From Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., 1950’s

Parental Responsibility

It is worth considering more than once the responsibility that can rest with the parents when some children do not achieve their full possibility or even turn out badly.

Let us of course give due blame to the evil concupiscence which can provoke a painful transformation in children even when the parents have done everything possible.

It remains true just the same that in a good number of cases, the father and the mother or one or the other must plead guilty.

A boy is sent to college. He gets along fine until the sophomore year. From then on he bungles everything, abandons right conduct, falls in with dangerous companions, carries on high to such an extent that he has to be expelled.

And when a professor expresses astonishment, the dean will give this explanation: “It’s his background; unfavorable heredity; his brothers were just the same.
The mother is a saint, but the father is one of those unfortunate individuals who is ruled by his senses; he has caused much suffering to his wife. It is just the traces of the father showing up in the children.”

The explanation can be taken for what it is worth. The law of heredity is not a mathematical law. There is no doubt, however, that it is operative, more operative than one thinks.

When heredity is not to blame, it can often be a matter of bad training. How good parents are, how very good, too good, too weak!
It is their own formation which is faulty; it should be done over.

A mother brought her young son to the doctor for an examination.
The doctor prescribed a remedy. “The medicine was not pleasant to take but it was very potent,” he said. Well and good; they had the prescription filled.

Sometime later they returned to the doctor.

–“Well, now, how’s our patient?”

–“Not any better, doctor.”

–“How’s that? Didn’t the medicine take effect?”

–“No, doctor, it was too hard to take; he wouldn’t touch it!”

How much botch-work of that kind goes on! Parents satisfy the child’s every whim. They recoil before the first tears, before the mere signs of an outburst, before less than that–a frown, a pout, or a dejected look. They are lost!

Reversing the scriptural phrase, “Cain, where is thy brother Abel?” an author speaking of social problems, which can well be duplicated in the family and in education asked, “Abel, what have you done with Cain?”
In other words: “You good people, are you not responsible through your faults or your incapacities that some good individuals have become bad?”

I have charge of a soul; I may have a plural charge–several souls.
What has been my conduct until now? Do I not have to reproach myself with many faults or at least many weaknesses? And I am surprised at the results obtained! Are they not the logical outcome of my bungling?

Let me examine myself; consider the whole problem seriously; if it is necessary, let me reform.

The Family Spirit

Before the war, family spirit was on the decline and on the verge of being lost. There were exterior and interior reasons.

Exterior reasons: Means of travel had become easier and encouraged people to go out as much as possible. At times, the whole household would take the train or auto for an excursion but more often than not one or other member of the family would go off for himself with the car.

Young girls began to leave home more than formerly for purposes of study, Red Cross causes, Social Service training or simply to take a position. Many who had no such need at all left home for no other reason than not to have to remain at home. Anything rather than stay home!

Various activities and organizations were always sufficient excuse or pretext for absence. Household activities held no appeal for these young women and often repelled them. The remembrance of confidences from their mother in some of their intimate sessions frightened some of them.

The world with its perpetual and superficial and useless activity drew many young men and even more young women into its crazy dance and encouraged the desertion of the home.

Interior Reasons: Some homes make no attempt to be attractive; life in them seems too austere to the children; the mother is too busy, the father is always grouchy, upset by the least noise, easily irritated and perhaps, even without knowing it, frigid and abrupt in his manner of speaking . . .
Sometimes there is an unfortunate lack of harmony between the parents. The atmosphere is always charged with a threatening storm. There is no relaxing, no peace, no trust . . . Each one wants his liberty, to go his own way.
The children caught between two fires do not know to which saint they should dedicate themselves. Therefore they too go away, or if they can’t they close up within themselves . . . Each one in the house stands on his dignity.

It is quite true that children have become more difficult to train.
They always have been difficult but they are more of a problem today than in the past. A tendency developed to give them greater leeway which created a greater distance than was wise between fathers and sons and especially between mothers and daughters; it was an imaginary difficulty rather than a real one in many cases but only too frequently it gave rise to a cruel estrangement.

No one can prevent the difference of twenty years more or less between father and son or mother and daughter; that it should be a difference is to be expected; but that it should be a barrier, no! And while there are parents who cannot remember that they were once twenty years old, most of them can.

“I dream of a daughter who will be like me but also very different,” wrote a mother; “because I should not like to produce only a duplicate but neither should I like to be only a rough draft of a more perfect pattern.”

Then she continues to explain that her daughter will be able to come to her in all confidence to tell her about her first infatuation; she will understand her and will even tell her how she herself at about the age of eighteen fell madly in love with a violinist of exceptional talent and that her own mother so completely entered into sympathy with her that she helped her daughter compose the burning letter of admiration in which her newly-born ardor was poured out . . . Together mother and daughter waited for the fervent response . . . which had never come!

Poor children, who feel that their parents do not understand them!
But if they do understand! It is their duty not to approve of everything, but they understand!

Then they are ready to help, not always by writing a love-letter, but to encourage, to warn, to support the children in their undertakings, to sustain their enthusiasm, to lead them to their goal.

“A desire to be beautiful is not unwomanly. A woman who is not beautiful cannot properly fill her place. But, mark you, true beauty is not of the face, but of the soul. There is a beauty so deep and lasting that it will shine out of the homeliest face and make it comely. This is the beauty to be first sought and admired. It is a quality of the mind and heart and is manifested in word and deed.” – Beautiful Girlhood, Mabel Hale http://amzn.to/2pOKmtj (afflink) Illustration by http://www.genevievegodboutillustration.com/

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