The Only Command With A Promise

The Only Command With A Promise April 8, 2024

The best thing about getting older, as far as I can tell, is forgetting things. I am the mother of six children, and I can’t remember anything–their birth weights, where I left my keys, what I used to make them for breakfast, or what I did when they were wicked. This, I find, is a blessed kind of amnesia, affording me plausible deniability, the chance to be reminded by their narration of the past, and a sweet haze of affection for sleepless nights and the relentless grind of breakfast, lunch, and dinner day after day after day.

I’m coming right to the end of hosting a year-long, one weekend-a-month Catechesis of the Good Shepherd formation at my church. CGS is the single best approach to Children in the Church that I have ever found, a welcome pastureland away from the cacophony of bad takes on children available online and in every bookstore. If you wander over to the side of this page and look at some of the category tabs, you’ll see that I’ve written a lot about CGS over the years, though less so as my own kids have aged out. Now I find myself thinking about parenting and the catechizing of children into the Christian faith from the angle of the helper, the older church lady who is there whenever anyone happens to need her. The sort of help I can offer is specious, though. Take it with a grain of salt, because whenever anyone asks me what I did with my kids, I can’t remember.

My memory is lately being jogged, though, because I’ve read some interesting books, the most notable being Bad Therapy and Hunt Gather Parent. Then I poked the bear by being critical of the way some exvangelicals write and speak about their parents. One set of tweets, in response to mine (which I can no longer see because I’ve been blocked, but I believe the handle is @abbinye if you’re interested in finding them), intrigued me. It seems that some evangelical parents pressed their older children into the service of the family, making them look after younger siblings as well as helping with the task of homeschooling. This, apparently, was extremely damaging for these now adult children who have left the faith of their parents.

Reading the books and the tweets leads me to believe that there must be a crisis in American conceptions of parenting. The meme-able trope about millennials not moving out of their parent’s basements and being neurotic and anxious and too attached are all true, and with a helping of bitter anger. It’s as though all the wrong-headedness of previous generations has fallen upon their heads. The neglect of the only command in the Bible addressed to one person that another has to accomplish–to honor your parents so that you may dwell long in the land–is visible in the anger, the bitterness, the hopelessness of the young.

The spiritual rot of American life, of buying things instead of worshipping Jesus, of selfishness, of independence, of the untethered, immoral search for happiness and self-fulfillment over all other goods is made manifest in the misery of the Gen Z generation, and younger millennials. Nowhere is the loss of reason, love, and sanity so deeply felt–well, I guess apart from the unhinged TikTokker–than in the specter of young mothers, isolated in their homes, completely ill-equipped to deal with their young children.

Witness that the author of Hunt Gather Parent had to drag her young offspring around the globe searching for any advice about how to be together with her own child. And, dear reader, she is not alone. You can see her in every place that you might go–an exhausted and harassed woman with a miserable child in tow. What does it say about the state of the American soul, let alone family, that an intelligent, educated, elite young mother has to go to Mexico, Baffin Island, and Tanzania to learn how to be with her own kid?

What it says that the relational break between generations is an absolute catastrophe. Older mothers haven’t taught their daughters how to mother. Why is that? Well, some of them didn’t know how either. But some of them didn’t want to get involved. Others were terrified of interfering because they had raised sophomoric children who already knew better than they did. The deep, total humility that boomer mothers have to show to their daughters and their daughters’ offspring is the outward visible spiritual sign of the inward spiritual ruin. Their daughters should be supplicant to them, should be anxious to serve them, should be taught by them. But the older did not serve the younger by demanding obedience and honor, and so no honor is given.

The tweeter, though, thinks that demanding obedience from a young child in order that that child may not become reprobate and spiritually bankrupt is the evil way. That person thinks that all the work that big, conservative, homeschool families did to cut against the tide of individualism and consumerism and godlessness was “abusive” and “unfair.” How wrong he is. We can know how wrong not only because the Bible says so, but because Doucleff traveled around the globe to learn from communities where the very youngest of children have to contribute to the survival of the family, where their relationships in their clan and with their elders and peers are not characterized of self-expression, happiness, or independence, but rather all the values that large families in America attempted to confer–interdependence, kindness, helpfulness, faith in God, honor, and general know-how.

What Doucleff learns around the world, incidentally, are all lessons served up in measures of beauty and grace by Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She needn’t have traveled so far nor spent so much money. She could have read Religious Potential of the Child and attended a Level One Formation. Of course, she would have had to break down and believe in God herself. But how will she, if no Christian will share the gospel with her?

There is a gentle middle way, as Abigail Shrier points out, between letting your child have her head by never demanding her obedience (not a good idea) and smothering her with officious and anxiety-addled mothering (also not helpful). You can set out the pasture land before her and let her wander free and comfortable within the boundaries and rhythms you choose. It’s not rocket surgery. But it does mean bringing about the obedience in your child that the Lord requires of her.

"Do you take dish soap with you? Or just rely on the boiling water to ..."

Some Reasons To Go Camping
"This is brilliant. The fam has been watching the re-make, but I have avoided it ..."

Of Pies and Men
"The depraved don't know that they are depraved."

Don’t Lose Heart
"I'm sorry to hear that (ie 2.) I do hope if you get to enjoy ..."

7 Takes In All Directions

Browse Our Archives