We Know So Little About Being Human
So there’s nothing new under the sun, after all. Here, a mother’s sense of lostness in the upbringing of her children. From Formation of Character, published 1925:
‘I daresay experienced people get to know all about it,’ said Mrs. Clough; ‘but the mother of even two or three little ones has a sense of being at sea without rudder or compass. We know so little about children, or, indeed, about human beings at all!’
Enjoying Our Children
There are a few principles of parenting that have impacted me more than others. One is the simple principle of smiling – a principle of taking joy. I could call this, I suppose, a principle of enjoying. The admonition to smile at my child and really see him was to me a very freeing principle of enjoying my child, and this freedom has been at the foundation of my heart as a mother.
Respecting Our Children
A second would be a principle of respect. I learned the idea of respecting my child through a variety of means, but it was really driven home to me through the writings of Charlotte Mason and her ideas about treating a child like a person…because he is a person. He is a person, autonomous, entrusted to me but very much his own self, and I must respect him as such.
Equipping Our Children
A third principle of parenting comes out of the principle of respect, and has its power in the principle of enjoyment, and is this: the deliberate forming of habits within my child’s heart, mind and life. The idea is that habits form the rails on which all of life runs, and all our successes or failures largely depend upon these rails. We cannot force our children to become good people, God-fearing and kind and wise – but we can nourish them, train them, trust them, teach them and equip them. Habits of heart and mind become paths of righteousness in life.
Mrs. Clough, in the quote above, apparently feels the way we all do when we hit parenthood running – don’t we start out full of confidence, only to discover around the first tantrum or in a midnight moment of clarity that we actually know nothing at all? Here’s the response a friend gives Mrs. Clough later in the chapter, and I absolutely love the way Charlotte Mason here encourages good habits:
‘It rests with parents to ease the way of their child by giving him the habits of the good life in thought, feeling and action, and even in spiritual things. We cannot make a child ‘good’; but, in this way, we can lay paths of the good life in the very substance of his brain. We cannot make him hear the voice of God; but, again, we can make paths where the Lord God may walk in the cool of the evening. We cannot make a child clever; but we can see that his brain is nourished with pure blood, his mind with fruitful ideas.’
One more thought: I see these as action principles. Behind them are heart principles: who we are as people, who God is, why we’re here on this earth and what our purposes are in life. If parenting is a pyramid (if only it could be that simple), then heart principles would form the foundation. The next layer of bricks would be principles of thought, and then of action. Out of the principles of action come specific parenting choices and all the little things we do.