If you had to pick the single most important duty as a parent, what would it be? Your children’s health and well being? Your children’s education and cultivating their natural talents?
In the midst of the secularization of our society, much time and energy has been spent obsessing over how we can send our children out into this world as paragons of human health and superior scholastic achievement. But the question must be asked: are they good people?
This mentality pervades our thinking as parents from the moment we realize we are pregnant. How many times have we said, “as long as the baby is healthy?” When our children our older, we tend to brag about their good grades or athletic abilities with no mention of whether we are raising people of integrity or not.
As we wage these Mommy Wars, bickering over the minutia of raising children, we put the health and well-being of our children on a pedestal and ignore all else. We think of our children as our extremely fragile and valuable property as opposed to eternal souls, and human beings. Because if our only duty to our children is their health and well being, then formula feeding when you could be breastfeeding is a crime against motherhood, and no leeway can be permitted. If our only concern is that this fragile property cannot be exposed to even the slightest risk of SIDS, then we should place them on pallets made of rock, with not a comfort item to be found. Under this strict parenting philosophy, there is no room for treating them like human beings who would like to sleep in at least a modicum of comfort just like anyone else, and weigh the risks of benefits of their sleeping arrangements starting with that basic principle.
Ask yourself if you would be more concerned if you found out your babysitter were feeding your children McDonald’s every day or if you found out your child was falsely accusing other children of hitting her every day in order to watch with glee as they got in trouble. As your children grow older, if they were asked which of their accomplishments they thought their parents were most proud, would their response have anything to do with their spiritual triumphs?
We should express our love for our children by providing for their physical and spiritual needs. We should begin by living out our faith ourselves and make their very first role models good ones. We should not only attend to their basic physical needs (which is simple) but also respect them as human beings with eternal souls (which is more difficult). The greatest gift we can give our children isn’t the gift of health or education (although don’t get me wrong, those things are obviously important). We could release them into the wild perfectly healthy and erudite but also an unrepentant mass murderer. The greatest gift we can give to our children is the gift of faith. And incidentally, raising a saintly person is also the greatest gift you can give the world. Just ask the countless orphans in India Mother Teresa cared for or the prisoner from Auschwitz whose life was spared because Father Maximilian Kolbe offered his own life in exchange for the prisoner’s.
Photo Cred: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pietà, Wikimedia Commons