Friday, April 25, 2014

Undertows and The Patron Saint of Fun

(photo taken by Abbey)

I was reading an article about Pope Francis a few days ago in our paper and Andrew was looking at the photos included and said, "When Pope Francis becomes a saint I think he should be the Patron Saint of Fun." I had to laugh at that one, and I think the Pope might like that.

There was an excerpt from a homily that Pope Francis gave last year included in this article, and it seemed that day, it was just what I needed to hear.  I had been feeling so overwhelmed, and angry, and discouraged all week-I had been feeling like it seems this might be one of the hardest cultures in history to raise children in truth.  Our children are fed lies constantly-lies about what happiness is, and how to achieve it.  The media feeds these lies, and politicians, and Hollywood culture, which markets directly to our children relentlessly, profits from these lies and this culture spreads from peer to peer.  It feels, and I know you readers probably feel the same, only because I've received many letters that have told me so, that it sometimes seems like a lonely job, being an intentional, present parent with a strong value system, more often that not.  And as my children have grown, especially into their teens, sometimes I feel like maybe I'm the crazy one-saying no to things (sometimes the craziest things that drop my jaw!) that other parents say yes to. Gosh, kids can't parent themselves, what the heck?  It's our responsibility.  Love them, and say no!  No, no, no, no.  It's a word that rolls of my tongue easier, for sure, as I see more and more what's out there, what our children battle every day against.

And sure I have felt bad for saying it, sometimes I have given in to that feeling of not wanting to displease, of not wanting the tears, or the anger, or the discomfort.  I have learned, and still am learning, that parenting today requires us to be so so discerning.  To grow a backbone, a strong one, to conserve that energy (so much energy!) to swim against the tide, the undertow is strong, it's strong always, it never seems to let up.

I have found that it is worth the time to hunt out those families (you will find them) that have the same strong feelings and passion for parenting that we do, who strive to remember the way things used to be, when children of all ages were protected because of their vulnerability while growing into adulthood.  I recently asked one of my veteran mom friends (kids mostly grown, some still teenagers) what her rules were about this or that and she told me and then said, "Sarah, remember that the important thing is to just say no and don't waver!  Decide your rules, whatever they may be and say no with conviction and without apology." She also talked about using the reasoning of purpose (something my mom talks about a lot also.)  What is the purpose of this or that from cell phones to dating-whatever it is, and if you can't come up with a really really good one, then it's not worthy of a yes, it's not worthy of the exertion of money, time and energy.

Another veteran mother who has raised great kids with very strong values told me that her older now grown adult children once said to her, "Mom, for as strict as you and Dad were, and as many times as you said no, and we were the only ones not allowed to do this or have that, you could have said no even more!  It's that bad out there!"  They thanked her, years later.

And strong family life-I am convinced that is where it's all at when it comes to the goodness, for us, and for our children and our children children's-(maybe this is what "eternal life" really means?). Parents who want to spend most of their time with their children.  Parents who require their children (that means teens too) to spend most of their time with their families.  Parents who are deliberate about fighting that tide, and teach actively good morals and values-who live them, which is the best way to teach them.  I think the home needs to be an oasis, a retreat, an example-that beautiful island to land in the midst of swirling undertows.  I am convinced if this would happen-if home life were strong across this country, with a mother and father at the helm, in a loving dedicated marriage, the tide would turn.

Here is the Pope's hopeful message, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them.  In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you!  


Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The "dragon", evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand.  The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! 


It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols that take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure.  Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.  


Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality.  Let us encourage the generosity that is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world.  


Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non material values that are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people."

22 comments:

  1. As a grandmother of 6 I am so blessed by your post today. I will give your blog address to my daughter and ask her to read it today. Thank you for your input and for posting the Pope's homily. So much truth.

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  2. Thank you a hundred times for this!!! I loved the advice about deciding what purpose something has. My oldest will be going into 7th grade in the fall and we often feel the "pressures" of "everyone else" having this or that or being able to do this or that. We have with conviction stuck to our guns when it comes to technology devices and the importance of family time with just recently saying no to an optional school trip that we thought did not fit in with our family values even though "everyone else" is going. It can be isolating to be an intentional present parent when it seems at times that no one else is. That your priorities and values are so different than everyone else's. I agree it is an everyday struggle to go against the grain. I am often told by other people "well you want your kids to be like everyone else." My response is always that would be my worst nightmare. Thank you again for your wonderful common sense advice. I come here and read your posts and the comments and am ever so glad I am not the only one!!!

