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Foundations, Faith and Fighting for Little Souls

Eight years into this parenting gig and suddenly I’m keenly aware of how experiences outside our home have an impact on our kids, and how truly important the influence of family and the Church is.

Sure, we’ve struggled with parenting challenges – going from one kiddo to three in an instant (if you’re the parent of multiples, you know nine months in utero is no preparation at all). Sleepless nights, tandem infant feedings while a toddler demands attention, and the run-of-the-mill things every parent deals with. We all face trials of one kind or another.

Yet what I realize now: We have only scratched the surface. (Cue the “Are you serious?!” faces of the more experienced).

This past month my boys, 5 and 8, each had an issue in school – in part a result of influences by classmates and what they are exposed to in their own homes, but mostly poor choices on the part of my own children. Minor offenses with minor consequences. Life lessons that will help strengthen their still honest character.

Because the incidents happened close together, within a few weeks, I became concerned as only a neurotic parent can (read: obsessing in the middle of the night) about the outside world’s influence. Is this the top of a slippery slope leading to inappropriate song lyrics and video games with violent themes? It keeps a momma up at night.

During subsequent chats with the third-grader, I challenged him to surround himself with people, things and activities that make him better. That lift him up. Make him, ultimately, a better follower of Jesus – because if I can spin a life lesson into a message about Jesus, this girl is doing it. If something pulls us away from God, no matter how fun it may be, it’s not worth it.

The words came out as we sat at a red light, and as I glanced in the rearview (he was still listening!), 40 years of memories flashed through my mind. This is parenting, isn’t it – trying to guide your children onto the right path, so they don’t make the same mistakes you did? Helping them navigate the secular world so they stay out of trouble and grow up into stellar men and women?

The fact that I am talking about “the secular world” makes me laugh. I have never been that mom (although there’s nothing wrong with that!). But it’s a fact of life: The things my children are exposed to and gravitate toward, on the bus, in class, in the lunchroom… it’s all shaping their hearts and minds, and their very souls. Too dramatic? I think not.

Despite my anxiety, I know the influence of family and our Church will win out in the end. Faith, and the foundation we have been building since Day 1 of each child’s life, will keep them grounded and able to come out on the other side of these challenges. They are great kids.

At a recent Catholic women’s conference, I talked with a lovely woman, a grandmother who reminded me of my own mom. We discussed the importance of keeping faith alive in everyday life. It’s not about attending Christmas or Easter Mass (although clearly that’s important). It’s about Sunday Mass every week, and Faith Formation classes, and weaving conversations about faith into regular living. It’s the visual of Rosaries and crosses in our house. And a tiny bottle of Holy Water on our prayer table. She believes it was the normalcy of Catholicism in her own home that built a foundation her children are now passing on to her grandchildren.

Without a strong religious foundation, you have nothing solid to come back to. It isn’t just a matter of childhood; as adults we need to keep strengthening our foundation, to reinforce our faith in order to get closer to God. Wherever we are at the moment, God will meet us. It becomes part of a spiritual makeup you cannot undo. It’s a beautiful constant that makes itself available when you need strength to face the hard things. And we all will.

Without a strong religious foundation, you have nothing solid to come back to. It isn’t just a matter of childhood; as adults we need to keep strengthening our foundation, to reinforce our faith in order to get closer to God. Wherever we are at the… Click To Tweet

So our family will navigate the world together and I’ll keep working in our Catholic faith. It’s one of the most effective weapons we have. And when one kid groans, “Mom, why does it always have to be religious,” I know I’m doing something right. It also has a different effect sometimes. As we talked about gifts before Christmas, one of the twins said he knew what to put on mommy’s list. “You like religious stuff,” he said with such love and complete acceptance. Yeah, peanut, I do. And I’m glad you know it.

Do not fear; I am with you; do not be anxious; I am your God.

I will strengthen you. I will help you.

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Karin Gaffney Christensen lives in Upstate New York with her husband, their three children, and a White German Shepherd. A cradle Catholic, Karin has been re-energized by her faith in her roles as wife, mother, and catechist for her parish’s second-graders. Despite the chaos often present in her busy life, she is determined to keep God front and center, and to help her family continue to grow in the Catholic faith.

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