Thursday, October 11, 2007

Teach Your Children Well

Do you remember the old Crosby, Stills & Nash song? Of course not, you're probably not as ancient as I am. Anyway, I've been thinking about parenting these days. In my case, mothering teenagers and peri-menopausal sleepless nights have combined to make me contemplate parents and children, and how we pass on our ideas and values. There's nothing like trying to sleep the night before you send your baby off to college, worrying that you never taught him to eat his vegetables! Can I have a do-over, please?

My husband and I have always wanted to raise our children to think for themselves. Although we both attended Catholic schools, and sent our kids to them as well, we were never entirely comfortable with the sort of "brainwashing" (for want of a better word) that goes along with the education. In my case, it's probably just that I have alot of my cantankerous father in me -- don't try telling me what to do. I have always had a hard time with the idea of being a "militant" Christian, too. Why should I try to force my beliefs on others? I can understand the historical imperatives that made militant Christianity seem like a good idea at the time, but I can't bring myself to tell others how to behave. Actions that spring from reason seem, well, more reasonable to me than those which are compelled by faith. OK, is there anybody left reading by this time? LOL

My point (and there is one) is that propaganda may give you a compliant child, but where does that leave you (and all of us) when they grow up and try to think for themselves? Is anyone out there at all worried about this upcoming presidential election? Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent, please promise that you will take the time to really look at your candidate, and how you have chosen him or her. OK, how's that for trying to make a point without alienating anybody?

Of course, raising a child who occasionally questions authority does have it's ups and downs. In junior high, my son was asked to write a guide for incoming sixth- graders in the school newspaper. The somewhat satirical piece he turned in was rejected for being too irreverent. And that was the end of his budding journalism career. On the other hand, it was a great piece, well written, and I couldn't have been prouder.

My daughter's independent streak has not, thankfully, extended to pissing off teachers, but she does not cavil at speaking her mind to her parents. This occasionally makes for enlivening dinnertime discussions but, again, I'm happy to see her think for herself.

What really thrills me, though, are the small moments when they do something nice without even thinking -- like my daughter hugging an injured teammate at her soccer game last night, or my son wanting to see his ill grandfather on a visit home last weekend. That's when my husband and I look at each other and think, "Well, we must have done something right..."


  1. You've expressed what I so often think...we always want to instill the best in our children, but in this wild, often weird world, it's hard to know if you're voice is getting through the static. My daughter makes me so proud in her interaction with others. I always enjoy reading your gives me something to think about!
    Teresa @ PlumWater Cottage

  2. Mary, I couldn't agree more. The ability to think for one's self is of utmost importance to me.
    My son will enter kindergarten next fall, and eventhouh I would never condone disrespectfullness, I do not want my child to become an institutionalized thinker.

    We need to teach our children to explore options and develop their own unique intellect and points of view.

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light, as parents I believe this is one of our most important resposiblities:)


  3. I have always told my children I just want them to grow up to be honorable men. That's it.


  4. This is a really great post. As a mother of 3 little ones, I struggle with gentle influence and independence all of the time. Like you, beyond health and happiness I want to send children off into the world that are, among many things, independent thinkers, compassionate and self-confident. It sounds to me like you are doing a great job.

    As for the vegetable thing, I still don't eat mine...

  5. May I say, being as old as dirt and having 2 grown children with families of their own, when you see your grown up child being so responsible, such a wonderful dad or mom, raising their kids with rules and ideas and beliefs that you instilled in them.....your heart reaches such a fullness that, at times, it almost bursts and you just HOPE some of your teachings and guidance is responsible for just a tiny, tiny bit of what wonderful people they turned out to be.

  6. Oh Mary - I love your blog!! Thank you for visiting me - so I could come over here and take a peek into your home.

    ...and yep - I agree...parenting is not for the faint of heart!

  7. I've been thinking quite a few times lately that I wish I had a chance to do some things over with my kids. But I did the best I could with what I knew then. Now, I know better, but that won't do THEM any good. lol You know, I almost think that, in some ways, it's harder being a parent to the kids that are out of the house than the ones who aren't. I'm having to learn to let them make their own mistakes and not rush in to try and "fix" it for them. Hard, hard, hard.

  8. Great post! Children are amazing and it sounds like you and your hubby have done well.

  9. Yes Mary, I am there with you. As a mother of two boys, 23 and 19, I have spent many a night waiting for them to get home. Thank God for cell phones. Don't know how my parents survived back then...of course, I was the easier kidding. We have to teach our children well, but also to give them space and wings to become who they are inside. I am also skeptical right now of those running for President of our country. I honestly am really nervous about them all. Demos and Reps. Great post! Becky

  10. Oh Mary! I am so sure that you have taught your children well (and yes, I am more ancient than you I think!).

    My four baby boys are now all grown with children of their own. I wondered how many mistakes I made raising them. But, to their credit, I think even if I did make some mistakes, they learned from them! They are wonderful men, husbands and fathers.

  11. I have TWO that question everything and I am glad!! The only way they can become independent thinkers is through the complete and accurate information they are given...sometimes the constant WHY does wear on you but I would be more concerned when they STOP asking!
    Great Post...I really enjoyed it.

  12. I have learned, at least with the 3 no longer at home; that yes, I got through the static. And so often am amazed how much they really learned when I thought I had failed.

  13. Hi Mary,
    Yes, I remember the CSNY song...and I googled the lyrics just to be sure, another line is:Teach Your Parents Well.
    (A two way street.)
    Bottom line I think is:
    And Know They Love You!
    Thought provoking as usual.

  14. Hey Mary,
    Did you hear Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize today? If he were to throw his hat in I would definitely vote for him. I think that's a candidate whom the Dems could take the White House.

  15. I've been away from the computer too long. I can't believe I've missed so many of your great posts. Your town looks like it has such a wonderful sense of history. I like that in a place to live. You take such amazing pictures, have you had some sort of training? They all look like something out of a favorite magazine!

  16. This is such a wonderful post Mary and very thought provoking. Isn't it just the best when you have those "we must be doing something right" moments.

    Have a great weekend.

  17. What a beautifully written post.
    I always told Daniel that I wanted him to think for himself, not to follow the crowd, be proud of himself and his accomplishments no matter what others say.
    I also wanted him to be a good man, one who cares for others. I think, for the most part, he does all of these things. Now, with Grace, we will try to do the same. She has such wonderful gifts, so different than many around her and that worries her. We are working on teaching her to embrace who she is and not to try to *fit in* for the sake of popularity.

    What lucky young people your children have such a Mom as you!


  18. Wow we think a lot alike! By the way, we just saw Crosby and Nash the other night and they played that song Teach Your Children. Love it.



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