Creating A Family Culture: A Vision

blog community of weedsWhat do you want for your children?  When you close your eyes, and imagine that bright and shining future, what do you see?  Your little sons and daughters, all grown up, to be sure, but doing what?  Behaving in what manner?  Are they close to each other?  Do they believe in God?  Are they generous?  Thoughtful?  Polite?  Is the world more beautiful because they are in it?

Now open your eyes and look at the little ones playing on the floor at your feet.  Is your darling little son hitting his brother in order to gain control of a matchbox car?  Is your sweet little girl throwing a tantrum because Barbie’s dress isn’t just right?  Do they demand snacks and new toys?  Are their bedrooms caves of toys and clothes and books thrown all over the floor?  Do they talk back?  Quarrel with each other?  Complain about their dinner, or their clothes, or their toys?

Of course they do.  At least, at some point, any child (and many an adult) will behave selfishly and rudely.  But you can start right this minute to work your way from the present reality to the sunshiny future of your dreams.  I know you can, because I can do it, and if I can do it, you can do it.  It doesn’t matter where you’re at, how old your children are, or how bad the situation is.  You can start right this minute to change it, because love really does conquer all.

A little story?blog picking grass wheat

My first child was prone to epic tantrums.  We’re talking forty-five minutes of non-stop kicking and screaming.  She was a champion tantrum thrower and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.  In this, she had complete control.  This continued for an embarrassingly long time.  Years.  Looking back, I can’t blame her.  You see, I was approaching parenting as a power struggle, as if I had to bend the child to my own will, and these tantrums were the only way she could remind me that she, too, had desires and ideas, that she was a person in her own right.

Thankfully, over time, my mothering style has moved from domination to something more like the head of a religious order.  Instead of thinking of children as people who need to be made, formed and shaped by sheer force of will, I have begun to think of all of us as people living in community, formed and shaped by a unifying vision of what that community should be.  And even though I am the one who creates, recreates, and keeps this vision of what our family can be, I am as subject to it as anyone else.  In that regard, we are all equals, the children and the adults.  In a Christian sense, you could say that we are all sinners, all in need of redemption, all pilgrims on this earth, journeying toward our true home with our Father in Heaven. It’s just that some of us are older, more knowledgeable, and, hopefully, wiser, and it is our task, for the good of the community, to educate and mentor the younger ones.

This vision I carry with me always exists entirely in my own heart.

My husband supports my family-modeling efforts and enjoys the fruits of such, but I don’t think that he actually knows that I have a vision at all.  It’s never been discussed.  My older children have an inkling of what I’ve been doing all these years, as they go out into the world and see how unique our family culture is, but for the most part, they are unaware that I am steering us toward anything in specific.

blog why yes evie is teethingI tell you this because I want you to know that it’s entirely possible to move in a new direction without any particular support.  That’s the first thing women tell me.  “I can’t do this because my husband won’t blah, blah, blah.”  Or “I can’t do this because my children are so blah, blah, blah.”  I’m not trying to be disrespectful here, but don’t make excuses.  At least not to me.

You can do it.  Love conquers all.

And what of this conquering love?  Love is not a wishy-washy, passive word, my friends.  Love requires self-sacrifice to the highest degree.  It requires a continual dying to self for the good of others.  And if that becomes the norm in a family, a norm established and perpetuated by the parents, by you, a norm taught to the children from their very earliest days, you will have set something beautiful loose in the world.

Does having the vision and actively seeking its fulfillment mean there will never be trouble in the family?  Alas, we are all sinners, and our selfishness will rear its ugly head from time to time, and there will be strife among individual family members.  However, as mothers, we have extraordinary influence over our families. As women, we bring to bear incredible creative powers.  We have the capacity to entirely remake the world we live in, one home at a time.  Find a way to resolve issues and move on.  Don’t abandon the idea of a family community built on the principle of sacrificial love because of setbacks.  Just keep tweaking and adjusting, always with that bright and shining vision of what a family can be firmly in mind.

7 Comment

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I’m writing all of this in my commonplace and keeping it. Thank you.

  2. Love this! Sounds so reminiscent of a number of “spiritual” writers including Mother Mary Francis whose works I’m reading though this church year. The thing is, too, the longer we live and truly try to practice real selfless love the more we see with our own eyes how very true the statement “love conquers all” really is.

    1. PS: I’m finally reading For the Children’s Sake (and loving it) this post reminds a lot of Charlotte Mason’s ideas too!!

      1. After pondering this post throughout the day, I wanted to come back to tell you a few of the things that I really appreciate about this post. One being the encouragement that one can do this on her own, that your husband doesn’t know how much time you’ve spent thinking on this goal and redirecting your life and your family’s habits towards this end. That’s comforting and a bit familiar. Anyway, even if I do try to talk about it I can never make it sound as beautiful as it looks in my head! ;o)

        Also the encouragement that we can change the world one family at a time. I firmly believe that too, and it is nice to hear it said (or rather see it typed out) by someone else. It’s so motivating. One little day at a time…

        Okay I’ll stop filling up your combox now!!

        1. Oh, Anne, don’t you worry about filling up this combox! I’m just sorry I didn’t get back here earlier for you!

          You know, I think, as Catholic women, we very often hear the advice, “Turn to your husband!” I’m not knocking the husbands, but what if you just aren’t on the same page? It’s not that he’s being cruel or uncaring or indifferent or thoughtless; it’s just that he doesn’t know. How many books and blogs have you read about raising and educating children? How many has he read? How many hours have you put in caring for your little ones? You’re the one with the hands-on experience. You’re the one with the knowledge. You’re the one with the vision. Make it happen!

          I read something years ago about how homeschooling mothers put themselves down as teacher and call dad the principal. And the question was: Why? In most homeschools, mom is the teacher, yes, but she also makes all the curriculum decisions, keeps the kids on task, disciplines as needed, organizes field trips and social outings, performs all the janitorial work, and works as lunch lady to boot. In our house, dad comes home and says, “So how was your day?”

          I think even the labels have power. In this case, when we give our husbands the label of principal, we’re giving them ultimate control of our homeschools, but they don’t have the vision or the knowledge to make good decisions here. However, it keeps us mothers from fully owning our homeschool experience. In my husband’s case, he doesn’t really care to make decisions about these things. He made the decision to support the homeschooling endeavor, and now the ball is in my court. And I must say, our school has really blossomed since I stopped deferring to him!

          Of course, this applies across a broad range of areas regarding motherhood. 🙂 I love you, Anne! Thanks for all the feedback today. 🙂

    2. PS: I love Mother Mary Francis. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful response! I’m glad someone else has enjoyed Mother Mary Francis. I’m amazed at how much she speaks right to my soul. I find her both encouraging and challenging. When I picked up her Advent book for the second year in a row, I decided to keep reading her the whole year through since she seems to be speaking so directly to me anyway.

    Dad is definitely not principal around here. In fact, it took a miracle of the heart (through much much prayer) for him to come around to fully supporting our homeschooling endeavor (a miracle for which I am thankful everyday!) but he is happy to let me run it all I think precisely because he knows how much time I do spend reading about it, working on it, praying about it, not to mention doing it!!! 🙂 Sometimes I wish he was a little more interested, but you’ve reminded me that it is perhaps a blessing that he’s not so that I feel the freedom I need to do things in the best interest of the kids.

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