a consistent pattern: Wash up, brush teeth, story time, prayer time, into bed. It is easier to get kids to come when called, if you actually do what you say you are going to do and not keep them waiting. Set the example by being self disciplined in your own food, entertainment and other choices.
3) Food matters. Lousy food choices help make cranky kids. Fun food is fun but it should be a reward, not an everyday experience. Kids like what is familiar. Though none of my kids love spinach, they do love other vegetables, fruits, stews, salads, and whole wheat bread (especially if they are a part of the process – working in a garden and helping in the kitchen.) Meal time does not necessarily mean fancy food; simple, healthy food is sane food.
4) Everyone has a part to play. I can’t imagine our home without each of the kids. Not only would I miss their individual personalities, but they each contribute something special to the whole. #1 son happens to be very muscular – he does all the impossible jobs that make me realize that God made men differently. # 2 son is gifted with animals and helps take care of the menagerie. My eldest daughter is an outstanding student who helps everyone in scholastic need. I could go on – but you get the point. Emphasize the positive and make sure everyone contributes to the common good.
5) Your kids will grow up and meet new people, read books you never read, listen to new music, learn new ideas, and become exposed to a culture at odds with itself. Keep involved without demanding that they share everything with you. (For example: Ask what they think about the book they are reading rather than just asking what they are reading.) If they are going down a dangerous road, tell them. But remember, young adults will ultimately make their own decisions and their souls are between them and God. Let them know that you trust their good sense but if you are disappointed in their behavior, be honest. You can love your kids through anything, but respect is earned.
6) Finally, pray often and rely on the goodness of God, the holy saints, the guardian angels and those holy souls in purgatory (perhaps grandparents, friends and relatives) who really do care and will pray – if only you ask them. God will not force Himself on us or our children. He likes to be invited into our lives, hearts, and souls.
7) When things look dark and terrible, never give up. The cross is the gateway to Paradise.