Dorothy Day [co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, 1933] once wrote that a good society makes it easy for us to be good. As we read her statement, it’s natural to wonder about today’s society. Is it good? Does it make it easy for us to be good? To parent well? To raise good children? Peggy Noonan, sociologist and political writer, answers these questions when she writes:
“The nation seems to be on the wrong track and not just economically… I’ve long thought that public dissatisfaction is about more than the economy, that it’s also about our culture, or rather the flat brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture. Now I’ll go a step beyond that. I think more and more people are worried about the American Character – who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.”
An October 2014 Gallup Poll found that just 24% of Americans feel society is headed down the right track [as a nation]. This meant that a full 76% of Americans polled in late 2014 believed society was heading in the wrong direction. This pessimism probably has not shifted much either direction since then. Therefore, it’s easy to conclude [even if it’s not necessarily true]that the vast majority of adults probably feel that family life is also heading in the wrong direction especially as it applies to raising children, having happy marriages, and parenting well.
Young parents seem equally pessimistic about the direction the culture is going as they voice their concerns and fears about having to parent against these tides. Young people also seem overly pessimistic. A large group of Confirmation students told me that they believe it is harder to be good today! And for the reasons that naturally come to mind: prevalence of drugs, sexual issues, social media, bad movies and music; low quality friendships, etc. Given these comments, there does seem to be a growing consensus among young and old alike. That consensus reached suggests that parenting and growing up is way more complex and difficult because of today’s culture.
Why? Because once upon a time, society made it easier for their citizens to be good. There was a time when parenting was easier because parents held similar values and belief systems. There was a time when growing up was easier because children were formed with similar world-views and beliefs.
Some of you might argue that yesterday wasn’t so hot given the social issues of those eras [racism, sexism, etc.] ; however, consider that at least the society as a whole gave the appearance of being grounded in the same basic fundamental beliefs. And sometimes appearances do count for something. Life appeared to be precious, and so it was deemed precious publicly. Greed and other vices were discouraged whereas personal and spiritual virtues were extolled. Morals were taught in black and white. Societies of by-gone eras were less pluralistic, secularized and sexualized. God was openly acknowledged; this was proven by the mentioning of Him without excuse in schools, government buildings, courtrooms, churches and homes. There was a national desire to prop up the traditional family. Divorce was taboo and therefore less prevalent. Consequently, children and women fared better economically and socially. Adultery and fornication were negative stigmas driving down the hurt that is presently felt by too many single mother families. Pornography was a dirty business conducted by sleazy people — men and women. Drugs were decidedly evil. Social homogeneity helped support family life. Parents received less interference from buttinksis and so they went more freely about the business of raising their own children.
Today, most of the above scenarios have been reversed or, at a minimum, negatively altered. Parents receive too much interference when raising families from peers, professionals, and even their own lack of commitment or desire. Today’s parents have been led to believe that it takes a village to raise a child; if that is true, consider this question. How can a village help to raise a child when its general belief system is in flux, or missing, or in direct conflict with the parents they purport to support?
Consider this. If the culture at large is heading in the wrong direction, and its American character is indeed eroding, it behooves parents to start really paying attention to their jobs as parents. Especially when it comes to shouldering the primary duties and responsibilities in matters that matter [including their children’s faith, character development and moral values]. And, if the characters of our children are indeed taking a hit, parents have to share the blame that they are failing the children. Society also has to share the blame.
Recently, a young mother [attending a book club introducing my newest book: Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever: Parenting Against the Tide told me that the book provides her (and her husband) with food for thought and discussion points [never before discussed or even thought about]. The young mother and her husband both attended Catholic schools, yet had never been exposed to the Catechism’s explanation of those essential duties and responsibilities of Catholic parents. Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever expounds on those explanations. It discusses those matters that matter when it comes to raising children of faith. Some of you may find the book helpful as well, therefore, this series of essays will point out and discuss the most important sections of the book. Each essay will conclude with questions to think about and discuss. It will also be helpful if you have a copy of Mothers Forever, Fathers Forever: Parenting Against the Tide for now or future reference. You can order online.
The following questions are to be considered by you readers. Do parents matter? How? Why? Is it possible for parents to reverse the direction of society and/or their children’s characters? Do you think most parents are serious and willing to swim against the current currents? Why or why not? What do you consider to be the primary duties and responsibilities of any parent – Catholic or non? Compare your list with the one in the book. Are you dedicated to parenting your whole child and in equal proportions/degrees? This would naturally include their physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional makeups. Do you enjoy having to parent? Explain. How does being a parent differ from having to parent? Why did you decide to become a parent(s)? Do you see yourself as the primary educator of you children? In what areas? How prepared are you?
In the next essay, the author will begin discussing matters that ought to matter to every parent. We will look at the primary duties and obligations of Catholic parents. We will discuss how, when and why parenting will need to be counter-cultural. We will look at the necessary precursors to good parenting — like being a great person. We will discuss how to parent perfectly within your means, abilities and controls. We will call out some of the most surprising buttinskies to good parenting. We will name three sobering realities every parent must face.
Until then, may God heap blessings upon your and your family.
Copyright 2015 Linda Kracht