Category Archives: parenting

Ronan cooks his first meal.

Ronan wants to be a baker. He can already bake some pretty good cakes and I have to confess his gluten free productions are better than mine ever were. He is definitely the lead gluten free chef in our house. He has been asking for a while to be allowed a night when he cooks.

P1020718Iona is the cook now. I can’t stand up long enough, or remain safe, to cook a meal any longer. Ronan has asked for Wednesdays to be his night. He cooked his first full meal for five. He made sausages, potatoes and beans. I didn’t help at all. I only went in to the kitchen now and then and made suggestions. He did all the work.

This was more impromptu than planned, but I think we could do some menu planning and he can have a go, choosing his own recipes. His knife control is pretty good – needs some work – but good enough.

He can learn menu planning, budgeting and nutrition  as we go along.

This is a very important skill. It’s one Iona has learned as she went along and one that stands Alex and Anna (his wife) in good stead now that they are making a home for themselves.

It’s sadly rare these days that youngsters can cook, and shamefully more studies are showing that children don’t even know what basic foodstuff is. Learning about food and cooking has to be one of the most important life skills we can offer our children.  They love it.

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Unto the third and fourth generation; what are we doing to our children and grandchildren?

In the UK now something like 1 in 10 children are dx with a mental illness of some kind. The problem for what is labeled generation Y, is so great some have suggested it has reached beyond crisis to a state of emergency. The figures are pretty stark even if you take into consideration the shocking over dx and overuse of prescription medication for children.  These are the children of my generation. Those of us born in the early to mid sixties are the first of Generation X coming after the baby boomers, who are now in their late 60s and 70s.

There’s a separate but linked issue with the dx of ADHD and ADD which I might look at later but not in this post.

This confessional article on the way love was ditched in the search for so-called free love in the ’60s, tries to shine a spotlight on why love was ditched. Jermann writes;

My generation made a mess of love. We lost its very meaning to an emotionally appealing ersatz replacement based on a self-congratulatory “I’m okay, you’re okay” mentality, even as the growing debris of dying human relationships proved otherwise.  We have left our children so deep in the muck that they no longer see a sky blue but accept a dull overcast gray as the normal light of day

The comments expand on the article pointing out that it wasn’t just the hippies seeking “free love” who turned away from real love, plenty of otherwise descent respectable folk did the same. I have been surrounded by so many people of about my age who were either abused, neglected or basically ignored by their parents.  Even in families that on the surface looked in tact and functioning I have heard stories of confusion, distant relationships and deep loneliness from the now adult children.

Most of these people (myself included) never saw a baby, and so when we had our own. we were left to struggle and work out by ourselves how to deal with having children of our own.  For so many of my generation the only guide was “I wont do it like my parents.” But as my generation have bought into the idea that what adults want is way more important than what children need, the lovelessness goes on.

Adults have been so stunted they have no idea how to maintain loving relationships with one another, and can’t face the demands of dependant children. Even otherwise good parents will allow their children to behave in self destructive ways simply because they don’t know how to stop them.

There has to be a solution as we face the curse of the grandparents visiting the third and even fourth generation. And there is.

In the cultural desert, hard working and genuinely loving people have set up little oasis of hope. One comment under the article is from a man who teaches Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to teens. He says they are enthusiastically taking it up. They know they have to shun the sexual example having suffered the results themselves.

The knowledge and willingness of couple,s of many Christian couples – not just Catholics – to embrace an open to life marriage, using NFP when serious reasons require it, is spreading like wild fire.

More and more women in particular are sick of the damage to health, particularly breast cancer, to marriage and the water supply done by contraception and they are turning back to natural methods that respect women’s bodies and the family unit.

There’s a growing number of mothers who are practicing what has been termed “attachment parenting”. Now, the pendulum can, and always does, swing too far the other way. The media doesn’t help. I have rarely seen a TV programme about normal attachment parenting, it’s always the extreme end, with as weird as possible families.

