Dear Typical Parents:
I think it’s about time that we all sit down and have a little chat. While we don’t have a great deal in common, we should have in common one important thing, and that is the interest in the well-being of our children.
In the old days, parents’ job consisted mainly of protecting physically their children. They made sure their children were warm and fed. They protected them from the dangers of invading armies as best they could. They protected their children in a thousand and one ways, great and small, but almost always physical.
Those days are long gone, but our responsibility to protect our children remains. Only now, the dangers from which we are shielding our children are much more insidious because they are not readily, physically apparent. These dangers are all the more deadly because they threaten not the physical, but the spiritual. They threaten not the destruction of the body but the destruction of the soul. I’m speaking, of course, of our children’s mindset, their worldview, the lens through which they see the world and the matrix by which they interpret reality.
The pervasive worldview of our culture is carnal. It’s physical. It’s driven by a pathological inability to forego a momentary pleasure in the interests of a longer-lasting good. It ridicules self-denial and worships at the altar of immediate and total gratification, usually physical.
My wife and I are trying to raise our children in such a way that they understand that the “now” is often not as important as what’s to come, that the physical is never as important as the spiritual, that the mental always outweighs any pleasures that come through our senses. This is difficult because it runs counter to everything our culture — through advertising, through music, through casual conversation — everything our culture promotes. In other words, my wife and I are trying to raise freaks. Not freaks of nature, but freaks of society, freaks of culture. We’re trying to raise kids that understand that sex is not everything, and that it comes with some pretty important responsibilities, that it’s pleasure is secondary and subordinate to its ultimate purpose, which is procreation.
I wish I could say that our concerns with society deal with a number of other issues, that it isn’t only the sex, but unfortunately our society has made it so that it is only about the sex. One only need look at the recent Lena Dunham advertisement for the Obama campaign, which draws direct correlations between voting and sex — let’s be frank: when you watch the ad, she’s simply talking about the first of many sexual experiences a woman is expected to have in the guise of “serial monogamy – to see how deeply embedded in our culture this obsession with sex really is. One only has to read Kristin Iversen’s mocking commentary on the critics of the ad to see how obsessed our culture is with pushing sexuality on younger and younger children:
Does Dunham say how important it is that the first time be special? Yes. Does Dunham comment that her first time voting was what made her a woman? Sure. Is all of this amusing and charming and only blush-inducing if you are a 10-year-old girl, in which case, why are you watching this, you can’t vote anyway? Also, yes. (Source)
Our whole culture seems obsessed with it, willing to do anything for it, and increasingly expecting others to pay for the responsibility of it. It seems willing to trade of any good in a Faustian bargain for short-term ecstasy.
That is not the priority I want my daughter and son to have. And I hope it’s not the priority you want your children to have.
Unfortunately, the things my daughter comes home from kindergarten saying, drawing, and doing make me think that, if that is your priority, if you are consciously trying to raise children who put the spiritual (and you’re almost free to interpret that as liberally as you wish at this point) over the physical, then sadly, my friends, you are doing a very poor job of it.
How do I know?
When my daughter comes home with a picture she drew in school that she later explains is the plan by which Friend A wants to conspire to break up the “relationship” of Friend B with her boyfriend (these are all three kindergarteners, mind you) so that Friend A can have the young man for herself (again, these are kindergarteners); when my daughter comes home explaining this in great, illustrated detail, explaining all the steps necessary, using the terminology “break up”, “boyfriend”, “fall in love with”, and “twist”; when my daughter comes home with these images and ideas and norms, I am afraid you and I are at the very least with how conscientiously we are trying to raise our children. And at the very worse, that you are consciously raising your children to have goals and plans diametrically opposed to mine and my wife’s.
I am having to explain things that, quite frankly, I don’t want to have to explain. At five years old, she’s too young to know what a boyfriend is in any real, experiential sense, whether her experience or vicariously through the experiences of those she calls her friends.
You might not be doing this consciously, and indeed, I hope and even doubt that you are. However, the fact remains that you are teaching my daughter that I really do not want my daughter to learn. You are teaching my daughter through the example of your children, who throw up their hands and say, “I don’t care” with such derision that it even disturbs my daughter, though she has begun doing it herself. You are teaching my daughter by allowing your children to listen to the sex-infused popular music of today without even explaining, it seems, that “sexy” is not a word that needs to come out of a five-year-old’s mouth. Through your children, you are teaching my daughter so many things at five years of age that I thought she would not encounter for at least, in the very worst case scenario, another year or two.
Still, I should be grateful. You have made me more thankful than ever that, through some odd, unlikely grace, I found myself married to a Catholic woman and eventually baptized into the Catholic church myself. You have made me exponentially more vigilant about the crap — sorry, but there’s no other word for it — that today’s culture is trying to shovel on her. You have taught me that it’s never too early to be on guard. You have reminded me that my promise to my daughter and son, of which I remind my daughter almost daily when she’s frightened by this or that by simply asking “What’s my responsibility” and knowing that the response is always “To protect me”, is my primary responsibility on Earth today and that every other Earthly responsibility is secondary or tertiary at best. I don’t mean to sound bellicose, but you’ve reminded me that I am in a war for my own soul and, until they can defend themselves, my children’s souls.
All the same, it would be so much easier if I knew we were all on the same side. Sadly, I’m not sure we are. Still, it’s good to know where we stand. You and your children will be in my prayers, but my own children’s spiritual well-being will be in my prayers and my conscientious, purposeful deeds.
The Girl’s Dad