We’ve all heard it… “just you wait… until you get married, have one kid, or two—you won’t sleep! You’ll argue! You’ll never socialize again… yada yada yada. Finally, it’s assumed that that’s all a load of garbage, yet one pesky version seems to be sticking like glue.
“Just wait until your kids are teenagers, they’ll hate you.”
“Little kids, little problems big kids, BIG PROBLEMS”
“Enjoy it now before they never talk to you again!”
“You won’t even want to know what they’re doing on the computer”
“You know, they’re cute now but if you keep having them, you will be miserable in a home full of teens”
Their ignorant words are further perpetuated by popular sitcoms which depict teens as savvy, while parents run around like headless chickens, only reacting fully when the teen finds him or herself in a tragic and emergent situation. The sad truth is that this is not only on sitcoms, but happening all around us in the daily lives of those we know.
I, too, used to fear my children leaving the toddler years behind, that is, until I realized that there were two people who could control the vast majority of how are children are formed…. My husband, and me. Not a doctor, a teacher, a religious ed instructor, a grandparent, nanny, or daycare. Those people are NOT in charge of my children’s souls and should never replace the grave responsibility God gave to me and my husband—how to become a good and holy man in this world (I use man here because I have all boys, so far). Then I started taking a good look at the men and women giving us the aforementioned “advice” and compared it to the wonderful teenagers I know that baby sit my kids, help us with handiwork, and serve at Holy Mass. I see them interact with their parents and other adults with class and respect. Color me shocked that there were a few differences… the most notable of them being, parents united in marriage, home-schooled children, very limited and age appropriate screen use, daily prayer,. Of course, these things do not guarantee us anything, but each of the family’s giving me “Warning” lacked all of them. That, is not a coincidence.
An older mom of many (six teens, four out of the house and I can’t remember how many younger kids she has) gave me a piece of advice I would love to share with you all—She told me that while she is WAY busier now than she was in the trenches of littles, that it is beautiful to watch her children grow up—and more than beautiful, it’s fun. She sometimes has sleepless nights because all mama’s worry, but overall, feels peace because years (or decades) of intentional parenting has paid off—which starts now! While the children are still little. Daily Rosaries, Masses, Hail Mary’s while cleaning puke, keeping children away from screens, and at home during the formative years—pays off. Strengthening your marriage, eating meals together, and working through learning and discipline styles of each child—pays off. And mostly, in a world where parents are being told they are never enough (whether for education, medical issues, emotional issues, etc) trust your gut (to either move forward or pull back from intervention) because no one knows your child better than you, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. While it is true the stakes are higher for older children, so is the joy, if you raise them right.’
Intentional parenting takes work, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy and while making many massive changes may be impossible right now, we can all better the souls in our charge by simply doing the next right thing. Is it a family dinner? Making 15 minutes of reading time instead of junk TV? Prayerfully discerning schooling options? Researching all your choices for a medical or mental health condition and taking that to prayer? I trust you, fellow mama, do to right by your children’s souls.
Our young children are not destined to be addicts, lazy, jerks, or atheists. It starts with us, right now, and ends when we take our last breath and stand before the perfect parent, Our Father.
Holy Guardian Angels, ora pro nobis.