My daughter loves to read, I mean seriously loves reading. She’s a kid with her nose constantly in a book, usually belonging to a series, and a few years beyond her age. She’s nine. Sometimes I think she’s nine going on 19, but she’s still a little kid. She’ll read just about anything from fantasy to horror, joke books to comics, even billboards and pamphlets. I’m not kidding; she’ll grab flyers off every table when we go to a fair or festival. It kills me sometimes.
Now don’t think we don’t check what she’s reading. She’ll show us a book she found at the library at school (safe to say those are all age-appropriate) and tell us about it. What’s more, she’ll ask about a book she sees in the store or the library in town (still haven’t ventured out of the kids’ section) and we’ll go over it’s contents and approve, or disapprove it. There have been times I’ve said no because the book involved more ‘teen’ topics and I explain this to her and she’s fine with it.
“Don’t grow up too quickly,” I say. “You can’t unlearn some things and you can’t redo childhood.”
She smiles back and assures me she likes being a kid. So far, so good.
That said, how about morality? What’s a parent to do in an immoral world that touts social issues that are firmly against the Church as though they’re a moral obligation? Well, we do our best to discuss these things openly and kindly, using the loving language of the Church and the Bible as often as possible. It’s not easy, and it won’t get easier; we know that.
I had ‘the talk’ with her this past summer and she now knows the biological and theological background of development, sex, and how babies are born. It wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it would be. Again and again I say, put the science behind it and you’ll see the Lord was right all along! She’s a science kid, so learning about the biology part was very engaging! Learning about the physical aspect, well… I got a scrunch-nosed face from her and not much more. Phew!
One of the more sensitive discussions was that of the ‘different kinds’ of family one of the books mentioned. I told her simply that she would learn that some kids have two moms or two dads and, while we don’t agree with that in our faith, we need to treat all with the same respect. We won’t be showing up at celebrations of the same, but each human deserves love and compassion just the same. We also talked about divorced families in the same regard. My point was to not teach my child to judge and hate people, but to love and respect others equally, while remembering what God wants of us personally. I didn’t go much further on that at the time.
I get questions about faith from my girl all the time. Some are tougher than others, but all make me pause and reflect before I answer, no matter my mood. I represent Jesus in that moment and I try to treat that lesson with as much care as possible. This little human is part of the future of the earth; teach her well!
On more than one occasion, I would be irritated and tell my kids that they’re whining, and there’s enough whining in the world! Makes me laugh now, but I’ve honestly told them, “I’m not raising lazy adults. The world has enough of those. Learn to respect others and work hard.” “And you’ll get what you want?” One would ask me. “Maybe,” I answer, “but work hard anyway. Any honest hard work not rewarded here is rewarded in Heaven. Do what’s right anyway.”
Let’s not candy-coat it, folks. This world isn’t sunshine and roses, and lying to my kids that it is doesn’t make a better childhood; it makes a tougher transition to adulthood. We have fun, play games, pretend all sorts of things, but when they ask honest questions they know they’re getting honest answers.
That brings me to my last item: book choice. My girl loves fantasy and horror books. She’s not the devil. I’m not condoning anything evil. She likes reading about good overcoming evil. We have a family member horrified that she’s read all of Harry Potter. She forgets my daughter can recount most of the common Bible stories by heart. This nine-year-old loves Brothers Grimm books and anything related. She also loves mystery and doesn’t mind a little gore. (A little, because, as I said, we screen books still.) She also can’t wait to watch Nativity with me this Christmas, a promise I made that couldn’t be fulfilled until this year. (It was the birth scene; I was avoiding questions.)
She doesn’t get terrible notions of using magic and witchcraft and the like for amusement and personal gain. She isn’t conjuring anything creepy. She’s not horrified by much, but she’s very bothered by modern day horrors such as defaming property, bullying, hurting others, not helping those in most need, or (the very worst) abortion. “Mama, how can someone not love the baby in their own tummy?!” Dear child, I have no idea.
We spend each night praying, thanking God, asking for healing for ourselves and those we love, and whatever else the kids come up with. Seriously, they will not sleep unless we’ve prayed. She sleeps with a rosary in case something’s bothering her or she’s having trouble sleeping. Things that bother her are usually: ‘when will I get my own bedroom,’ ‘what’s tomorrow’s weather,’ or ‘how am I going to make my Halloween costume this year?’
She asks plenty we can’t answer and we tell her so, but what’s most important is that we strive to build up a love and trust for God that the world would otherwise deny. It’s important to us that our kids aren’t shocked by the world, but that they’re taught about it gradually, in a way we see fit according for our family. Their peers, media, and various other sources will try to teach them plenty. I want to get there first.