I’ve been asked that a few times. I can tell you that I sometimes am as surprised as the people who ask me. 🙂 It’s like I just woke up one day and said, “Wow we’ve done good! How did we do that?”
It’s not that our training wasn’t purposeful…it was. But with human weakness so apparent in our parenting, with imperfect circumstances, etc., it was hard to know the outcome.
And, things are not picture-perfect (it looks so good online, doesn’t it?) My girls are human and have many faults, like all those born under Eve’s lineage.
Also, life is not done yet and I have children at home. Dynamics are different than they used to be so I don’t know the outcome. At this point, though, I am very grateful for how things have transpired.
I’ve tried here to pinpoint along the way some of the things that we did… to actually be able to put them into words….and I do feel I have a few things I can share with you.
It is not to discourage you, though, because some of us have taken up the torch midstream. I was fortunate that I became serious about my faith BEFORE I got married. This is, in many circumstances, not the case. God takes us where we are at and can create a beautiful tapestry of a grace-filled life wherever we begin! He meets us where we are at on our own personal journey and is not outdone in generosity! It is imperative we remember that.
That being said, the following are a few things I think were very important on our own journey. (This is my own list. Hubby would have his own list, too. His contribution in many of these points are unspoken but always there.)
#1. We were blessed to have started off on the right foot. We both worked at a Catholic Shrine so our courtship was truly amazing! We said the Rosary every day, we went to Mass every day, we went to Benediction every day and a lot of our courtship was during Lent so we were reading the Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ together.
This is obviously not possible for most people but the effort put into our courtship and even before we meet that special someone, the effort meaning: Gaining as much graces as possible through daily Mass, etc. will help to get started on the right foot. So many marriages begin on the wrong foot, stained with serious sin, and I do believe this has a negative impact on the relationship in general.
Once again, if that has been your own experience (not getting started on the right foot), with God’s grace the pieces can be picked up…yes, they can! <3 #2. My discipline was not as consistent as it could have been. Like you, I was tired, etc. If I was nursing a baby or whatever and the child’s behavior needed tending to, it was a temptation to overlook things….and I did at times. For the most part, though, I did not let my children outright disobey me or say no to me. They never struck me. If they ever tried such things they were swiftly punished.
#3. I taught them to respect their dad. I tried to only talk highly of him to them. Even though I did not always agree with my husband’s ways, my disagreements were kept in check, as much as possible, around the children. I knew it was important to hold a united front together. The only reason I knew to do that was through the books I had been reading. I didn’t have any experience with this sort of thing in my own young, rather rocky and independent life. If you don’t teach your children to respect their dad, believe me, it will come back to bite you! They will also disrespect you as the years go by. This is not easy, and I failed many times, but I dusted myself off, knew where my mistake was, and began again.
#4. We homeschooled. This was always a challenge and I felt inadequate. But I kept trying and the bond that I formed with my children was irreplaceable. We struggled together each day. Once again, I do not think it is for everyone. I am just telling you the things that I feel contributed to the girls I have today.
#5. We had joy in our family. We played lots of games. The TV was not the center of our recreation (we didn’t have a TV for the first 15 years of our marriage). My husband and I played volleyball with our kids right up until a couple years ago. Here and there we still get out there with them. We make movie time (now that we have a TV) a family fun event!
Disclaimer here…Yes, we had joy. But I had my off days, even my off years! One year I got very sick and it was a slow climb out. Was I joyful? No! Days when you are so weary, days when you feel blah, etc. Joy?? You kidding??!
This is the amazing thing….even though I struggled with many things (my melancholic nature is not nice to me at times), the kids don’t remember those off times if you try to keep the tone positive in between times (and hopefully there are many in-between times)!
I knew it was important, that our kids would not want what we have if we didn’t have joy, so joy was fought for. I thought I was failing, I woke up one day to find out I hadn’t failed. Like I said, God meets us more than halfway!
#6. (I had my girls read my list and they wanted me to mention these “Don’ts” that we “Do”). Our kids didn’t go out of the home for their social time. It was brought to us. When we did go somewhere for a good time, for the most part, it was as a family. They also didn’t spend much time in their rooms…those were for sleeping not for spending time with their friends or hanging out by themselves.
Which brings me to another rule we had…No Sleepovers. It’s easier to make a rule with no exceptions (cousins traveling and spending the night is different…though it was closely monitored, too), than to pick and choose which sleepover events they can take part in. Sleepovers are dangerous times and ones that parents are oblivious to as they are in their beds sawing logs while the girls are chatting away….
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we see sin at every corner. We don’t. But we also avoid particular situations that make it easy on the kids to break rules….whether talking about subjects they shouldn’t divulge in with their friends…..Or maybe even worse.
#7. Some Do’s! I worked very hard at trying to make the Faith come alive in our home. We did Saint Nicholas stockings, Lenten practices, Advent practices, we sang hymns at the end of the rosary, we did novenas together, we did little processions, we did special things on Feast Days. We supplied the magic and the charm to our Catholic heritage.
Once again I learned this from the books that I share with you each day. I did not have any experience with this beforehand. And I was not perfect at it. Often it was one week into Advent before I got the wreath out, etc. Or life was so hectic, things were put on the back burner. As the kids got older, though, this consistency became more “on” than “off”.
It paid off. I see my married kids doing the same with their children. They are even more solicitous than I was. It warms the cockles of my heart.
#8. We were open to the friends of my children. We were picky, but we were open. They came over often and took part in our home life. We fed them, they often stopped by the store and picked things up for us for dinner. It was a give-give situation.
I never went to bed until I knew everyone was either gone, or my oldest son at home was left in charge. No one went off to form little groups, everything was done together. We played games with the kids, sang songs, had bonfires.
