Nobody asked you!
I love getting random parenting advice at the grocery store. One recent example began with what we call in our home a “sideways” comment.
“Your kids are so wonderful.”
“Thank you. That is very kind.”
“Well, just you wait. Enjoy them now, because when they become teens… Oh, just you wait!”
… Thanks? … smile and walk away.
What I think she meant was, “You can herd them while they’re young–lock them in a crib, corral them in a play pen, lock them in a school–but as soon as they leave the house, they’re going to go crazy, just you wait!”
My snarky self wanted to reply, “Bless your heart,” and then go on to describe the difference between power and authority, about how words should be obeyed (humble, loving authority) and how kids shouldn’t have backpack leashes (Gentile-like power). But I didn’t. I grabbed my can of peas and pushed on, not wanting to stretch my kids’ patience by lingering too long in a grocery store.
I know that I haven’t yet entered the teen years of parenting (in Christ, I am a father to many teenagers right now). I’ve read books, I’ve walked alongside many parents of teenagers, and sometimes I can even remember what it’s like to be a teenage boy. But I know that I will be often overwhelmed and even more often I’ll be wrong. The peaks will be higher and the troughs will be deeper, more and different pains and joys that I cannot foresee. I don’t know what I don’t know.
But I am not resigned to teenage chaos. (Nor do I think should you.)
I know that there will be pain in the separation, as my sons and my daughter become more fully themselves apart from us. Many have gone before me. I am not walking blind. And I know that the seeds of love, and prayer, and order, and repentance, and righteousness–these seeds might lie dormant in the hard soil of adolescence, but not always–one day spring will come. Or not. What do I know?
Parenting, like life, is always on a rising scale of difficulty:
- Infants cry out…
- toddlers fall down…
- 8 year olds fall harder (broken arms)…
- teenagers total vehicles (or worse)…
- and adult children cause even more chaos for parents.
- And then one day, you (the parent) will become the child again: your kids will babysit you, they’ll take your keys away and change your diaper.
It doesn’t get any easier. But you’re not alone.
In Christ, you have been born into a family filled with innumerable overwhelmed parents, exhausted children, older brothers and older sisters who have been there before. In every season, with every parenting disaster, every one of us have either been there, we’re in the thick of it, or we’re not there yet. But we’re never alone.
You don't need more resources.
You probably don’t know me. Presumably, since I’m an ordained priest, I have three biological children (and one in heaven awaiting the resurrection), and I’ve been asked to lead an initiative on “Children and Family” for our diocese, then I should be a trustworthy source of information. I hope that you will trust me. But you don’t really need me.
Reading books is great. But there have been many writers of books on parenting (e.g. Rousseau) whom have shaped child education philosophy for two hundred years, whom themselves (e.g. Rousseau) abandoned their five children to an orphanage. Go read C. S. Lewis’s essay “The Sermon and the Lunch”–there are many pastors who suck at parenting and whom still pontificate from the pulpit.
You don’t need me.
But you do need to keep your eyes open in your church. Pay attention to older parents whom you want to emulate. Find parents with adult children who believe. Invite them (plead with them) to give you painful advice on your parenting (always dipped in love). “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.” If you don’t ask for wisdom, then you will never be ready to receive wisdom (especially the kind that cuts deep, that exposes your deepest vulnerabilities and insecurities… this is parenting… do not go it alone).
Ask the behavioral therapist whom you know, and love, and respect, to come alongside you and help you be wise and humble as a parent. Be brave. Ask.
You don’t need me.
But you desperately need wise older brothers and sisters whom have permission to speak, to shape you, to humble you, to love you through the highs and lows of parenting. “Please, help me. I want you to be honest.” And when they are a coward (like me), and they neglect to speak up even when you’ve given them permission–then give them grace and ask them again. Parenting and re-parenting is hard.
I have great parents. Fantastic parents. But they weren’t perfect. All the good ones know this. Good parents live a life of learning and re-learning, daily repenting, starting fresh, repeating the same instructions over and over again to stubborn children, cutting out foolish rules and replacing them with wise instruction, walking humbly with their God. They don’t forsake discipline. They never stop giving grace. Even (and especially) to themselves.
I don’t have much, but what little I have, I’ll give to you.
We need the whole church to raise our children in the Lord. We need catechesis in homes and in the household of God.
- I have very little experience with Godly Play or Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, but there are many in our diocese who do.
- I don’t know how to run a parochial school, but there are many who do.
- I don’t know how to parent kids who go to public school, but there are many who do.
There are so many things that I do not know. Even those areas about parenting where I have read, there are hundreds of books that I haven’t read that say it better (if you know of them, please send them our way!).
The Resource Library (an annotated bibliography of books & resources) linked below is “a living list,” separated into three categories. Some of these books I’ve read countless times. Others I have skimmed. I have built up deep literary relationships with some of these authors and I buy all their books. Others I have only read once. Please, if you have other recommendations or if you are yourself an advocate for parents (author, therapist, etc), then do not hesitate to let us know!
My conviction, through personal experience and through pastoral experience, is that we need help in parenting in 3 main categories: (1) Behavioral Training / Daily Living, (2) Christian Imagination, and (3) Catechesis / Christian Formation…