We have an Australian bush turkey mound in the backyard next door, so we see them around a lot.
Bush turkeys expend massive amounts of energy on the perfect house to lay their eggs in, then the females mate with whoever builds the best mound. The eggs are incubated by the heat generated from the decomposing leaves (efficient outsourcing), and when the young hatch they have to fend for themselves.
The parents create the perfect environment for their offspring but provide no actual guidance or protection to their young as they grow.
It’s sink or swim for bush turkey babies.
This is not the parenting style the Church encourages.
The perfect mound does not a family make.
I just want to make it clear that the following is in no way something I think I have arrived at yet.. they are lofty concepts that still need much reflection from Craig and I. I share them for my benefit as much as anyone else.
The following words in blue are excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
The duties of parents
2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation.
So we don’t just conceive and birth our children into the perfect “setting”. In fact, the moral and spiritual formation of our children doesn’t seem to have any expiry date from my reading of the catechism.. I guess that means the whole of our lives we have a duty to form them.
“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” (Gravissimum Educationis 3)
We are the primary educators of our children so much so that IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVIDE AN ADEQUATE SUBSTITUTE. Not just in their early years.. even when they are older. How much older? I guess that depends on how you define “parents” and “children”.. are parents always parents and children always children?? Does your job finish when they are school age? Leave school? Get married? Have children? Get divorced?? Is there ever a time when we have no duty as parents towards our children and when it is so important to be almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute?
The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable. (Familiaris Consortio 36)
There are those who do not consider this parents’ right when faced with families who have exercised this right by deciding to homeschool. But we must be free to act on this due to the grave consequences to our souls and those of our children. We have to answer before God for how we have undertaken this right and duty to educate our children.
2222 Parents must regard their children as children of God and respect them as human persons.
Children are not an inconvenience to my plans, I remind myself. Especially when I get a set on a task and that determined look in my eye. Children are not like bush turkey babies. They are not my slaves, show ponies or a pain in the neck. This is one I have to keep going back to when I am tempted to treat them like objects instead of human persons.
Showing themselves obedient to the will of the Father in heaven, they educate their children to fulfill God’s law.
How do we genuinely apply this? How do we educate our children to fulfill God’s law? Even with homeschooling it is a massive and incomplete task. Being obedient to the will of the Father from whom all parenthood comes, we seek to do his will and not our own. If we spent our whole parenting journey just trying to do this sentence alone, we would still fall short.
2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.
Not the Catholic Education or State Government systems.. and not the local parish or Catechesis of the Good Shepherd programme. Nothing and no one replaces my first responsibility for the education of my children.. now I know why I have trouble sleeping!
They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.
Creating a home takes time and hard work and genuine commitment to growing in holiness. This is so big that it’s almost impossible. But the take-home message for me is that first sentence. We do have the first responsibility for the education of our children. Not only the first years of their lives, but always the first responsibility. Regardless of the age of our children. The buck stops with us. If children attend school and a problem crops up, the typical scenario is the school blames the parents, and the parents blame the school, but who is genuinely taking responsibility? It is the parents who must do this according to the church.
The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom.
This was my mantra for a while. “Self-mastery is the precondition of all true freedom.” How different is that to the predominant hedonism of “If it feels good, do it.” How sad that all those who think that following their feelings is the road to true freedom are enslaved and are not even aware of it.
Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”(Centesimus Annus 36)
The home is well suited for education in the virtues and everything else for that matter. It really is. It is much more difficult to find the same opportunities in the artificial environment of having a bunch of children the same age clumped together. How will my children learn how to be kind to those who are a different age, a different gender, have different interests etc. How will they learn about being industrious if the classroom is cleaned up by paid workers and they never see the teacher really need their help like they are needed around the home? If the dishwasher doesn’t get emptied, or the plants don’t get watered, there are real consequences that are easy to teach in the home.
Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.
And that doesn’t just mean being nice as it’s not all about being nice as I wrote here. Not that we should be nasty either. But nice people don’t really do the full job as the following states well.. It is about love.
By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:
- He who loves his son will not spare the rod. . . . He who disciplines his son will profit by him.(Sirach 30: 1-2)
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.(Ephesians 6:4)
This is a biggie as discipline is synonymous with child abuse to many. One of the best bits of advice I heard regarding this was from Dr Ray Guarendi. If we don’t discipline children, then as they get older a lot less loving adults will… be they the police, their employer or the courts. He also has this as an audio message.