Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Teaching Our Children
Our almost monthly trip to Chick-fil-A made me so happy the other day... not just because of the #1, well done on a wheat bun, plus waffle fries... but because as we sat down to eat, my two year old, Gabriel, was the one to remind me to say a blessing and when I responded with, "OK, let's pray," he immediately pulled off his Vanderbilt baseball cap, folded his hands and bowed his head. I thank his daddy for this one. It was just one sign to me of the grace that God provides through our perseverance in teaching our children to pray, to obey, and to love.
I am realizing more and more each day how much power lies in the hands of parents. And by the grace of God we have been given this wonderful opportunity to raise souls to go out into the world to preach the gospel. And at an age as young as my children I am realizing that this is done best by teaching good habits in the home and on the road. It requires quite an active role on our part, lots of patience and discipline and a heart open to God's love to do the rest of the work that we only just begin.
While teaching him to pray... I have LOVED teaching Gabriel to pray. It has been on of my greatest joys to do and to see the fruits. We pray before meals, we pray for others, we pray the Angelus before nap time together, we pray the rosary and we always pray night prayers before bed. We have started to allow the night prayers to be more and more spontaneous after our Hail Mary and Angel of God. We start with "God bless..." and then we allow Gabriel to fill in the blanks. He can pray for anyone he would like. He has prayed for everyone from his grandparents to Buzz Lightyear (who I thought kinda weird at first, but then realized that in his little world, Buzz is a person and deserves prayers, for whatever he may need)! After blessing the family, friends, people who have died, etc. we then allow Gabriel to speak to Jesus. We start with "Dear Jesus..." and allow him to speak to Christ like he would to us. We started by prompting these conversations with suggestions and now, he just rolls with it. We have heard everything from, "I swam in the pool like this today, Jesus," (followed by a demonstration) to "Dear Jesus, today I.. I... I bwoke your head off and I am SO sorry. I wuv you." We have hoped to create in him a love for Jesus as a friend and so far I think it is working.
It has been our goal to follow the words I heard a Nashville Dominican say,"You don't want them to 'practice' their Catholic faith. You want them to BE Catholic." So, not only is prayer a part of the faith, but also the sacramental life, the saints, and a life of charity (LOVE). So, we explain to him during the Mass what is happening, we visit the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph after Mass every Sunday... or else, and we are striving to teach him in a day to day manner the way of love, ultimately, the way to Jesus.
How to teach love? Hmmm... such a toughy. I am no expert, hence the reason I went to Confession last night, but I could say almost definitely that learning by example is the primary way. This is one of the reasons we have made every sacrifice to be stay at home parents and now, me as a stay at home mom. This is the hardest choice because we don't get to drop off the poop diapers every day, but we know it's the best one because it gives us full opportunity to use every chance to teach love... unfortunately, the weight is heavy on the way we love. Our example is primary in this. This has formed a life of greater virtue in us... also why staying at home is tougher... forming virtue in yourself is super duper hard.
SO, to teach it, we live it. Some examples... looking people in the eye when they speak to us, speaking to all of the people we pass by at the grocery store and asking them how their day is, explaining who is in charge, teaching them how to clean up after themselves, teaching them how to help, even with the very simplest things, like helping me start the dishwasher, and teaching them manners. I have found that Gabriel repeats everything I say, so when I hand him something, I say, "Thank you so much, Mommy," and he would repeat it. I almost never have to remind him to say it anymore and he actually reminds me to say thank you. After receiving a gift the other day in the mail, the first words out of his mouth were, "We have to call her and say thank you." (melt my heart). God's grace is working. Now, we have to keep up the perseverance.
Discipline. I have not perfected this. Being a woman I am emotional about things, so Patrick has taught me a lot about following through with consequences (which mostly exists of our time-out chair). But, being a teacher, I learned very quickly that the students who loved me most were the ones I set boundaries for when they pushed harder and harder. I have seen what great respect young people have for those in authority who give them freedom to be creative, make good choices, but at the same time set boundaries... I hope and pray I can do this better and better every day for Gabriel and Anthony. I hope I am never that parent who gives in and after trying so many times, just lets them do what they want. I hope I always persevere to the end so I may teach them how much I care about the people I hope for them to be.
Lastly, I have realized more than ever that teaching our children to love has mostly to do with the way Patrick and I treat one another. If we are tense about something, having a heated debate or otherwise just being grumpy, the kids sense it, they act out and they think that this could be acceptable behavior. We gotta be on all the time, people. It is so hard.
Overall, I just felt impelled to share this wealth of knowledge that I have learned mostly from other amazing parents, including my own and Patrick's, and all the young Nashville parents who are fighting this good fight in their Christian homes. Raising children is hard. There is no fluff attached. Yet, I see God's grace working through our meager, yet heart filled efforts to form little soldiers for Christ. Thank you, Jesus, for this opportunity. Mary, wrap your mantle around the homes of the families of the world and pray for us, especially us mothers.