“Are you 100 percent certain the Catholic Church is right?” my son D (age 14) asked me the other day. We were discussing the fact that some friends on Facebook were concerned about their teenagers falling away from the Faith.
“I am sure,” I replied, “but if we were 100 percent certain, we would not need faith. There is no 100 percent certainty in this life.” I went on to share the following thoughts:
- I inform my heart by prayer, experience, and the lives of the saints.
- I inform my mind by studying the Bible, history, Church teaching, and apologetics.
- When my mind doubts, I fall back on my heart.
- When my heart doubts, I fall back on my knowledge.
- Doubts are completely normal and usually nothing to worry about.
- Questioning what your parents taught you is a normal and healthy part of growing up.
- I told him about Pascal’s Wager.
I reminded him (and M, age 12, who was listening in) that I have asked myself nearly every question that can be asked concerning the Faith. I have questioned from almost every angle. And every answer points to the truth of Catholicism. No other answer satisfies my mind or heart, let alone both.
Can parents be friends with their kids?
I am pretty sure I have written about the fact that we should be both parents and friends to our kids. In fact, I thought I had this in my temperament books, but I could not find the quote. But recently I read these words written by fellow blogger Leila Miller, and I almost thought they were such a quote. I surely have thought them, if not written them:
“We’ve all heard it: ‘Children need a parent, not a friend!’ I had always agreed with this saying, even repeated it loudly myself, and yet I began to wonder: Are parenting and friendship mutually exclusive? When I reflected on my own experiences as a mother, I concluded that they are not. I began to recognize that, like all human relationships, the parent-child relationship is deeper than any slogan. I believe we can find a balance. I want to be, on an appropriate level, a true friend to my children.” (Leila Miller, Raising Chaste Catholic Men)
I remember a classmate in high school saying her mother was her best friend. Now, I’ve always loved my mom, though like most daughters I’ve sometimes clashed with her. When my dad had his head injury and I was the oldest girl in the house, my mom leaned on me a lot. And I can’t count the times I’ve leaned on her. But never until I was out of college and earning my own way in life did my mom and I have a relationship like friends. We were definitely mother and daughter. I envied my classmate’s relationship with her mom.
As an adult, I’ve seen the other side. I have known parents whom I thought were too friendly with their kids, who rarely if ever disciplined them even for egregious offenses. In the long run, that is not being a true friend. It’s shirking one’s God-given responsibility.
Homeschool parents can strike the right balance. I am with my kids 24/7. I not only love them, I like them.
This summer my boys and I went bowling once a week. As the school year neared, the clerk at the bowling alley told me about opportunities for the kids to continue bowling throughout the year. Then she mentioned a league just for moms. Wouldn’t it be nice to bowl with other women, instead of my kids?
I was nice and polite, knowing that although my kids have plenty of time to participate in a league, I don’t. But after we went home, I thought about the incident some more. I think the clerk felt sorry for me for “having” to bowl with my kids. As I told the family at dinner that night, there was no one I would rather bowl with, or do anything with–except my husband. My kids are great! I love spending time with them.
Do you have such a relationship with your kids? If not, how can you cultivate one?
Raising Chaste Catholic Men
In her book, Leila mentions being open to take on anything your kids ask about. If your daughter said she had doubts about the Faith, would you get defensive, angry, or silent? If your son asked why the Church teaches that premarital sex is wrong, would you “freak out?”
Open communication is essential to friendship. If you can’t discuss these things with your child, make sure your spouse can — and has an opportunity to do so. I encourage you to read Raising Chaste Catholic Men to learn how Leila and her husband handle this. Her two oldest sons (and two daughters) are now chaste Catholic adults.
Leila also talks about watching movies with her boys for fun. Yes! This is how my husband and I spend our Friday nights. In the last few weeks, we’ve introduced M to The Lord of the Rings movies, now that he and D are staying up later than their brothers. Every Sunday, we have family movie night, where we watch family friendly fare with the whole crew.
I read aloud to all the boys–even the high schooler–five days a week. We discuss books and movies at the dinner table.
We pray together.
Dan takes walks with the older boys, one at a time, regularly, discussing any private matters.
Our kids are our friends.
Trust and freewill
A few years back, I wrote a post called “10 Ways to Keep Your Kids Catholic.” One reader commented that we can’t keep our kids Catholic. They must choose to remain Catholic. Point taken.
Our kids have freewill. If they leave the Faith, that does not mean we failed. On the other hand, their freewill is a blessing, not a curse. It enables them to love God, not just serve Him out of compulsion.
I pray for my kids daily. I do my best (more or less!). Then I entrust them to God. God loves them more than I do. If they do stray, I trust He will bring them back, as he brought St. Augustine back to his mother St. Monica’s delight.
In the meantime, I tell D and M that having one of my kids leave the Faith is my greatest fear. I am encouraging them to practice mental prayer regularly, so their hearts too have experience of God. I am teaching them history, Church doctrine, apologetics, and how to read and understand the Bible. So when their hearts waver, they can fall back on their knowledge, and when their minds doubt, they can fall back on their hearts.
And I am encouraged by families like Leila’s who have raised several kids to faithful Catholic adulthood. May we all do the same.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means your purchase of Leila’s book will help cover the growing costs of maintaining my blog. God reward you!