Praying for Perspective: ‘Common Sense Parenting’ class came too late

Raising children brings daily parenting decisions that are surely ‘in the manual we never got’

By George Valadie

We Valadies have had the opportunity to live in three very different cities since the original two of us grew larger than that. One small, one midsize, one very large city. Each has added to our lives but in different ways of course.

Similarly, we’ve belonged to three different parishes. One small, one midsize, one very large. And each of those has added to our lives as well, but not all that differently from one another. And I love that about our Church.

Regardless of their sizes, we have found the congregations in each to be incredibly active. If it wasn’t actually happening, somebody was planning it. And if they weren’t already planning it, someone was dreaming about it.

We’ve seen ministries offered to take care of the youth, the singles, the marrieds, the divorced, the dying, and those who grieve the dead. We reach out to the pregnant, the homeless, those who want to join us, and those who joined and left us.

And none of this ever just happens, as each of these efforts is “official” with contact names, phone numbers, and meeting times. Together and individually, they better our worship, our outreach, and our community.

In addition to such regular cycles of parish life, all of our parishes have also worked year-round to offer the every-now-and-again programs that people need as well. Though short-term in nature, some are intended to deepen our faith, some to enrich our minds, some to better our lives.

Can we help you be healthier, reduce your debt, plan your retirement … the Church can and often does provide so much beyond the sacraments.

It wasn’t all that long ago when I recalled seeing just such a parish outreach, this one entitled “Common Sense Parenting.”

I’ll be honest, we didn’t go. Since our youngest was in college by then, it seemed a bit late for us. Yes, we would be parents for the rest of our lives. And true there’s no shortage of things I still didn’t know. But the honest truth is I skipped out because I just didn’t want to relive the mistakes.

I admire every mom and dad willing to tackle the task of parenthood. Some seek it, some discover it. But those who ultimately choose to accept it have my respect.

I’ve always thought it odd, though, that the most important job on the planet – raising the children who live on it – is allowed to happen without a hint of mandatory training.

No disrespect intended, but you have to have earned a license to direct funerals, cut hair, and manage a casino. All good and needed professions for sure. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

But child rearing? Seriously, someone should be training someone, don’t you think?

So here came this class, an effort, an attempt to help parents be better at their task. What a great idea! But where were you when I needed you?

It was confusing from the first night the first child came into our first home. If she had known what we didn’t know, she wouldn’t have come. Some said let her cry, others said she would eventually recall that subconscious imprint and be forced to forever battle with the fact she had parents who didn’t care.

I couldn’t take that sort of guilt on the first night.

We never knew the right answer. Mostly, she did what came naturally to her. And we did the same.

Not too much later we were faced with not one but two kids who wanted to sleep in our bed. Do we, don’t we, should we. In the long term we would have enjoyed much more sleep if we had said no. But if memory serves me, long term never seemed to matter much at 4:30 in the morning.

Every day they got older, we found ourselves staring at another parental decision that I’m sure is in the manual we never got. Is there an appropriate number of hours you can force a child to actually sit in front of cold carrots? If we couldn’t potty train the little booger, was that indicative of other parent fails that awaited us?

Do we motivate our kids’ academic success with the promise of weekend sleepovers? The threat of death? Five dollar bills? A homemade homily about avoiding homelessness?

Solve one dilemma and there were only more. Should they get an allowance? Should it be tied to their chores? Should we force them to put half into savings? And is half of a quarter all that much?

How do you get them to read more? Argue less?

Should we convince them they can do anything? Or help them deal with the truth that different people have different gifts and that “anything” thing might have been a bit of a stretch?

What’s a good 11-year-old bedtime? Is it different from being 12?

We seemed to be the only parents in our school who didn’t know the universal curfew for teenagers.

And should teenagers ever really be allowed to drive?

Dear God – There are no gifts more precious, no job more important, nothing easier to mess up. Please bless those who do it well, please strengthen those who don’t know how. Amen.


George Valadie is president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga.

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