Raising Saintly Children When I’m A Big Ol’ Sinner

[ 13 ] June 7, AD 2012 |

“Your kids rock!” A friend of mine told me the other day, and she was right…they do rock.  They’re phenomenal children and more importantly, they’re really nice people.  I don’t think I’ve had a lot to do with that, it’s more in spite of me than because of my handiwork.  These children are the direct result of a lot of prayer.

A lot.

Huge.

Seriously.

There’s something about having 7 children which seems to fool people into thinking that I’ve got this parenting thing at least part of the way figured out.  I know the truth. I’m just beginning to scratch the surface on parenting knowledge and am just smart enough to get out of God’s way.

Along the way, I have picked up a trick or two for raising children who love God and strive for sainthood, in spite of the parents He somehow decided to give them.  (You can feel sorry for them.  It’s okay with me.)

  • We pray for them all the time.
  • We pray with them at least 4 times a day.  (It seems like a lot, but it’s every meal and bed time.)
  • We always pray over meals, even when we eat out.  I think it’s important to teach them that faith isn’t something we only do in our homes when no one else is looking, so we bow our heads and ignore the other people. There’s no need to be a dinner show, but there is a need to say Grace.
  • We go to Mass every week as a family.  There’s no way out of it unless someone’s puking.  Do they complain? Sometimes.  Do we listen?  Just long enough to tell them it’s Mass or Confession, which would they rather do?  They never pick Confession.
  • We discuss sin with them so that they have a good understanding of what it means.
  • We discuss Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.  They know where they’d like to end up and that they can’t get there on their own.
  • We take them to Confession, especially when we know they need it.  I’ve been known to call the priest and drag a boy in to see him in the middle of the afternoon.  (It’s always the boys for some reason.)
  • They know we don’t like to go to Confession but that we go anyway.  (There’s a power in their seeing that it’s not easy for us either. I didn’t know how important it was until my son cried in my arms because it was hard for him and seemed so easy for everyone else.  When I told him that I had the same struggle, he stopped crying and didn’t feel so alone.)
  • We tell them that they’re not alone.
  • I encourage my children to ask me to pray for them when they need it, and I often ask them to pray for me.  It shows them that we all need a little help and that even as small as they are, there is something they can do.
  • We talk about God.  They have questions and we discuss.  Kids ask great questions.  My favorite nun ever, Sr Philomena, said “You can’t ever truly believe something you haven’t questioned.” That’s why I encourage questions.
  • I admit that I don’t know all the answers and let them see me search for them.  I want them to know the Bible and the Catechism as being sources of Truth rather than as books on the shelf.
  • I tell them stories about the saints ( they like the bloody ones, the sickos), and they tell them to me.  There’s nothing better then when they discover someone I don’t yet know. (Like my daughter’s Confirmation saint, St Marciana of Mauritania.)
  • I teach them to offer their suffering up to God, to unite it with the sufferings of Christ on the Cross.  Then I remind them to do so…..often. (What? You didn’t want to clean your room?  Offer it up and get up there!)
  • We help them pick good friends.  I can’t stress enough how important that is.  Children learn about the world from their parents and hear about it from their friends.  Their friends can be a help or a temptation, so talk to them about the qualities that make a good friend.  If they pick a bad one, make it easy for them to walk away when they’re ready.
  • Supervise!!!!!  I firmly believe in trusting my children.  I believe even more in not tempting them beyond their power to resist.  If there’s the possibility of my popping in at any moment they are much less likely to do something wrong.
  •  Read the Bible with them.  It is the Word of God.  They need to hear it.
  • Hang up a few pictures, put a statue or two on your shelf.  We put pictures of Grandma on the shelf so that the little kids are familiar with her and know who she is and because we love her and like to think of her.  It’s the same thing with pictures of Jesus and Mary.  I want my children to know them as real people and not just characters in a story they hear, and I love them and like to have their pictures around.
  • We love them.

Most of all, we realized a few years back that the relationship we have with them should mirror the relationship we want them to have with God.  If they learn that they can’t trust us or rely on us, how can we hope that they will have a trusting relationship with their Heavenly Father?  We love them madly, the whole motley crew of them.  They know it.  They know that we would give our very lives for them, which makes it so much easier for them to believe that their Savior did.

 

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Rebecca-Frech.png[/author_image] [author_info]Rebecca Frech is a Cradle Catholic who came back to the Church in 2000, and thanks God for it every day. She lives just outside Dallas with the brilliant Computer Guy, their 7 not-quite-perfect children, and an ever-multiplying family of dust bunnies. When she’s not teaching math, neglecting housework, or reluctantly training for a marathon, she’s blogging at Shoved to Them.[/author_info] [/author]

 

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About the Author ()

Rebecca Frech is a Cradle Catholic who came back to the Church in 2000, and thanks God for it every day. She lives just outside Dallas with her husband, the brilliant Computer Guy, their 7 not-quite-perfect children, and an ever-multiplying family of dust bunnies. When she’s not teaching math, neglecting housework, or reluctantly training for a marathon, she’s blogging at Shoved to Them.
  • Maureen

    When we would go to confession as a family, and even now when they visit at the holidays, no one would want to be the first one in the confessional, so they’d run into the church and try to sit by the wall first. My husband sat in the pew behind because he didn’t want to be first. I always went first… it made it easier for them. I never wanted to be the lead off sinner either, but someone had to do it.

