By Carrie McCormack
In early June, Pope Francis spoke of the important role of parenting as an educational mission.
He said: “Today we consider the vocation of families to educate their children, to raise them in the profound human values which are the backbone of a healthy society.”
“This educational mission is essential nowadays,” he said.
I am not a trained educator.
I wonder if I’ve got what it takes to see this educational mission through.
How do we as parents find a method or curriculum to raise our kids with profound human values?
This is a big ask for anyone.
With all this in my mind, one day while all our children were lining up for food at the kitchen bench I was convicted to share my recent reflections.
I told them that this is a special time to be living together; we need to make the most of it.
I led them to the point that one day they will grow up and move out.
They will go on to make their own home and then we’d be coming to their house for dinner.
I watched as they absorbed my words.
I continued to share my desire that I want to teach them all I can before this happens.
I shared a few key areas to them.
“I want to teach you how to live, how to cook, how to take care of your belongings, how to keep things tidy, how to care for people and get along with each other,” I told them.
To my surprise they responded really well.
My husband came home that night to a very industrious household.
By inviting the children into my goals as their parent I have noticed them being more co-operative with each other, more resilient when facing challenges and more open to learning new skills.
A friend of ours, Luke, is a father of four girls.
He has navigated a way to nurture profound human values in his children.
Luke had an experience after being a parent for six years that has deeply informed his parenting approach.
Recently Luke was comforting one of his children who had shared about a difficult situation at kindergarten.
Luke found himself struggling to respond just when his older daughter joined the conversation with some very helpful remarks.
As he listened he was amazed at the compassion and empathy his children showed each other.
He was moved by their wisdom and the practicality of the advice offered.
“I felt so proud and extremely privileged after witnessing this conversation,” Luke said.
He recognised the need for parents to keep quiet and allow the children to talk to each other and grow their relationships.
He said we needed to not always trust our knee-jerk reactions to dominate children’s conversations.
Luke goes on to say that he came into parenting with goals largely based around what he can teach his children.
However, after this experience, he realised for the first time that his kids are teaching him and there is so much that he can learn from them.
Luke is a father who is living the great example of St Francis Xavier who wrote: “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”
The biggest difference between the child and parent is that the child is learning everything and they are learning it for the first time.
The parent has a profound and privileged role and I think we can shy away from this because of our lack of confidence.
However, I really believe we need to come to grips with the messy and wonderful honour it is to be a parent and have confidence in ourselves and in God’s help.
G.K. Chesterton asks this wonderful question about the role of first educators: “How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone and narrow to be everything to someone?”
In other words, parenting is not daunting because it is narrow, dull and boring but because it is so broad, universal and powerful.
In conclusion, the role of parents is essential; it does require skills such as servant leadership, listening skills, wisdom and courage, to name a few.
But the heart of the educational mission of parents is about being everything to someone.
It is about being Christ-like.
Carrie McCormack is a Catholic Brisbane mother of four and founder of Mother Effect.