Monday, July 2, 2012

Catholic Parenting: To Each His Own Bubble

I think too much, often to the detriment of my household duties.  Unfortunately, I don't get any better when I leave home.  While I am driving, my mind is far, far away, puzzling, when it should be focused on what's in front, to the sides, and behind my vehicle.  I know this because I just finished six grueling hours taking an online defensive driving course.  This was my penance for getting a speeding ticket trying to get to Mass one morning during Lent.  I wasn't late.  I just wasn't paying attention to the speed limit signs.   But I digress.

Lately, my brain has been slogging through a mudhole from which it has not been able to emerge.

A picture Emma found somewhere on Pinterest.

 I have been trying to understand why Catholic families who take their faith seriously have such divergent rules for their children, whether it regards traditional issues like dating/courtship, friends, dancing, modest dress, sleepovers, or the modern ones of food choices, Facebook, cell phones, movies, and video games.   At any rate, I respect each parent's right to decide these things, and I believe that they all have their children's spiritual and physical health in mind when they implement their rules, but I see how very polarizing it is that we have these differences, and I think the devil or the communists or the Masons, (oh, wait, is there really any difference in these bad guys?) must be supremely happy about this.   We do not accept each other completely, even when we faithfully attend the same parish.  There is always some suspicion there.  And because we do not accept each other, we cannot truly support each other, and so we are often alone, and our impact on the rest of the world is like so many little fireflies flitting through the dark, rather than the giant, focused beam of the lighthouse.

Being a middle child and wanting everyone to be happy, I often find myself tip-toeing around other parents' expectations, fearful of inviting them and/or their children to do something that is forbidden or that would label me as a liberal for considering such an activity/idea--unwittingly committing the grand faux pas and not knowing it until I hear the, "Oh, we don't allow. . ."


I have struggled with all these questions I mentioned above, and have put much thought and prayer into how I would answer them in my parenting.  In the last few years I have finally arrived at a somewhat comfortable spot for making these determinations.  It is based on my belief that coercion does not work in the long run, that my children are individuals with free will, that I am by nature a relationship-based parent--meaning I think I get the best results from loving, guiding, and encouraging my children and letting them make decisions and learn from their mistakes rather than making and enforcing lots of rules.

I said "somewhat comfortable" because I worry all the time that I am doing it wrong.   Maybe I parent the way I do because I am too lazy to make and enforce rules consistently.  And too soft-hearted--a pushover.  Also, there is the whole issue of change.  Some things that I didn't allow when they were younger, I allowed them to make their own choices about when they got older.  I just felt like I would rather them do it now, while I could still offer guidance, rather than later, when I am not there for them to confide in.  This has been more of an issue for my son, and I think part of the reason lies in the nature of becoming a man.  It is harder, I think, than becoming a woman and requires more understanding and patience on the part of the mom, because boys seem to need to do some things just because those things are not mom pleasers!  It's a way of cutting the apron strings, a normal and healthy process.  I believe boys need lots of experience at making their own decisions so that they are capable and comfortable and confident when they become the head of their own household.

I can't imagine that all this parenting turmoil that I've been describing is normal.  I've finally come to the conclusion that it is the product of multiculturalism, which has driven out the solidly Catholic cultures that used to support parents and allow them to be consistent.  The particular Catholic culture you lived in determined what was acceptable as far as the traditional issues I mentioned earlier.  For instance, historically, some Catholic cultures allowed their girls to wear figure-revealing clothes like fitted bodices.  This is in direct contrast to the 1950s idea of "Mary-like" modesty, which teaches that girls should dress in shapeless clothes that do not reveal the figure at all.  And both are light years away from jeans and t-shirts.  In historic Catholic cultures, everyone ate the same traditional foods.  The parents did not have to create a food culture for their particular family: "We're vegan; paleo; low-carb; or NO SUGAR ALLOWED EVER DON'T YOU DARE GIVE MY CHILD THAT KIT-KAT BAR!".  The dating/courtship rules were well-established, and everyone knew what to expect.  Holding hands was/was not ok; a chaste kiss was/was not ok; the couple could/could not go for a buggy ride unchaperoned.

If we can't even figure out how to be consistent about the traditional issues, I don't see how we'll come to any cultural answer to Facebook, cell phones, movies, and video games.

Aaaaargh!  I'll be glad when my children are both married.


Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Good Luck! Fortunately, based on Emma, you have wonderful children.

Wendy Haught said...

Aw, thanks, Kathy! My children are very different from each other, but they both make me exceedingly proud. I enjoy their company so much

Anonymous said...

Liberal values are more popular with certain people. That is why the SSPX is on the verge of splitting.

Integral Catholicism has always been based on stable communities. And stable communities depend on stable leadership, a stable location, and a sense of unity of purpose for those who belong to the community. Why are parents raising their children as traditional Catholics? Do they make Catholicism central to the identify of their children?

Traditionalism will not survive as a widespread movement among Catholics, and the remnant of devout Catholics will continue to shrink, unless the traditional ends for the education of children are recognized and adhered to in practice.

What passes for "tradition life" today is a faint shadow of what existed in Catholic communities of the past - most "trad" communities are hanging by a thread - and the current crisis in the SSPX proves it.

Wendy Haught said...

Anonymous, I agree with what you said about stable communities. However, what I was trying to communicate was not a question of traditional or liberal values but arbitrary preferences by Catholics who take their faith seriously. I am talking about all Catholics, not just families who attend a traditional mass.