If any of our girls were of courting age, this is how we got to know the potential suitor and how they got to know us. And believe me, true personalities came out during games!!
#9. We have a strict dress code in our family but we have fun with it. Some of the girls sew, we love pretty colors and flowy, feminine things. The girls make the ribbon flowers to embellish their clothes and hair. We wear colors for the seasons and just enjoy dressing well.
Their clothing is not thought of as a negative thing…what they can’t wear. It’s about the amazing choices and colors and materials we CAN use! And my daughters know they are respected, as women, for the way they dress. In general, they don’t give it too much thought (that we are so different in that aspect from the world), it is just a way of life and always has been.
#10. Our technology is very closely monitored. Only my husband and I know the password to our computer and my phone is always locked. The older girls can look at recipes or something they want to buy on Amazon but it is not in a private place and it is not for long periods of time (which they don’t desire anyway…it is a means to an end for them).
They can ask to look at my phone, my Facebook account, if they wish, it is an open book and I don’t mind. But for the most part, they don’t use the internet much. They are all pretty good typists, though, and they know the basics.
The older girls have flip-phones and texting is not opened up until they are courting. They don’t have smart phones.
Don’t ever think your kids are above looking at stuff they shouldn’t. No, they are curious…especially boys, but girls, too. Be solicitous! We’ve slipped up here and there and I was given a reality check….that the devil is waiting to pounce on my own kids, too!!
#11. The Rosary has been our mainstay throughout the years. When it was forgotten, it wasn’t intentional. See the post My Little Story About the Rosary.
We also went to daily Mass as much as we could. There were many days, months, years, when hubby was working lots of hours, I was nursing or pregnant and homeschooling and it was too much to go to Mass every day. I would go in spurts or try to make it at least one more time a week besides Sunday. We are now back at it but it is easier because I don’t have lots of little people at home.
A couple of years back I was scratching my head wondering how the last half of our kids were going to turn out. Truly, the dynamics have changed around here (not in a bad way…just changed) and I was nervous how this was going to affect the next batch of kids.
As I was digging around for a solution, I came up with one…..Get back to daily Mass! So I have given that quandary (my kids and how they will turn out) right back to Our Lord and I am going to let Him figure it out. He’s doing pretty good! 😀
#12. Our girls have realized right from the get-go what an incredible and awesome “career choice” is Wifehood and Motherhood! They don’t see it as a “dumbing-down”, they see it as a privilege. They are open to life and they look forward to the day their vocation, as a religious sister or a mother, is shown to them so they can dig in! They know their purpose in life.
Therefore, and this is a big THEREFORE,… they are not antsy for college or a career. Their lives are so full, either helping us with our busy lifestyle, at our parish, or, recently, helping with nieces and nephews, etc., that the farthest thing from their mind is to seek a career outside the home!
They stay home until they are married. Life is full…no need to look elsewhere!
My husband and I have tried to show them, and I think we have succeeded, what an awesome thing Catholic Family Life is! It takes work, you need to be counter-cultural, but it all comes with so many blessings!
And my girls see it. They look around at what other girls their age and of the world are doing and they don’t want it. They feel very blessed!
An aside here….This next batch of girls coming up have seen a lot of the struggles of married life and motherhood from their older siblings. They look at it with a little more trepidation….hehe…than my first children. But they will be ready when the time comes, I am confident of that.
Well, there you have the list. Remember….in between each of those numbers should be another part….the part that says we were inadequate and didn’t do it all perfectly or with always the right attitude.
Once again, that should encourage all of us that it can be done….even with our weak humanness!
And, of course, I am not saying our way is THE way. You can pick and choose those things that may help you in your own family.
AND if you have lots of pieces to pick up….look up! God is not wanting in miracles! Miracles that change lives!
Our great drama is this: Man does not have confidence in God. Hence he looks in every possible place to extricate himself by his own resources and renders himself terribly unhappy in the process rather than abandon himself into the tender and saving hands of his Father in heaven. Yet, how unjustified this lack of confidence is!
Isn’t it absurd that a child would thus doubt his Father, when this Father is the best and most powerful Who could exist, when He is the Father in heaven? In spite of that, it is in this absurdity that we most frequently live.
Listen to the gentle reproach that the Lord addressed to us through the mouth of Saint Catherine of Siena:
Why don’t you have confidence in me, your Creator? Why do you rely on yourself? Am I not faithful and loyal to you?
Redeemed and restored to grace by virtue of the blood of my only Son, man can then say that he has experienced my fidelity.
And, nevertheless, he still doubts, it would appear, that I am sufficiently powerful to help him, sufficiently strong to help and defend him against his enemies, sufficiently wise to illuminate the eyes of his intelligence or that I have sufficient clemency to want to give him whatever is necessary for his salvation.
It would appear that I am not sufficiently rich to make his fortune, not beautiful enough to make him beautiful; one might say that he is afraid not to find enough bread in my home to nourish himself, nor clothing with which to cover himself.” (The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena)
We are called to be great Apostles of Love in our ordinary, daily life. We are Christ’s Hands and Feet as we wipe noses, feed hungry little ones and change diapers with an attitude of service and love. When we are cheerful to those we rub shoulders with each day, when we kindly open our door to those who enter into our home, we are taking part in Christ’s Apostolic Work. “Jesus was an Apostle in the stable of Bethlehem, in the shop of St. Joseph, in His anguish in Gethsemane and on Calvary no less than when He was going through Palestine, teaching the multitudes or disputing with the doctors of the law.” – Divine Intimacy, Painting by Morgan Weistling http://amzn.to/2p0dxg8 (afflink)