I am never more at a loss for words than when one of my elementary school-aged children argues with me as if we are on the same playing ground. If I say the sky is blue, they will argue with me for twenty hours that it is purple. It boggles the mind.
The reasons for this are many.
First, my amazement stems from sheer delight in their reasoning and verbal abilities. As a stay-at-home parent, I taught them to speak. I marveled at every stage of their development. I watched them progress from saying “mama” to “Can I have a cookie?” to “That’s not fair!” to “Did you know that the capital of Spain is Madrid?”
I love their intelligence and have encouraged it. As a former teacher in a metro area who worked with children from impoverished backgrounds, I can attest that nothing is more heartbreaking than interacting with children who do not make eye contact, mumble, or don’t speak at all to adults. Many times (not always), these children come from homes of neglect.
Second, my amazement stems from the confidence they have in my love for them and the fact that they feel confident enough to challenge me and verbalize their many, many opinions. They know I listen to them. They know I care about what they have to say. That indicates a close and loving relationship.
Third, my amazement stems from their sheer audacity in thinking they have attained more wisdom in their ten years of living than I have in my 48 years. Once when we were on the way to the beach, we were not getting there fast enough—according to our then seven-year-old. She asked my husband if he was “lost, and driving around in circles!” What can you do but shake your head?
Finally, my amazement stems from hurt that they have such little respect at times to question my love for them and lack of trust that I do what is best for them even when they do not understand. As a parent, there are many things they simply do not need to be made aware of, and for their own good and the good of others.
Sometimes parents find themselves in situations when they are trying to protect their children from bad influences without betraying the confidence of other parents or their children. This is hard. What if I cannot in good conscience let one of them attend a sleepover at a friend’s house because I know of an unsafe situation, but do not want to cast their classmate in a negative light? A child who constantly questions my parenting decisions just makes things more difficult.
It’s a dichotomy of pride in my children’s confidence and intellectual acuity paired with utter distaste for their rebellious attitudes. I wonder if Pope Francis feels this every day.
Honor Thy Father?
A 2020 study conducted by James Cook University’s College of Healthcare Sciences and School of Social and Health Sciences examined the effects of cultural attitudes on filial piety and higher palliative care knowledge. The study found that Singaporeans showed higher authoritarian filial piety (defined as obedience to social obligations to one’s parents, often by suppressing one’s own wishes to conform to the demands of the parent) and higher palliative care knowledge than Australians.
However, no effect of culture was found on reciprocal filial piety, defined as the sincere affection toward one’s parents and a longstanding positive parent-child relationship. The results of the study (generalized) indicated a “conceptualization of filial piety as a possible psychological universal construct.”
Across cultures, then, we as human beings have an innate instinct to love and respect our parents. The irony is that sometimes children who have been raised with the most loving and patient of parents sometimes are the most rebellious, while those reared in more dysfunctional and neglectful households remain fiercely loyal to harmful parents. A child psychologist recently shared with me that she has seen children removed from seriously traumatic home situations still want to go back to their families. Meanwhile, my children think the end is near when they are denied 100 Robux just for cleaning their rooms.
Our current pope demonstrates compassion, yet is continually attacked for extending a hand of mercy to all. His authority is immediately questioned every time he challenges someone’s conventional preconceptions on what the successor of St. Peter should do. I don’t feel that I need to mention specifics here; readers are well aware of the controversies surrounding Fiducia Supplicans, Tucho Fernandez, a total ban on surrogacy … the list goes on and on.
Perhaps God is allowing the present times of confusion, outright rebellion, and egregious assaults on our Holy Father not only to test hearts, but to allow the most vulnerable and hurting among us to approach Him while there is still time.
After all, that is what a good parent does.
Image: Adobe Stock. By lordn.
Kristi McCabe is an award-winning freelance writer, Catechist, a former teacher and editor who lives with her family in Owensboro, Kentucky. As an adoptive mother of four and an adoptee herself, Kristi is an avid supporter of pro-life ministries. She is active in her local parish and has served as Eucharistic minister and in various children's ministries.