For many children, parents are simply potential sources of embarrassment. Other kids’ parents are generally cooler than our own, but any parent may at any time unleash corny jokes or, worse, opine on “you kids today…” or “when I was young…” This embarrassment is most keenly felt during adolescence, but it can occur much earlier given the right circumstance.
In a similar vein, teachers know everything. Children come home from school and, exasperated, explain to their hapless parents how they’ve got it all wrong because the teacher said… I recall one occasion where the teacher, a Catholic priest, allegedly said that there were some exceptions to the Church’s ban on abortions. I guessed he was referring to ectopic pregnancies (which do not end by abortion, by the way) but how stupid to even mention this to a class of eighth grade boys! I set my poor son straight in no uncertain terms, although I did not make his worst nightmares come true by contacting the teacher. No worries, I made up for it over the years!
That is the fear of all kids. The embarrassment of parents being parents in the car pool is nothing compared with the parent who calls or shows up at the school, angry that the teacher has said or done something to hurt their kid. They have heard you rant at home, “Can you imagine that he said that? To a roomful of kids? What was he thinking? He’s gone too far this time. I’m going to the school first thing tomorrow to give him a piece of my mind!” By the time morning comes around, we are certainly not the raving lunatics our kids might picture, but genteel and firm of purpose. Years of polishing by excellent nuns, along with prayers to the Holy Spirit, and I had genteel down to a science. Of course, my kids only knew my home version, which, admittedly was a little scary…
The trouble is that kids do not want their home world and school world to collide. As a result, they may not share information that they think might upset their parents. One mother I know recalled trying to start up a “facts of life” conversation with her fourth or fifth grade daughter. The child eventually told her mom that her teacher had told them all about this in grade two! Why had she not told her mom about this? Because she knew Mom would be mad and talk to the teacher. And that of course would be her right.
What prompts these musings is a news story of a recent Ontario court decision that ruled a Greek Orthodox father who sends his children to a public elementary school cannot exempt them from objectionable classes dealing with topics such as homosexuality and abortion. The court basically said that if he doesn’t like it, he can send the children to private school or homeschool them. So much for religious freedom. Unfortunately, the reality is that it is impossible to exempt children from these influences because they are purposely woven throughout the curriculum.
Back in the day, when I attended Catholic school, that was the way Catholicism was taught. In French, we learned the names of the articles in the church; in reading, the stories were of saints and good Catholic children; likewise in spelling, grammar, math… much of the material was related to our Catholic experience. The lessons were intended to form virtuous young men and women. Now the religion of secularism employs similar methods to ensure that acceptance of every type of lifestyle, family, and culture is enforced. Tolerance, the belief in nothing, is the only “virtue” proposed.
Parents who want to raise their children in the Catholic faith need to be aware of the contrary ideologies that influence their young children daily. We must consciously offer the Christian alternative through our conversations with them and especially through our actions every day. We must walk the walk not just talk the talk, although both are important. Private schools and homeschooling do provide us with more control, however, both options have drawbacks as well. Each family must choose what works best for them and perhaps, like me, everything has its season. Over the years, we sent our kids to both public and private schools, secular and Catholic, and also homeschooled. These are not easy decisions. It is important to be alert and also aware that even the best parent will not catch everything that’s going on.
Finally, pray! In the end, that is probably the most important thing of all. Trust in God and pray for our children!