Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Educating Our Children

Often times, when discussing how to create a situation where our children can come to communion earlier than the standard 14 years old, it comes down to this point:

If the parents were training their children in the faith, then they could be brought to the table earlier, because they would be prepared so much earlier.

God has instructed in Deuteronomy 6, as well as so many other places, that this education should flow through our daily lives. It is clearly the parents' primary responsibility, to raise the children to know the Lord. Yet often, little is done until they are dropped off at the door for confirmation, and even less is done afterward.

I've heard it recently suggested that the public schools (and even the private schools) leave parents feeling completely incompetent in their ability to educate their children. I maintain that it happens way earlier than that.

I remember when I got pregnant. All of a sudden, every movement I made was accountable to my obstetritian, and it often didn't seem like I was doing the right thing. I was examined, told when and what tests I was to have, even though most of them were completely unnecessary. Often, this was done while wearing a paper gown, while lying on my back with my legs spread. Talk about a bad time to "have a conversation about it." Then the doctor was out the door.

Pregnancy books inundated me with the "right" way to do things, and so much information about breastfeeding, and confusing information about bottlefeeding, all the equipment that I would need....and then there was the added implication that if I did not follow my doctor's advice, I was being irresponsible, whether they were referring to my obstetrician or whatever pediatrician that he would be referring me to.

When a woman expresses her wants about how she wants her birth to go, often they are disregarded It is the doctors' and the nurses will that reigns supreme in most cases, especially for a first time mom. A mother who wants a say in how her birth is going to go is treated as an idealistic dreamer who does not understand what is going on. I remember when we had our son, my husband had absolutely NO rights, except that he was allowed to be there, by virtue of my will, because the state of families and illegitimacy made it so that he was not important in the least, legally.

This does not end when the baby is born. As a breastfeeding counselor, I often hear from moms who had to fight to room in with their babies, whose efforts to breastfeed were undermined by a nurse who didn't trust natural processes and imposed a bottle.

Going to the doctor for those well-baby check ups, the doctor doesn't advise the mother on how to watch her baby to determine whether the baby is ready for solids based on any scientific or common sense information. Doctors regularly delve into the realms they received little to no training in such as proper breastfeeding(most pediatricians receive less than a 1/2 hour training in breastfeeding, and often, that is voluntary); when to introduce solids (information that is not taught in medical school, but they receive from Gerber and formula companies); and frequently distribute advice on whether to let a baby "cry it out," etc. All of this while making the mother feel guilty on issues that the doctor really is only giving his opinion on as a human being....not anything truly medical or related to the training he received. I had a neighbor whose pediatrician stuck so closely to the weight/height tables that he wanted their 3 MONTH old baby on a DIET, and would not allow the mother in the room when he conducted his exam. He gave her checklists on things to pay attention to that she had to account for when she came to the next visit.

Throughout all of this, we still have the baby books, the commercials, and the ads telling us exactly what our baby needs to be beautiful, intelligent, and delightful. And only rarely is this advice "your baby needs your love and guidance." Usually it is this particular toy, this special video. We are put up in arms if our baby crawls at nine months instead of at eight months...because the developmental charts are saying "eight is normal."

Rarely is a mother told to just sit back and enjoy her baby. "Is he curious, is he interactive? Watch how he tells you what he needs!" The very things a parent needs to do in order to establish that relationship with their children in which they can take control and grow confident in their relationship with their child. Instead, parents are made to feel that at any time, they could breathe wrong and cause permanent physical or psychological harm to their children.

Eventually, we are told we should hand them off to the preschool teachers, because socialization is ever so important at that age, and there is something wrong with Junior if he'd rather be with Mommy....that needs to be fixed. Mommy is overprotective, too, if her heart tells her that Junior just isn't ready yet. And then its off to the schools, where for the next twelve years, parents are often told that if something is going wrong with Junior, it must be what is going on at home, and that since the school is doing everything they can (maybe) to shelter Junior from lice, bullies, and hurt feelings (and sometimes even Mom and Dad) that any criticism that comes their way is unfair and unwarranted.

Parents don't feel like they can educate their children because I think many, without even realizing it, never quite became aware of how little their children belonged to them in the first place, or at least how much they were made to feel that way.

So in the end, these parents just don't know where to start. Actually being the one to teach anything that goes beyond instinct (because even potty training, the first behavior that is not entirely driven by instinct, is often taught by the daycare teacher, not Mommy or Daddy), is completely foreign and scary. So this needs to be approached with gentleness, simplicity, encouragement, and clarity.

After all, the opportunity to pass on our faith to our children is a blessing, it is a gift, and in this more than in anything else, we know that God is there helping us through our child's baptism, and through the very words we speak when we teach them about their Savior and what that means. Why would we want to leave that in the hands of the Sunday school teacher and the pastor? Why should they be the ones to pass on what is the most precious gift in the world?


Favorite Apron said...

Ooooooo - this is MY soapbox!

Just don't worry your pretty little head, Lora. Leave it all to the professionals . . . .

Emily said...

Early communion seems to be a taboo among us Lutherans.

Why would we want to leave that in the hands of the Sunday school teacher and the pastor?

It is not the job of parents to raise children in the faith in their own homes in isolation from the church and the pastor who is the very shepherd of their souls. Certainly parents should reinforce that faith in their own homes also, but maybe a better question would be "why would I want to leave it only in my hands?". An "I can do it better" way of thinking is a blessing when you apply it to the worldly "professionals" who think they know it all, but not when you apply it to the Church. I often stumble in faith like a blithering idiot and so I would much better trust the pastor who is ordained by God to speak His words and consecrate His sacrements as the one to instruct my children (and myself).

Jess said...

Great article. I'm going to come back and read more tomorrow, but for now I've gotta go to bed.

Would you welcome links to this article? Let me know-


Dr. Luther in the 21st Century said...

As a pastor and a father I do sympathize with many of your comments. My poor wife, a voracious reader, read everything she could about pregnancy and childrearing when we found out she was pregnant with Rebekah and she'd often comment about how it is no wonder so many women feel incompetent to raise their own kids. In addition, the looks we get when we tell others we intend to home school. We are currently preparing to weather the storm of not putting her in our church's preschool (we have a great school, but why spend money when Mom is going to be home teaching?).

As to the family teaching the faith does anybody remember the Small Catechism? It says right at the beginning of each section "How the Head of the Household should teach his family." Families are to teach the children the faith.

If you are stumbling and bumbling you probably need one of two things, more confidence and/or better understanding. In my case the better I study the better my confidence and thus the better my teaching. Emily, if I were your pastor I'd be happy to sit down with you to help gain the knowledge and confidence to teach your children, because in my opinion there is no better model for the faith than a child's parents.

Early communion? If a child demonstrated sufficient discernment, why not? It is not like there was an age limit given to us in 1 Cor 11, just the necessity of discerning the Body and Blood of Christ.

BTW, I would recommend to any pregnant new mom that she study what each test is and not be afraid to tell the Dr. NO! We decided to forgo some tests because they were either unnecessary or too risky.

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


You are welcome to link to this post. Thanks!

Sista Cala said...

While I am not Lutheran, I do believe there should be some limitations as to how early a child may participate in communion.

If a child can express the requirement of salvation and demonstrates their understanding of it in their conduct. They may be old enough to come to the Table.
This idea leaves a lot of discretion to the parent as to the maturity of the child.

Surely God is the only one who knows the heart of an individual. Some children at 14 are not prepared for communion.