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  3. Sarah, just yesterday I took my little ones (ages 5, 3, and 1) to my oldest's friend's house to play. I was so overwhelmed by how different their parenting style was from my own. I came home thinking "wow, I'm so strict. Look at this family..they're not as strict as I am, and they have 6 children! Maybe they're doing something better than I am." I immediately started questioning our philosophy on dinner time, technology usage, etc. But now that i've read your post, I feel so much better. Thank you for being such a cheerleader for high standards in parenting. It's so comforting to know I'm not alone :)

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  4. It's so refreshing to read posts like this. It makes me feel less alone, less like the weird mom, more hopeful and more encouraged. Thank you!

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  5. Wonderful, eloquent post..."Parents who want to spend most of their time with their children." I have never heard the concept of basic tenet of family, living in the good, the answer to the problems we face in society...I don't even know how to phrase it myself...that big thing, the purpose we are all here for...expressed so perfectly as in that phrase. Thank you. I also agree with you and your son about Pope Francis. And he has many good homilies, doesn't he!

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  6. My 18yr old stepson lives with us. Last year, the big fight was why we would not let him go with his friends on a spring break trip to Florida. He, like his friends, was 17 at the time- AND WE LIVE IN CLEVELAND OHIO! These boys (7 of them!) drove to Florida all alone, without a single adult along. How they even navigated a hotel room is beyond me since they were all under age. It blows my mind that there were 7 sets of parents that were willing to allow their kids to do this. He naturally had a huge fit, and I was fine with that. This year, the trip happened again... and this year, we happily said NO WAY. The 4 year old down the street plays Call Of Duty with his older brothers because mom doesn't feel like trying to keep him away from the game that his 11 year old brother shouldn't have anyways. I'm certainly not perfect by any stretch... but violent video games and under age cross country trips will not be happening in my house.

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  7. I love this post and I have loved reading your blog. I am a mother of two young children and as they have started school I have realized how much pressure there is really going to be on them, both from their peers and from society's views of the world. I want more for my kids than temporary entertainment and fickle happiness. I want them to experience true joy. The kind of joy that comes from working hard, enduring, sacrificing and believing in God's plan for them. Everytime I read your blog I am uplifted and it always motivates me to keep trying to be better. I'm not Catholic, but I have so much admiration and appreciation for this new Pope. His words are direct, but filled with love and true understanding of what parents are faced with today, and how we, as people can live and act as true believers.

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  8. I would LOVE to hear your family's rules on technology when you have the time. Our oldest (8th grade) is literally the only child in his school without a cell phone. There is no reason that he needs one...but I do feel pressure to not have him socially isolated in being able to text his friends. My husband is a teacher and I was one before I quit to stay home...and we find it amazing that there it is just assumed that all kids have cell phones...ipads etc. etc. And yet I want our kids to learn how to regulate their "screen" time on their own and am not sure how to do that as we have very strict rules right now...no screens during M-Th...a little Wii or computer fun time on the weekends. And then when they are dragged to all their brothers and sisters games on the weekend it is so easy to hand them a device but I can't stand seeing everyone on devices instead of enjoying the game/playing outside...and yet it is hard for them to sit through three games every weekend ;) Any words of wisdom on managing it all would be great...I'm all for setting the rules and keeping them but it's a new world and I'm just not sure what rules to set!!

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  9. Great article. I agree with you 100%. My oldest is only 7 and the amount of peer pressure in first grade is crazy. I'm dreading middle school and high school. I love your advice and I love talking to moms of older kids. Keep up the good work.

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  10. Please don't ever stop writing this. I need to hear it over and over. And then over again. I'm in the early stages of motherhood and I need to know there are moms out there who have done it the way I am trying to. Thank you for saying no to culture and yes to the Church. And thank you for encouraging moms like me to stick to it.

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  11. Thank you so much for this Sarah. I'm still in the early years with my girls, but I'm bookmarking this to re-read again and again over the next few years as the peer pressure/ society pressure/ media pressure begins to creep in. Grateful for mothers like yourself who are a little bit further along on the journey to point the way!xx

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  12. Amen Sarah! As a mother of two adults, one now a new high school teacher (boy was that an eye opener for her!) and the youngest in college...I could not agree more with your statements and those of the new Pope (and no, I too am not Catholic). The sense of entitlement children are being raised with today is SCARY!!! I teach little ones Bible class 1 day a week. They are mostly 3 now. The behavior I am seeing exhibited at such a young age is crazy. Parents need to parent, not be their child's best friend! I was proud to be known as the "strictest mom on the block" by the kids in our neighborhood. It was my duty to raise my girls and keep them safe. NO QUESTIONS ASKED!!! I feel for parents these days with little ones-high school who are trying to do the right thing. I have all too often seen teens rewarded for poor behavior, and those trying to do the right thing getting overlooked at the same time. When did so many things become ACCEPTABLE???

