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Inside One Mormon Family: Raising Faithful Children

6) Welcome every question your child ever asks. My parents invited our questions as evidence of real engagement with the gospel. They shared their own answers, but they did not insist that we accept them—even when the questions challenged foundational principles. I remember sitting on my sister's bed with my father, discussing the historical meaning of marriage. In my first heady exposure to feminism, I argued vigorously that patriarchy had always been an instrument of oppression and was obviously bad for women. My father gently, and without demonizing feminists, offered a defense of patriarchy's cultural work in encouraging paternal investment. I did not accept his defense at the time, and he didn't force it on me. But he modeled the best kind of intellectual approach to the big questions. To this day, there is nothing he loves more than challenging conversations with his children.

7) Discourage hero worship. My parents loved the leadership of the church, and spoke of them with great affection and respect. We watched General Conference and discussed the talks. But there was no picture of the prophet on the walls of our home, no fetishizing of General Conference addresses, no obsessive focus on "words of the prophets," no veneration of particular personalities. My parents loved Joseph and Brigham, but that connection came from a deep knowledge of their lives and histories, and they taught us to love those extraordinary men as human beings, not as icons.

8) Nurture a mature aesthetic. My parents exposed their large brood to all of the cultural resources that southern California offered. We visited art museums on free days, volunteered at the symphony in return for free tickets, sat in the nosebleed section at the theater. They sacrificed for years to provide rigorous musical training for all nine of us. Classical music played constantly in the car; our bookshelves were loaded with paperback classics; our walls were hung with inexpensive art prints. It wasn't about status seeking. It was about nurturing an aesthetic: awakening our powers of perception, flexible modes of interpretation, an instinctive understanding of symbol and metaphor, and an appreciation for many kinds of beauty, especially the difficult beauties of tension and contradiction. My parents probably did not intend this as a complement to our religious education, but I am convinced that a mature aesthetic has helped me navigate spiritual challenges as much or more than any explicitly religious training.

9) Underplay specialness. No doubt this was primarily a side effect of being one of so many children, but we grew up under no illusion that we were at the center of the universe. That our parents loved us fiercely and provided for us well there was no doubt. My mother was an instinctive attachment parent to her infants and toddlers before that term was invented. But beyond toddlerhood, we did not often bask in undivided attention, did not rely on them to meet every need, and were frequently reminded that other people's needs and perspectives were just as urgent as our own.

My parents did not often step in to remove us from difficult people or circumstances, and I'm glad they didn't. They allowed us to feel no sense of entitlement, and grievance as an emotional state was not tolerated in the home. As an adult, a healthy sense of my own insignificance has served me well in every context.

10) See your child as she is. This was not always easy for my parents. Their high expectations of us were a defining feature of our family culture, and it is not easy for any parent to accept revisions to their expectations. All of us challenged them deeply, in one way or another; and in one way or another, each of us has grown into adulthood differently than they envisioned. But their love, pride, and acceptance are unconditional.

2/9/2012 5:00:00 AM
Rosalynde Welch
About Rosalynde Welch
Rosalynde Welch is an independent scholar who makes her home in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband and four children.