On being a parent teaching how to be a child

Q: You know what I think is the most annoying thing about being a parent? A: When your kids act just like you.

Case in point, I go through phases with foods. Phases where I’ll prefer salty snacks or fruit or high protein or mostly liquids. Annoying to me because the phases are usually short-lived and I’m usually left with half a bag of chips or bunches of grapes, etc. left over either to be thrown away and wasted and/or forced to eat. Enter my son Joseph. Joey begged for green grapes yesterday at Wal-Mart. They are healthy so I consented and he ate several yesterday. Today, he wants nothing to do with them or the strawberries we got at a great price. Argh!!!!

I think that what bothers me is that I know that my kids are learning my bad habits as a direct result of observing me and then excusing their own behavior because an adult modeled it first. That adult, more specifically, is their mother.

But this can extend far beyond food preferences. As far as faith or lack thereof. Recently, a mom from my parish confided that her daughter had begun saying, “God where are you?” after hearing said mom say it frequently during moments of stress, anger, frustration and fear. “My daughter is not learning that God is always with us because I am not showing her that,” she told me. “And what is worse, I fear she is not learning that God is with us even in good times as a result.”

Faith is an odd part of parenting because it must be modeled and taught rote. Kids must both observe their parents’ faith in action and learn by reading the Bible, attending mass and knowing their catechism. That is because faith and belief are kissing cousins. Beliefs are an expression of our faith. We believe God is always with us, therefore, we have faith He will take care of us when times are difficult but He will also rejoice in times of great happiness. Wouldn’t it be great to just hand our kids a print of Footprints for their wall and tell them that was the sum of our faith and beliefs? But it is never that simple. Because no matter how many times we read that the time there was only one set of footprints because God was carrying the man, even the most faithful can feel alone at times. The death of a parent, a child who has fallen away, a job loss, can test our resolve and faith. And in those moments, our children are watching us more closely than we can imagine seeing how we react, how we figure out what to do next, and whether we are allowing ourselves to be carried, or casting ourselves out of the embrace of our loving Father.

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