My youngest sister and I are very close. Surprising, because there is a seventeen-year age difference between us. We housed her for a brief time when she attended the University of Dallas, clearing out a bedroom in our crazy house so she could enjoy some privacy along with the occasional home-cooked meal.
She shared in our messy life and never once complained. When the decibel level reached the almost unbearable at times, and she would shoot me a look as the two youngest girls ran screaming around the table where we sat, determined to smack the other first, I would calmly point to one child, then the other, naming my sister as one, and the next closest sister to her as the other. And smile. She would laugh and once again apologize for the many times my own teenage years were punctuated with their shenanigans.
Recently, while we were commiserating over the difficulties of raising children in this hostile-to-the-truth-of-faith world, I shared with her something that had been on my heart and mind recently. “The world is so very loud,” I said. “Make sure you are louder.”
But how? How do we, as faithful parents, make sure we are louder than the world? Let me make my first, and only, qualification. There are no guarantees. Read that again. And while there are no guarantees, there are things we can do to turn the odds slightly in our favor.
Now, let me tell you. This is not a checklist. I will not be telling you to homeschool or not. This isn’t a diatribe against cell phones, public schooling, or living in a particular state, or whether piano lessons will be the path to your children’s salvation. (Although I’m pretty sure that last one will be the path to mine. Oy.) Every family is different. And every parent has been given the particular graces to parent their particular children. And that means making decisions that look very different from other families given the needs and personalities and dynamics of these children. And you, dear Moms, need to be one-hundred-percent okay with that.
I have one simple piece of advice. NEVER STOP LISTENING. Be the safe space for your kids to come to. Always. No matter what. They will see and hear things that you never in a million years thought was possible given all of your safety restrictions and monitoring. They will launch out into the world earlier than you dreamed and come back with questions and feelings and experiences that will take you by surprise. And you will know every last detail because you sat and listened to the same story a billion times when they were five. And then you tolerated all the “like, ummm”s of the early pre-teen years. (And, yes, the tantrums at every stage.) You showed up and were their cheerleader during the awkward sporting events when they were deathly afraid of making a mistake. You probed gently and were just simply available for their tearful confessions and beautiful reconciliations when they did something wrong. In this way, you WILL be louder than the world. Your love, your affirmations, your very voice, will drown out the screaming, deafening lies all around them.
And when we have done all we could, listened and loved and poured ourselves out, the other thing we must do, the ace in the hole, is PRAY. Pray and give it to God. It is their journey. Trust that. There are no guarantees. My family is living proof of that. But we still love and share and lean on each other. And, God willing, we all will be united again on the same path to heaven someday.