What 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.
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.
I 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.