“Parenting was so much easier when I raised my non-existent children hypothetically”.
A friend shared this meme with me a few months ago, and it resonated. Before I became a mom, I had lofty ideas about how much screen time and fresh fruit children should consume. My parent-self, on the other hand, decided screen time doesn’t count if it’s Veggie Tales or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; and if this pouch of applesauce says it’s 100% real fruit, then who am I to judge?
Nowhere, however, was my hypothetical parenting more exercised than during my interactions with the parents of my students in sacramental preparation and youth ministry. My twenty-something single-self couldn’t understand why parents didn’t seem to read my clever emails, attend all my parent meetings, and (most importantly) get their children to Mass on Sunday or the Saturday vigil. My thirty-something newly-married-self had animated conversations with my husband after a night of youth ministry about how our kids would be different.
Then we became parents, and every prayer for humility I had ever uttered was answered. Perhaps it was a more unusual adjustment than most, since we became parents through fostering children whose exposure to faith in general, and Catholicism in particular, was limited or even erroneous. However, the more I listen to other parents, the more I learn that, with the task of raising tiny humans (whether they are biological children, step children, grandchildren, adopted children, or foster children), there is a constant sense of inadequacy that creeps into everything we do: the food we serve, the educational methods we select, and the extracurriculars we elect.
However, as a professional lay minister—whose resume includes years of work as a youth minister and as a catechist at a mission in Central America and at parishes in both South Carolina and Florida—I was unprepared for the thoughts that buffeted me when I went from being a catechist “on staff” to being the primary catechist of the children in my home. Over the years, I’ve come to recognize these thoughts for what they are: lies. Sometimes the truth of how God sees us and how the Holy Spirit is moving can be hardest to discern in our own life and in the lives of those closest to us.
Here are some of the negative thoughts that bombard me, especially at frustrating moments when attempting to share the faith within my own home. Perhaps you can relate.