Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parenting advice

After reading a very insightful post called "A few brief thoughts on chastity and teens" over at Deacon Scott's blog, Καθολικός διάκονος (I highly recommend it -- check it out!), I've been thinking a lot about parenting teens and parenting in general.

When I was in grad school for social work (before I was married), I went through a period where I was working in the field of child abuse and thus I read a lot of Alice Miller, a PhD in Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology. Dr. Miller approaches the question of Christ as an atheist would (and thus she has serious blind spots), and yet her writings and her advocacy for children leads her to make reference to Jesus and the Holy Family:

Long before his birth Jesus received the greatest reverence, love, and protection from his parents, and it was in this initial all-important experience that his rich emotional life, his thinking, and his ethics were rooted. His earthly parents saw themselves as his servants, and it would never have occurred to them to lay a finger on him. [The Truth Will Set You Free, pp. 190-191]

Jesus grew into a strong, aware, empathic, and wise person able to experience and sustain strong emotions without being engulfed by them. He could see through insincerity and mendacity and he had the courage to expose them for what they were. [The Truth Will Set You Free, p. 191]

So, we see her greatest blind spot: she is incapable of recognizing that Jesus' (or anyone's for that matter) person and character are more than the result of personal experiences in childhood. Still, she has an interesting point, one that I thought about long and hard in those days: what if, as parents, we approached our children as though they are indeed children of God? What if we had the same attitude toward them that Mary and Joseph had toward the Son of God? What if we saw them as holy? What if we were approach them with all the reverence we reserve for the Eucharist? Because, in fact, from the moment of their Baptism, they are one with Christ, as we all are.

Children are temples of the Holy Spirit. What if, as we bathed them, fed them, spoke to them, listened to them, we did all these things as if in the Presence of God?


Dcn Scott Dodge said...

What a beautiful continuation of thread. I especially like that you refuse to let faith be reduced to pragmatism. I believe that is the greatest mistake made about faith in our country.

Suzanne said...

Wow! I'm so bad at figuring out things on a national or global level -- this is an interesting thought -- one I'll need to reflect on for a while. Speaking personally, I could probably use a little more pragmatism...at least when it comes to the dishes. When it comes to parenting, though, I am honestly at a loss about how to communicate the things I have learned. I think this is because everything about parenting is about grace. End of story.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."