Ignoring the mainstream media, (something I highly recommend), there are plenty of stories out there of families who are finding a better life by conforming to the natural law and especially in treating women as wives and mothers with the respect due their human dignity and role.

marriage and children: claiming it back for this generation

For forty years this generation wearied me, and I said in My heart they do not know my ways and they do not follow My path, and I swore in My anger that they would never see My place of rest”

Those of us who made it to adulthood through the Catechism-free-timezone of the ’70s, ’80s and much of the ’90s have been left with a very poor understanding of Faith and basic truth.

The results of the lack of faith formation and conscience formation are pretty awful. Marriage has taken a real battering because of it. We were taught that we should “do whatever feels right” and that contraception was fine really because the document Humanae Vitae isn’t really infallible. The fact that this is only one document among a host of others dating back to St Paul and the Didache was never mentioned.  We were fed the idea that God wants whatever we want.

Meanwhile some vestages of what I suppose was the pre-Vat II beliefs among some Catholics still prevailed. God was a mighty and angry judge who made up rules that He had no intention of letting us know or understand, just so that we would break them and He could have the malicious pleasure of sending us to hell.

It’s hardly surprising that navigating through such waters has caused many of us to get a bit lost. Thankfully with the internet and access to a more honest catechises many of us are finding the way home.  But in the meantime marriage has taken a battering.

One of the major criticisms of the Catholic Church in America is the astonishing number of marriage annulments that have been granted. This has prompted some observers to say that these annulments are nothing more than “Catholic divorce”.  Those who work on the panals for annulments insist this is not the case and that they are very careful in judging the validity of a marriage.

Two other explanations for the number of annulments are offered. First that it shows Catholics in America care about marriage enough to seek annulments rather than simply divorcing and trying to remarry. That seems a fair point to me. Listening to Catholic Answers over the years many people phone in with questions about annulment having made a mess of things and now being in the process of returning or converting to the Church.

The other very important observation is that far too many marriages are entered into invalidly. I think many of us can probably think of at least a couple of marriages that could easily lead to annulment. That is a tragic situation and it urgently needs bishops and priests to work out some way of properly preparing couples so that those who are heading for invalid marriages can be warned and helped – before they embark on the road to divorce, by getting pseudo-married.

As many people of my age and older have no clue what marriage is all about because no one ever taught us, we are producing a whole generation of children who reach adulthood with even less understanding than we were given.

We need to start educating ourselves so that we can help our children make good choices and so that we can pass on an understanding of marriage and life’s vocation. Better late than never.

Marriage and children: claiming it back

Catholics, both Latin and Eastern and Orthodox have a massive advantage over most other Christians in that marriage is a Sacrament. Not only do we have all the graces God gives in that but the other Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist through Mass or Divine Liturgy gives even more grace.

This is not a magic potion to make marriage “happily ever after” however. The graces God gives in the Sacraments are tools we can use or discard. If we choose to use, gratefully, that which we are given it will certainly make marriage easier, but there will still be challenges, hard work and bad times to get through.

So let’s start with the Catechism:

1601 The matrimonial Covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole life, is by it’s nature ordered towards the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.”

So what do we see?

First marriage is a Covenant not a contract.  A Covenant can only be given freely and we see that the man and woman bestow the Covenant and therefore the Sacrament upon each other.

Second marriage is for the good of the spouses and the ultimate good of any person is making it to heaven, so spouses are to mutually assist one another on that journey.

And third; marriage ordered through nature and natural law to having and educating children.

Both spouses are supposed to love and educate the children. That means mum and dad need to be there. To be there, the couple many very well have to struggle through some horrendously difficult times and suffer because of the responsibilities and commitments that come with marriage and family life.

Believe me, whether you intend to or not, all parents DO educate their children, either for good or ill.  In order to educate our children for good, we need to love them by doing love even if that means saying “No” rather a lot (to them and to ourselves).