  • http://lookablackcatholic.blogspot.com/ LT

    Not married. Don’t have kids. But, I love the insight. It’s exactly how I hope to raise my (hopefully, sometime in the future) children. :)

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  • http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com Karen Edmisten

    Great post! I always say I’m a
    Dorothy Parker kind of confessee: “Hate to go, love having gone.” :)

  • may b

    “They know that we would give our very lives for them, which makes it so much easier to believe that their Savior did.”

    that was incredibly beautiful.

  • http://www.theguidingstarproject.com Leah

    LOVE this! Printing it out now and hanging the list on my fridge. Thank you for sharing. We’re still pretty new to this with our five kids.

  • http://www.TotusTuusFamily.blogspot.com Allison

    This IS a wonderful post. Found it pinned on Catholic Pinterest and I too will be sharing it on my FB page.

    God bless you!

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    I returned to this post over and over again..wanting to say something but unsure of what it was. I don’t want my challenging parenting experiences to cause me to be resentful and foul to others, acknowledging that we come to blogs to communicate, share and learn.

    It honestly sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your kids and they are great and I wish you all the best, but there are times when we do all the right things and still have no control over the outcome. I guess that is why the title of the post “raising saintly children” made me squirm…it assumes the outcome. I think it is more accurate to say “All the prudent & committed things Im doing to raise my kids well when Im a big ol’ sinner”

    THis response sort of echoes my post about raising kids Catholic from before…When my sons were teens…they were stellar..honor students, altar boys, prolife activists, community volunteers, chastity speakers. I really thought that I had done everything right and I was getting the right result. Depression came along and destroyed them. Decimated them. The pleasant personalities they had as they practiced their faiths are gone. The younger of the 2 is still kind of nice to me, but the older one treats me with total distain. They espouse just about every idea that would upset a Catholic mom. They are atheist anarchists who mock my faith.

    I think moms would like to figure out exactly where I failed and then they would know exactly where to take a different fork in the road and what happened to me wouldn’t happen to them, but I think the more-frightening truth is that we simply don’t have control over this.

    We should still try and do our best and it sounds like you are…be hopeful and be humbly proud. I also ask you to be very kind the next time you run across a mom like me. I wish that some of my peers had been more sensitive to my struggles…on days when the best I had to share was that neither of my sons had killed themselves and my insurance covered intensive psychiatric outpatient treatment, that was not the best day to give me every last detail of their kids deans list grades and full ride scholarship. I wonder what I said to hurting moms back when my sons were stellar…that wont be happening again…pain does that to us, quite a taskmaster of a teacher it is.

    • leah wall

      “I think moms would like to figure out exactly where I failed and then they would know exactly where to take a different fork in the road and what happened to me wouldn’t happen to them, but I think the more-frightening truth is that we simply don’t have control over this.”

      Thank you for your wise words that we must have faith in the Lord and not in our work as parents – that, although we pray for our children 4x a day and do everything “right” – they are still not ours but the Lords and it is He alone who can reach their hearts.

      “on days when the best I had to share was that neither of my sons had killed themselves and my insurance covered intensive psychiatric outpatient treatment, that was not the best day to give me every last detail of their kids deans list grades and full ride scholarship. I wonder what I said to hurting moms back when my sons were stellar…that wont be happening again…pain does that to us, quite a taskmaster of a teacher it is.”

      And thank you for the reminder to seek compassion – especially in those moments when we are tempted to pride.

  • http://shovedtothem.blogspot.com Rebecca Frech

    PLN,
    I agree that pain can be a great teacher, and as this isn’t the first time you’ve said something like this to me, I would gather that you have dealt with more than your fair share. I ache from the obvious pain in your comment and struggle to say anything other than “I’m sorry” to you.

    I’m sorry if I somehow have given you the impression that I would be less than kind to you in any situation. I, too, come from a family of pain and a history of heartache, so in all likelyhood, if I met you in person, I would just hug you and cry with you.

    You haven’t had a lot of opportunity to read me yet. Give me time. I may grow on you.

  • Perinatal Loss Nurse

    I did not mean to insinuate that YOU would not be kind were we to meet, Im sorry if that was the impression I gave you; you actually seem like a nice gal.

    Im reacting more to the whole genre of mommy advise (blogging and otherwise) in which we infer to other moms that the right action will yield the right result. I think were a little more reality based in Catholicism but I still really fear that we (collectively) repeat this same message so many times in so many forms that we are doing a terrible job of preparing ourselves for the real challenges we will encounter as our kids grow into adulthood. It is natural to not have a deep understanding of a life stage that you haven’t been in yet, that is why I step into these choppy waters to have this conversation; not to bemoan my misery but to mentor in preparing for whatever comes (especially if it isnt what we had hoped for).

    Again, I think your suggestions are really good…they are deep, consistent, well grounded and show that you parent in a way that is sacrificial with your time and effort and I think you set a great example to your kids. My uneasiness comes from the “I have picked up a trick or two for raising children who love God and strive for sainthood” kind of approach…even when couched in humor it sends a message that parenting is cookbook when it simply isn’t. You wrote an excellent list of parenting suggestions but the introduction does not do justice to the substance in the meat of your article. I double-dog-dare you to keep this article someplace handy and re-think the intro…go deeper, be real, you are on to something.

  • richard

    As children my father prayed the Rosary with us after supper for a time but didn’t continue the devotion. But it was enough to introduce us to that practice at an early age.

  • WSquared

    “We go to Mass every week as a family. There’s no way out of it unless someone’s puking. Do they complain? Sometimes. Do we listen? Just long enough to tell them it’s Mass or Confession, which would they rather do? They never pick Confession.”

    I howled with laughter at this one, though I really do love this entire article!