My toddler is at the height of imitation in his little life right now. Whatever we say, he says. Whatever we do, he does. Our gestures, our inflection, our every move are all under the vigilant speculation of two absorbing, bright blue eyes. Andrew and I have a blast teaching him funny things to say and do and it’s hilarious seeing ourselves in his childlike interpretations.
It’s also pretty alarming.
For several years now, I’ve been familiar with the phrase parents as primary educators, but it’s a little more concrete now that I have two small shadows following me around the house. The idea seems simple enough: the role of educator is inherent to parenthood; and not just any educator, but the very first. A simple idea – but not an easy one.
From the initial moments of life until death, children are forever assuming the attitudes and approaches to life that their parents maintain. I read and have witnessed that even from within the womb, a child learns his mother’s vocal inflection and will mimic it back to her in his newborn cries. Further along in life, kids might take interest in some of their parents’ passions and pursuits, and assuredly their personality traits. It’s not difficult for me to examine my own personality and trace my qualities and values back to one or both of my parents. I have my New Yorker mother’s sense of “whynot spontaneity” and my Air Force father’s sense of practicality; and even still my mom shows me how to be a go-getter and Dad exemplifies the idea of steadiness. While I certainly learned some life lessons more formally seated at the kitchen table with them in conversation, most of the principles I learned from them were in our day-to-day exchanges. There was no planning involved – just action and audience. They had my full attention regardless if they knew it or not.
The bottom line is that as a parent, you’re the first place your children will look for how to approach work and play, but most importantly faith. Though you may supplement your child’s catechetical instruction with PSR or a formal, Catholic education, what must necessarily foster the seeds planted in those environments is the foundation at home. The Catechism states, “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God” (CCC, 2226). This is not only a responsibility, but a privilege and quite an exclusive one. It is our task to educate our children, and it is by no means a burden. In these days, parents should be racing fast against a secularist culture to win as the first source of information ranging from faith to sexuality; it’s awful that children are learning distorted perspectives of sexuality from TV and their peers instead of their parents; and that often what they absorb from secular media mocks the ideas of morality. The Catholic Church herself is often mocked and taunted and trivialized, too.
Andrew and I are determined to guard our boys to the best of our ability. We will pray with them and for them. We will protect their purity and innocence. We will keep the lines of communication open. The way to do that is by cultivating a connection of love and comfortability with our little ones who will undoubtedly have questions as they grow up; to be receptive to their curiosity and to always point them in the directions of the Holy Eucharist and Rosary.
I have to remind myself that I don’t have to be totally self-sufficient in this because when faced with a charge so daunting, I hesitate and feel overwhelmed thinking that I have to do it all on my own; but God’s grace is enough and with the support of my husband, frequent prayer, and teaching myself, I can achieve all things He asks of me, including the blessing of educating my children.