All the research, even that which comes from secular sources, show that children need a mother and a father, both girls and boys. It shows that children who grow up without a parent because one parent has died, find life harder, but children who grow up without a parent because of divorce or abandonment, do far worse, educationally, socially, emotionally and mentally over all. The exceptions in no way disprove the research.

As adults we are to protect the rights and needs of the children we are given. We are to sacrifice things we want for what they need.  It might mean small sacrifices such as giving up those toxic TV programmes that we’ve been having on in front of the children.; taking the TV, games console(s) and computer out of the their bedroom and guarding their dignity and innocence.

But there’s a lot more…

The moral minefield of being a mum

From the moment that extra line appears on the dipstick a mother has decisions to make about how to best take care of her child. There are some moral absolutes in there, but many decisions about how best to be a mother fall into the prudential judgement area, and that can be more difficult. Starting with what you put into your body. It is obvious that ingesting some kind of poison that will be detrimental to the baby is bad – but then is drinking any alcohol really bad? Or should all pregnant mothers really avoid soft cheese and prawns because some minor studies say so?  Once you have tiptoed through that little minefield and the baby has arrived, what about breast feeding?

Is breastfeeding a moral issue? In some ways yes, but again it’s in the prudential judgement area. Putting aside for one moment the obvious non-moral case of a mother who can’t breastfeed thanks to medical problems faced by her or her child (reflux, tongue tie, needing very strong meds such as chemo etc) there is still the question of breast verses bottle and how long to do what. I have seen some people make the strong sweeping statement that bottle feeding is immoral. But it isn’t intrinsically immoral, any more than needing a wet nurse is.

This is followed by what has been dubbed the “mummy wars” where a row breaks out over what is best, stay at home or work outside the home? If a mother has to work outside of the home, what is she morally obliged to do with her children?

Then there’s the education war between home education and send them to school. When, if ever, is it morally right to put children into institutional education? Is there ever a time when it is immoral to home educate?

Among this comes the question of when or whether to have the next baby.

We also are called to guide and teach our children to live good moral lives and that means using discipline. So what kind of discipline should be use?

When there are so few absolutes in being a mum, where do we turn for guidance, truth and strength? Is there a design for the family that we can try and follow so that we offer the best for our children growing up, while retaining some level of sanity?

Lots of questions. Now I have to try and work out some answers…

Are Stay at Home Mothers wasting their education or using it to the enth degree?

This article in the Daily Mail was brought to my attention. One of the mothers mentioned is home educating her children. There was a time when such a deeply stupid question would never have been asked, but we have sunk so far from the days when motherhood was regardless as a great calling, a great vocation, that mothers who do not hand their children over to institutions or strangers soon after birth must defend themselves.

There are a number of strange issues with the article, not least the fascinating way the photos have come across. The first two mothers look happy and settled, attached to their children, while the woman in the red dress looks like she doesn’t want to be with her son. She in fact is the one who astonishingly said she is bored “watching Cbeebies all day.” I bet her son is bored too! If someone who is supposed to be highly educated thinks being a parent means sitting in front of the TV all day, what is the definition of “educated” I have to ask?

It’s a sad fact that the culture today has so massively undermined the important role of motherhood, and almost eradicated the role of the father, that this question is asked as though it is a sensible question. It seems to me this is all part of the undermining of the Sacrament of Marriage that began in the early years of the 20th Century.

Mothers and fathers who stay home and don’t put their babies and toddlers into institutional care are trying to ensure their children have a healthy attachment which will mean they have the opportunity to acquire language and then learn it fully; to learn early social skills while being happy and safe and are then in a good position to better cope should they go to school and have better life outcomes in general and especially mental health. Those of us who are doing this with and for our children are not wasting our education, we are using and fulfilling it.

I did face the “But you’ll be wasting all that education and all those skills,” mantra when I began the process of giving up nursing to try and be home more, because my children needed it. I was even shunned. I remember being at the park with the children with my husband when someone who knew us both met us. On learning that I was now a stay home mother he simply ignored me for the rest of the conversation. No eye contact – nothing.

