I made another amateur mistake this week. You would think as a mother of 10, I wouldn’t continue to fall into these basic traps - but I do. I assumed (I know what happens when you assume!) Drew had been reading and studying his physics per his assignments. I would see the book out on the table and he would be reading. We printed up his section and chapter reviews that he had completed. He had even completed his worksheets.
Sooo, I thought we were in good shape as we went into this week knowing his test was Thursday.
Wrong. Foolish mother!
As I began to quiz him on the material, it was abundantly clear that he did not have a grasp on the material at all. He had been doing his work as quickly as possible and with little (if any) thought. We had two days to go to prepare for physics test that covered two sizeable chapters. Ugh. Of course, I read him the riot act about taking responsibility, applying himself as he is able, etc, etc, etc.
After getting everyone in bed that night, there was nothing to do but for me to crack open that book and study myself. I was going to have to understand the material myself if I had any chance of helping Drew prepare. (Did I mention I never liked physics?!) I was going to have to explain the material in ways that he could understand. I was going to have to animate it so it wasn’t simply words on a page, but became his life around him. The task was daunting I must admit.
In the morning, I did tell Drew that I was partly responsible for the situation we were in. I should have been more involved from the start and helping him more along the way. He is, after all, still 14 and learning good study habits. He is not quite ready to go it alone yet. I have the responsibility to help him reach that goal by the time he leaves the house.
Physics is nothing compared to teaching my children about their faith. Tate and I have built our family’s life around our faith. We have many Bibles for everyone and then some, many books on the faith, and books on the lives of the saints. We go to Mass everyday. All of this has great value and not one bit should fall away, but still, I am reminded this is not enough.
As with Drew and physics, I need to animate their faith lives. I cannot allow them to go through the motions, and not take their faith into their hearts. I need their faith to become something that is not simply on the pages of Scripture, but becomes who they are and how they see the entire world. I need to help them understand how much God loves them. They need to know this perfect love above all. If they do not know this love, they will never love Him and know how to best love themselves and others in their lives. Without the sure knowledge of this love and its meaning, it will be easy for them to fall away.
I read an article this week by Bishop Barron called The Least Religious Generation in U.S. History. In this article he talks about a recently released book, iGen by Jean Twenge. The title of the article speaks for itself, and is well worth a read by any parent. The gist, our children are falling away from ANY belief in ANYTHING at an alarming rate. It is an epidemic that only families rooted in Christ can begin to heal. We as parents must be willing to be heroic in our efforts.
In the end, it really doesn’t have to be that hard. We must never think our kids are too young to learn about God. Read to them, tell them from the beginning how much God loves them. Fill their minds with the stories from the Old and New Testament. As they get older, we must continue to recount the stories of Scripture. We should encourage our children to enter into those mysteries and imagine what it was like for those who walked with Christ. We must teach them the value of silence and prayer. We must be patient through their mistakes, forgive readily, laugh frequently, discipline charitably, and tell them we love them daily. We need to protect our Sundays and make them a day of rest together as a family. Above all, we must be an image of God’s love in their life and remind them often of His love for them.
As with physics, I can’t give what I don’t have. I am going to have to pray, study and learn myself - often after a long day. It is my primary responsibility as a parent to make Christ in their life real. Christ must no longer be an idea, but their Savior. Someone they know loves them. They need to know He is even more present than I am to their lives.
Eventually, it becomes their choice. As Drew had to take his physics test on his own, our children will eventually leave the protection of our own homes and venture out into the world to make their own way. We cannot guarantee that our children will always make the right choices, but we can have the peace of knowing that we filled them with the good things of God. We have showed them who God is, how to speak with Him in prayer, how to worship Him in the Mass, how to see Him in the beauty of creation and the love of friends and family.
They will have to stand before God one day for their final test. Will we have helped prepare them?
God, grant us the grace to animate the faith of our children. Help us to make Your love for them real in their lives. Knowing this love, may they never chose to fall away from You. If they do fall away, may they remember Your mercy and run back into Your open arms. JMJ