While none of us will ever be able to parent perfectly, you and I are the perfect parent for our children. Why? Because we have been handpicked by God and He doesn’t make mistakes. Therefore you and I are privileged to be called handmaids and handymen for our children’s welfare. Believing this wholeheartedly allows us to parent very naturally. We act as if we know what we are doing — because we believe it. We don’t grasp or flail about as we rightfully hope that our natural talents, abilities and God’s grace will be enough to get us through the days, weeks, months and years of parenting. Together, with God, we love our children unconditionally.
Parenting to the best of our abilities should bring us a newfound sense of purpose, contentment, satisfaction and security. It allows us to enjoy having to parent and being the parent. It confirms within us that we do not have to switch roles from parent to friend as our children mature. Our hearts sing when called mom or dad. We readily serve as the emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, and social crutches for our maturing babies/children. We recognize that we really need to be in charge of the formation of our children; every other support system is merely backup. We do not expect to receive compensation for sacrificially parenting against the tides. Our style of parenting should reveal our gratitude for being chosen for this great role.
Parents matter and every psycho-sociological study proves it! But to parent well it will be necessary to fully realize and appreciate first of all that being a human “is something great, a great challenge to which banality of just drifting along doesn’t do justice. There needs to be a renewal of the sense that as humans we are subjects to which a higher set of standards applies. Indeed it is precisely these demands that make greater happiness possible in the first place. There needs to be a sense that as humans we are on a mountain climbing expedition that includes some arduous slopes but it is by them that we reach the summit and are able to experience for the first time how beautiful it is to be a parent.” [This quote originates from the Catholic Catechism # 2204, although it also explains the joys and challenges of being a parent of human beings in my opinion.]
Yet, deep down inside we worry from time to time because of three basic realities. No matter how hard we try to parent to the best of our abilities, we will screw up and sometimes significantly. At those times we will have to forge ahead with renewed resolutions. And our children will also screw up — and sometimes very painfully. At these times the whole family suffers. Their screw-ups will require us to ponder the importance and meaning of being called to forgive those who trespass against us. It will also be important to ponder Jesus’ willingness to die for each of our personal sins; if nothing is too great for His forgiveness the same goes for us parents. A third worry parents have to learn to ignore is the narrowness of time with which we have to make a difference in the life of each child; and without interference from buttinskies. These sobering realities should prompt parents to focus on doing what matters and stop doing the things that take up a lot of time but don’t really matter in the long run. Speaking of buttinskies, what are they?
Buttinskies are the people and things [world-views, philosophies, ism’s] that interfere with and undermine the Truth with regard to Love and Life; they disaffect outlooks, attitudes, and habits and priorities. They insert themselves in everyday life. One highly relevant buttinsky according to members of my women’s book club, are the various forms of social media. The members agreed that this tool pre-occupies too much precious time; puts too much pressure to do, think and live as the Facebook friends do. One’s real life can begin to feel boring and humdrum because of what’s happening with everyone else according to social media postings. This should make us rethink our attachment to the social networking tool and see it for what it may have become — a buttinsky.
Materialism, moral relativism, and other modern-day heresies which have been coined with an -ism at the end of their names are also modern-day buttinskies that disaffect real lives. Busy-ness is another one. So is pluralism. Let me explain.
A pluralistic society is home for many different subcultures — religious, ethnic, social, economic, generational and political. When these various groupings create tensions with one’s world-views, beliefs and parenting practices, they become problematic. Recently we returned from a ten-day trip to Poland. This country is 90% Catholic and also very ethnically homogenous. Decades ago, of course, it wasn’t as homogenous when upwards of 40% of its population was Jewish. Yet we all know what happened to those peoples when racial cleansing became the order of the day by another homogenous regime [the Nazi regime]. So today, Poland is 99% Catholic, but we soon discovered that not all Catholics think alike! So, like in Poland, US parents are torn over issues with regard to homosexuality, in-vitro fertilization, economics, anti-terrorism measures, other sexual issues, etc. And so, parents have to explain how and why they differ from others in these areas. We have to be sure to explain these differences while always aligning ourselves to Faith, Truth, God’s definition of Life and Love. Did you know that California now labels secularism as a religion and allows it to be taught as such in its public university religion departments?
Any anti-family, marriage, parent, and child policies are always buttinskies. Consider that all fifty states have enacted policies granting minor children under the age of 16 the right to provide their own consent to receiving sexual, reproductive, pregnancy, drug and alcohol treatment, counseling and services including the procurement of prescription and over-the-counter contraception, abortion services, and prenatal care. This means they do not need to ask parents first or ever!
Spouses serve as their own buttinskies when they disagree among themselves about how to raise, mold, teach, feed, and/or discipline their own children. Peer pressure from adult friends and family can also feel like a buttinsky. Parents are not immune from feeling like they should go along to get along with other adults. Fear is another buttinsky — and an important one to get a handle over. It prevents us from doing as we ought as it chips away at our fledgling courage, fortitude, hope and joy.
To wrap things up, let’s consider the following list for parents interesting in giving it their all. Yes, it is radical in a secularist sense, but not radical from God’s perspective. The Church calls the family a domestic church. Accordingly, parents are called to be priest, prophet and king within their own family. What do these three roles ask of us? How do we go about protecting, providing for and supporting the whole of each child? Looking at the partial list of parents’ duties as gleaned from the Catholic Catechism, what can we do to carry out each of the following? Ponder the list; prayerfully consider how to attend to each duty with regard to your children — no matter their age. Keep the tasks updated as they reach new milestones in their lives.
- Foster spiritualism and love of God.
- Courageously defend God’s truth.
- Foster loving environments in which our children can flourish and in which there is no partiality.
- Create a home where tenderness, forgiveness, and fidelity are the rule.
- Establish the environment by which parents look out for the common good of all members of the family. [CCC 2223]
- Instill the three theological virtues – Faith, Hope and Love
- Help our children discover their God-given talents & their true vocation.
- Help our children realize God’s love and mercy.
- Help them discover the true purpose and meaning of life.
- Instill the natural virtues in your children including generosity, gratitude, and others.
- Instill the spiritual virtues & corporal works of mercy.
- Instill moral values.
- Provide an authentic and heroic witness to faith.
- Pray for their children.
- Provide a good example.
- Teach their children how to subordinate their material and instinctual desires to interior and spiritual ones.
- Provide our children with the apprenticeship for self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery.
- Regard children as coming from God.
- Share their enthusiasm for the Catholic faith.
- Support and work for the common good of the whole family.
- Teach children to find their place in God’s Grand Plan.
- Teach their children how (and why) to avoid compromising and degrading influences.
- Teach the children to pray.
A more complete list of duties and responsibilities as condensed from the Catholic Catechism can be found in Linda’s book entitled Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever: Parenting Against the Tide. You can order it from our website: www.fortifyingfamiliesoffaith.com.
In the next essay, the author will begin discussing how to raise good, social children; what is needed to instill solid human virtues and more. Until then, think about how you already apply the above duties and responsibilities and what more you could do within the family. Consider which, if any, buttinskies are disaffecting your family life and think about how to mitigate their effects on your family.
May God heap blessings upon your and your family in this New Year.
© 2016 Linda Kracht at Fortifying Families of Faith