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  13. When my kids were young (they are now 31 and 28) I never allowed them to have a TV in their bedrooms and they did not ever own a video game system even though they were very popular in their age group at the time. I often felt mean, but I did not give in and I am so glad. They both turned out to be terrific adults and I think that is in large part due to the things I said no to. It is tough being a parent and even tougher now for you than it was for me. DON'T GIVE UP! You know in your haert it will pay off in the end.
    As long as you discipline from love, keep them safe and give them Godly values, they will turn out to be terrifc adults.

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  14. I loved this post Sarah! I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I love reading words of encouragement and faith from the Pope. I love that there are voices like yours who speak up for strengthening families and giving children the best chance to thrive in this world that will need their strength and goodness. I have 5, almost 6, kids and one entering middle school this fall. I so appreciate you writing your thoughts here so I can have your example and wisdom even though I don't get to know you in person. Thanks again!

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  15. I am also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints but I've never really read many of the words from the Pope so was interested to read this post - just beautiful! I'm also grateful for voices like yours who speak up for strengthening our homes and families. I enjoy reading your blog and appreciate your strength and example :)

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  16. Amen, Amen, Amen! My sister and I were just discussing some things along these lines yesterday! It is easy to feel alone in this crazy upside world of parenting, and so great to see we are not alone! There are other dedicated, great families of all faiths and most importantly God is with us in our most important job we have! Grand Theft Auto, kids with smart phones that can access all the ugly in the world, (not to mention begin addicted to social media and gaming), kids with computers/tv in their rooms….these are just a few of the "arguments" I have had to have with my kids lately. It is insanity I tell ya! It feels like a constant battle with the world out there, but this is a great reminder to focus on the GOOD and the positive, and give them all our TIME, and it will work out! Thanks, Sarah! WONDERFUL!

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  17. Really great post Sarah! It is so true, everything you said about sticking to your guns when it comes to your family standards. I wholeheartedly agree -- spend as much time as you can together. And I certainly have had to grow my backbone a bit with new teens. I just went to the BEST lecture by Leonard Sax who is a physician who has done a lot of research on teens and social media use. He outlined his findings and then recommended a bunch of guidelines for parents. It was so great. I took seven pages of notes and was so grateful to feel validated for once. If you are ever interested I could send the main highlights to you . . . you have such a readership that you could even post them for more parents' sakes. I was seriously wishing I could broadcast to the world everything he said that night. We wish all the time that more parents set boundaries like we do. Thank goodness for the ones that do -- we have certainly sought them out and feel blessed to have them in our lives. And though I don't know you that well I feel blessed to have you in my life too!

    Dr. Sax wrote these books:http://www.amazon.com/Boys-Adrift-Epidemic-Unmotivated-Underachieving/dp/0465072100/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398573153&sr=8-1&keywords=boys+adrift
    and http://www.amazon.com/Girls-Edge-Girls--Sexual-Cyberbubble-Environmental/dp/0465022065/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398573382&sr=8-1&keywords=girls+on+the+edge as well as a few others
    Sorry for the long comment!

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    Replies
    1. Yes please send Elasha! I've read a little about him and he is right on track and in touch as far as concerns, risks, and solutions.

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    2. I would enjoy reading a post with Elasha's notes from that lecture. So if you're trying to decide if you should post them, well here is a vote for it! :)

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  18. Thank you for this post, I love it. I am the mother of a 2 year old son and sometimes I feel like I'm not a fashionable, trendy modern parent. I don't care about that anymore. I am proud that I stay home with him every day and that spending time as a family is more important than anything. I'm proud that he doesn't have a tablet [can you believe 3 year olds are getting ipads as Christmas or birthday gifts these days?!] or loads of electronic gadgets. I am strict with my values , and I echo the other comments sentiments as I would love to hear more on your rules and values .

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  19. Just wanted to communicate that we are not a catholic family, but this post (and all your posts) was very encouraging to me. I know sometimes you wonder how your posts are received by people of different faiths, and I want to reassure you that they have a great effect. Thanks again for all you do!

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  20. Very informative and impressive post you have written, this is quite interesting and i have went through it completely, an upgraded information is shared, keep sharing such valuable information. Eltern

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