I will boldly admit that this is the most difficult blog I have ever written. It has been an emotional week. A week that I would rather forget than ever live through again. Every time I spoke with someone this past week, I heard catastrophic news. A father in law dies in a helicopter crash, a daughter fights malignant cancer, a young mother stricken with a stroke, and the worst, most personal news of all, the sudden and utterly unexpected passing of the dear mother of my teenage daughter's best friend.
Anne Tomkins* was the epitome of a loving and caring mom. She was quiet and calm. She was a teacher by education and worked as a loving teacher's aide in a special needs classroom. A job that she was over qualified for, but that she did in order to devote herself fully to her own teenage children. She was a believer in reading and education, the arts and religion. She was Jewish, and elegant, and kind. She required her children to go to Saturday School, and make their bat and bar mitzvah's. She shared her faith with them, and yesterday I saw the impact that it had. Her children were thrust into an uncomfortable situation. Grieving the sudden loss of their mother. And yet, they were in a place that they could experience comfort. They knew this synagogue. It was familiar to them.
I am a Christian and my husband and I have raised our four children in the Catholic faith. I am not always comfortable admitting that I am a Christian--which I am sure is sinful. Christians can be so boorish, so judgmental, so closed minded, so out of touch. And Catholics? What about the abusive priests, the male dominated culture, the mistreatment of nuns, the closed mindedness on relevant issues such as birth control, gay marriage, abortion? Honestly, I am uncomfortable on many of these topics. So you could brand me as a hypocrite. You could call me out on so many levels. But my faith is strong, and raising my children to discover their faith is one of my proudest accomplishments. Yesterday, I witnessed the same in a synagogue. These two teenagers are "good" kids. They are kind to others. Have caring hearts. They have friends who love them and are there for them, and that is a testament to a good teenager in this day in age.
Children are born into our world as innocents. They are beautiful and miraculous. They make us swoon and giggle and sit in awe as they learn to smile and take their first few precious step. And yet, by the time many are teenagers, they have lost their way. Yesterday, I read a post online about a girl who committed suicide due to bullying. And the comments on the post were more than shocking. Young people cursing this girl. Evaluating her looks, and commenting on her behavior. Calling her names. She had killed herself to escape this world and yet the ugliness and hate raining down on her continued. I was horrified.
The contrast between the world of teenage hate and of loving kindness is dramatic. So in this parenting post I am loudly proclaiming that parents need to gift their children the gift of faith. Help children discover and develop their spiritual lives. Do you want to protect your children from bullies? Help them develop social and emotional skills? Learn life lessons that will benefit them all of their days, like empathy, honesty, and devotion? Then get your family back to church, synagogue, mosque or temple. Embrace what is good in this world, and teach loving kindness. Do what Anne Tomkins* did. Live by example and teach your children to have faith. Before it is too late.
*Not her real name out of respect for her surviving family