Monday, November 9, 2009

Seen & Not Heard?

My venting on this topic might go on for a bit, so if it is annoying you, please feel free to get on my case about it or ignore it... either way really does not bother me....

I'm thinking about that whole idea that children should be 'seen and not heard'... I'm thinking about it in a historical context that my experience can date back to my grandparents' generation. I'm certain my parents were raised with that mentality (lest grandpa make them go out and 'pick a switch'... no lie). In turn, my parents' generation raised their children in more of a 'live and let live' kind of world. I think my generation was the beginning of the 'raised with privilege' and 'everyone gets a trophy' and 'who cares about appropriateness, let the child EXPRESS him/her self' kind of world... in other words... spoiled.

I was one of the 'poor kids' growing up. At least, in my world I was a poor kid. I went to private school for 7 years and had to buy most of my clothes at Target and shoes from Payless. Occasionally we even shopped second hand! I didn't have a seperate playroom in my house, and I was 13 before I had my own tv (a black & white handmedown from my grandparents!!!!). We only went out to dinner once a week. I took tap lessons for one year and since my black tap shoes that my dad found at a garage sale were not the right color for our recital, my dad spray painted them white. Yup... we were POOR (she says in TOTAL jest).

Ya know what... growing up 'poor' brought a lot of perspective, as has my background in ministry. As Americans (oh how I could go on forever) we don't know the first thing about poor. I don't think I know a single person who has ever dug through trash for food. In fact, I don't know anyone who goes without 3 meals a day (even if those meals were bought with foodstamps, WIC, or other charitable means).

The gift of my children is such a tremendous blessing, and raising my children in a balance between 'seen and not heard' and 'spoiled' seems like the right way to go. I don't spank my children, but I also don't let them get away with murder. My girls have an entire bedroom full of (new)toys and closets that are filled mostly with handmedown clothes.

I heard a story once about an American bishop going to Africa and celebrating mass outdoors. He was struck with awe over how quiet and well-behaved the children were a strong contrast to the noisiness of his urban cathedral back in the states. Speaking to his brother bishop about it after mass he wondered at how families in Africa were able to raise their chidlren with so much respect and discipline while attending a long, hot Sunday mass. The African bishop replied that the children were so quiet because they had no energy because they were hungry.

Do those who attend mass and look down their noses at noisy kiddos not understand this concept? Have they never been a parent and don't know what a struggle it is just to find that delicate balance between squelching their curiousity and teaching them reverence? Or have they forgotten? Or was it beaten into them and they accept that as normal?

I make no claims at being perfect in any way, least of all in my parenting skills, but I AM trying. I don't judge, but I see a lot of others who don't try at all. Do my efforts count for anything? Is it fair to preach about how sinful it is, and a bad example to one's children, to skip Sunday mass, but then at the same time make those parents feel completely unwelcome in the parish... rather it isn't the parents who are unwelcome, just their kids.

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