If I can teach my children not to treat other people based on their job prospects (as Jesus actually demanded) but to treat all people with respect, I will have done something good!

Our children are the future of the country we live in. Even from a purely political point of view, well brought up children who are able to hold down a job and show a sense of responsibility has to be worth something to the economy.  The fact that Mrs Thatcher didn’t want to support stay at home mothers is indicative of the astonishing shallowness of thought and economic understanding of politicians.

There has been plenty of written reports from as far back as Victorian times that show the importance for child development of a bonding between babies and their mother and having a mum and dad around for you. Mothers in particular were recognised as having a fundamentally important role in the forming of children so that they could grow healthy as possible and able to attain their potential in adulthood.

Back when I had to work for money, it was very difficult to be there for the children whenever they needed me. It was very difficult to be there when they were ill and I was constantly torn between my responsibilities to my children and the responsibilities at work. I really don’t envy any mother who goes through this – and I would seriously wonder at the conscience of a mother who isn’t pained by these situations.

We really need to fight for a return to the proper respect for mothers, especially those who also care for elderly or vulnerable relatives. Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to support such hard working, solid women, without whom this country would have collapsed a long time ago, is simply a sign of how uneducated she was (and most Oxford grad politicians are no better).

Home Education habit training – listening.

Ah it’s lovely to go back to a bit of Charlotte Mason approach. Today we had another family join us and we spent some time making lapbooks about Australian animals, particularly the platypus (proof it seems to me that God has a silly sense of humour). I have 30 days free trial for Sylvan Dell Publishing so we used the story Kersplatypus with the teachers and creative minds pdf resources to make the lapbooks. (I’ll do a proper review of Sylvan Dell soon).

We have an inflatable globe and the children found Australia and the equator and tropics. We discussed the seasons there compared to here and then we got out some of the Ozzie animals Heleyna got for Christmas which included a platypus and a wallaby but no Kangaroo. The lack thereof prompted her to ask me the other day whether kangaroos actually exist. You see she told me “I go and look for nature most days and I never see one.” I explained that they live in Australia and while there are wallabies at the local nature centre there are no kangaroos. She then asked if we could go to Australia that day to see some real kangaroos. She’s 4 – geography and scale are not yet her fortè.

The children had a great time and learned something (I hope). They all sat around while I read the story with the computer attached to the TV so they could all see the lovely illustrations and follow along as I read.

Making the lapbooks needed some instruction so the children had to listen to what they were told either by me or one of the others who had already done part of the book.

As Avila had practiced her keyboard skills with the others gathered around her “Listening” became a bit of a theme for the day.

J came up with the idea that we help teach the habit of listening in the children by having a little talent show where each child does something they are good at, such as Roni’s little magic show.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

I remember watching an episode of the Duggars (some number and counting) in which Michelle Duggar had the older children playing their instruments and she made the younger ones sit quietly and listen. This is a great habit training approach in which the younger children are taught to sit still and listen to someone else for a while and to have respect for their siblings and other people. The emphasis on read alouds in Charlotte Mason is also a great way to teach children to listen.  Apart from the books I read them there are a great number of audio stories free online.

There’s quite a lot of the “old fashioned” homeschool books out there in which teaching children manners is part of the health side of the curriculum. Miss Mason believed that training in good habits was the foundation of a good education. A child who cannot sit still, watch and listen isn’t going to learn very much.

I have spoken to more than one school teacher who tell me they do not believe in the dx of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, or just ADD – or if they grudgingly accept it might exist, insist it is far far rarer than they are being led to believe. Children are simply never taught any manners. They are not around adults enough to learn to sit and listen. Few have a bedtime story or sit at a table with their parents for meals and most have been institutionalised from a very early age.

Human nature is of course fallen- a bit like a shopping trolley it wants to steer off in the wrong direction and needs someone to help steer it straight. The role, right and duty of parents is to steer the child straight until they can do it themselves. We mustn’t lose sight of how human nature works.