Being a parent is life altering and amazing and stressful and so much more. The learning curve can be steep and changes come at every turn, but the best thing we can do is provide a constant. We strive to give constant love and support to our beloved children, encouraging them throughout their childhood and beyond. The world would have us raise them on pedestals and choose any path in life they want and tell them they can do or be anything. As Catholics, this is a terrible parenting plan.
To tell a person, much less a child, that he or she could do or be anything is an unrealistic approach to encouragement. There’s a quote credited to Einstein (though there’s no proof he said it, but it still rings true): “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Imagine if Mother Theresa wanted to be an NBA star. How far would she have gone? What if Mike Tyson wanted to win a Nobel Prize in science? (No offense, Mike.)
We all need encouragement, but we need the right kind. This doesn’t mean that we should doubt the ability or possibility of our children - not at all! It simply means we need to give them realistic expectations and many opportunities to excel. Plus, we need to give them a constant - faith in God’s plan for them. That’s a hard one!
Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.”
If the God of all Creation has GOOD plans for us, we can have great hope that He will lead us and guide us along the way. So long as we don’t reject Him, He will help us when we stray. This is the constant our children need as we rear them into adulthood. Encouragement for faith, encouragement to God, and encouragement with love (not tolerance) will help guide them to the future God has in store for them.
The most difficult part of parenting is realizing that we can’t make all our children’s choices for them. They must choose God themselves. We give them the foundation, but they make the ultimate choice. God has no grandchildren, only children. If they choose wrongly, we can discuss with love why we cannot support their choice and express that we do support their spiritual welfare. We can only implore them to change their minds, but we cannot force them nor should we drive them away. If we did, we will become the very villains the world often paints conservatives to be. For some, the situations are extremely difficult. Pray deeply for those families.
If we come into parenthood with the knowledge that we must raise children in preparation for the world in which we live, giving them the proper tools for discernment and right judgment and praying for them always, our children stand a better chance of choosing what is right. (Proverbs 22:6)