A Reflection on Parenthood
Reflection on Parenthood
Without a doubt, one of the most challenging and yet most rewarding experiences in life is to be a parent. Helping your children grow and mature is truly a gift from God worthy to be treasured. Yet, as many parents know, it may not always feel that way. It can be very difficult at times, especially when you see your kids hurting…and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to help them.
Parenting includes more than just those who have children born to them. Rather, because of the influence we can and do have on many young people – whether we have children or not – each and every one of us is a parent too. So this day, let us reflect on the parental characteristics that every “parent” should have.
I begin by saying that I am very confident that none of us would ever intentionally hurt or injure a child. And I believe that, many times, negative experiences in a child’s life can be directly attributed to parents who didn’t know any better.
Let me give you an example. One recent morning on WFAN (Sports Talk Radio), they were discussing coaching tactics in Little League baseball. One mother called in and said that her son had been completely humiliated by his coach.
Apparently her son had been on the team and had not been playing as much as he was supposed to. He talked about it with his parents, and in an effort to help him solve his own problems, they discussed the situation with him and encouraged him to go respectfully to the coach to speak to him about his concern. He did that, and it seemed that things did change for a while.
At the end of the season, however, the coach held a pizza party for the team and gave out some of his own personal awards. The boy and his parents were in shock when the coach proudly announced to the team that the boy had been chosen to receive the “Cry Baby” award for not getting enough playing time during the season. You can only imagine the impact that this had on that boy.
And it doesn’t stop there. How many times have we heard or even personally experienced parents making poor decisions and tremendously impacting their own kids. I have seen parents forbid their child to decorate his own room because some religious extremist told them that to do so would be teaching children idolatry. This child grew up without a sense of creativity and could not make decisions in his adult life without calling his parents for affirmation.
There are parents who control the long-term aspirations of their teenage children, deciding for them not only where they would go to college (threatening not to pay for college if they don’t obey) but also going so far as to tell them what their major area of study was to be. The result in this situation is animosity toward the parents manifested in one of two ways – either through deep depression or by living an unrestrained lifestyle without concern for consequences.
We know that children are not born with instructions, and quite frankly, it can be very difficult to raise them – never mind when they are not our own. But we must understand that whether we are their mother or father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, coach, older friend – whatever we are to them – we have a tremendous influence not only on who they are now, but ultimately on who they will become.
For this reason, I offer three basic rules when dealing with young people. First, keep them involved in the life of the Church. Surround them constantly with activities in the community of faith. This is important not only for their salvation, but if children grow up in the Church, they will have a place to turn in times of trouble, and will feel comfortable coming to the priest or another Christian adult to share their difficulties.
Second, always let them know that you have a listening ear. You have to be able to listen to your children without judgment, and they need to know that you will not use it against them later on. Do not keep a record of their wrongs. Just listen to them patiently and allow them to express themselves. You don’t have to solve all their problems. Being a good listener for your children will allow them to think out loud and often to find solutions on their own.
Finally and most importantly, don’t pretend to have all the answers. Do not act like an expert on life! Do not think that you know everything there is to know about your children. Don’t compare your life to their life. And don’t use the phrase that your parents may have used, “ Ti tha Pei O Kosmos” – “What will people say?” When situations get complex, reach out for help. Come and speak to your priest for guidance. Always remember that we were once our child’s age, but we were never their age during these times.
Think of Christ who did not reject the Samaritan woman at the well. Rather he came close and had an intimate conversation with her, even asking her to draw water from the well that he might drink. Knowing that she was an outcast among her peers, he doesn’t judge her, but rather engages her in conversation, looking into her eyes, listening as she spoke. In the end, our Lord brings the Samaritan woman to salvation, and with her, the entire city. By utilizing the parenting skills we have discussed, Jesus empowers the Samaritan woman whom we know as St. Photini, to reach her potential.
It is with these words that I challenge all of us to accept with great joy this tremendous responsibility that has been set before us. Remember that we are all parents in one way or another. Never forget that kids have to experience for themselves both the joy and the frustration of this life. They need to know what it feels like to burn their finger on a hot stove, and what it feels like to have their heart broken. It is not your responsibility to protect your children from all hurt in life. It is your responsibility to help them to get up, dust themselves off and to learn from their mistakes.
May our heavenly Father bless each and every one of us and guide us to do all these things, so that together with our children we may praise His holy name. Amen.
Fr. George Orfanakos serves the parish of St. George in Clifton, New Jersey.
This sermon may be heard as presented on the parish website: www.stgeorgeclifton.org.