The joyful Catholic Home and other thoughts I’m pondering these days

Do you know Parenting with Grace by Greg Popcak? I absolutely love this book and I think it is very inspiring for thriving families! Reading this wonderful book and pondering the thoughts of the authors I felt I wanted to share what I have learned lately.

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Popcak connects the Theology of the Body with his parenting concept which was surprising to me at first, but turns out to be not only intriguing but convincing and powerful all at once. To Pope John Paul II self-donative love is the core of every human relationship – be it marriage, friendship or the relationship we have with our children.

Living self-donative love will result in so many wonderful things

Christ is the one who modeled self-donative love to us. From him we can learn how to love our neighbor, spouse and children. As Christ models self-donative love to us, we model the same to our kids and they will imitate us. They will learn from us. They will internalize it. Self-donative love will be natural for our kids and it will be the way they treat others and themselves.

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Living in a family that lives self-donative love will ultimately result in a joyful home. And that is what we all want, don’t we? But in order to get something (the joyful home) we have to give something (ourselves). That is the secret.

Will a joyful home always be joyful?

No, it won’t. We all are human beings, we’re not perfect and we don’t need to be. Attachment Parenting is not about perfectionism or eternal happiness. That’s not going to happen. Attachment Parenting is about a secure bond between parents and children and this bond will result in a solid foundation of the family.

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That way a family can brave stormy times. And that’s what a joyful Catholic home is. A joyful home is not home that is always happy, always all smiles, flawless. A joyful Catholic home is real. There will be bumps in the road, there will be hard times. A joyful Catholic home is a solid foundation that can help every family member to cope with these times. A joyful Catholic home is a home with a certain atmosphere. The atmosphere of self-donative love…

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Why I consider Unschooling as deeply Christian

Just last week I pointed out what Unschooling is all about. This week I want to discuss why I consider unschooling as deeply Christian.

Yes, that’s right, I think unschooling is a Christian thing to do!

How is that? you might ask.

Well, let me point that out to you: As parents we are rewarded with the most precious gift you can get – our children. They are given to us by God – and they are given to us in trust. They are created in the image of God, not in our own image or in the image of society or culture.

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Our children are not unfinished beings who have to be shaped and finished by us in order to fit in. They are little persons who we are fortunate to get to know and who we can learn from. They will also learn from us and they will be shaped by us just as we will be shaped by them – but that’s not the point. The point is we can learn learn together, grow together, draw closer to God together.

So what’s our job as parents, really? Do we have to shape them – for society, workplace, culture? God? Or will it suffice to model our values to them? Will God do the rest? Do we trust him enough to let him do the rest?

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying every Christian family has to unschool their children. And I’m also most definitely not promoting any kind of permissive parenting style!

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All I’m saying is that God gave us our children in trust – so we should trust our children and trust God and model that trust in our families. A beautiful way to do that is a need-oriented unschooling parenting style. It’s not the only possible way and it’s not the answer to all questions but it’s a great path you can choose for your family in order to honor God’s trust in you as parents.

 

Why need-oriented parenting after all?

Since 2012 there is a huge controversy regarding Attachment Parenting (AP) in the English speaking part of the world which was caused by a cover picture on Time magazine that showed a Mom breastfeeding her almost 4-year-old child.

But what is AP after all and why would anybody breastfeed a 4-year-old?

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AP – or as we call it “need-oriented parenting” – is a parenting style that focuses a lot on meeting a child’s needs and being empathetic and responsive in order to establish a strong mother-child-bond. This bond between mother and child – also called “attachment” – is crucial for a child’s healthy personal development.

Therefore many parents who practice AP choose (longterm) breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapers or elimination communication, homeschooling or even unschooling, organic home-made food and gentle discipline. AP is a highly communicative parenting approach.

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In the US AP is widely regarded as a mainly Christian parenting style, whereas Europeans tend to assume AP to be a secular parenting approach. Feminists often criticize AP as “New Momism” which promotes role models that should be overcome by now – but maybe a child’s needs and his personal development should be more important than social ideologies…

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To us as parents the main reason for bringing our children up in an AP way of life is this:

Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb, a reward.

~ Psalms 127:3

Our children are a gift and a blessing from God – so we should treat them as the gift they are. How would you treat a gift that is very precious to you? We decided we wanted our kids to grow up in a family that grants them love, respect, trust, emotional security, warmth, protection, happiness and the freedom to just be who they are.

That’s why we chose this parenting style.

Need-oriented parenting – a Catholic Approach

and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

~ Matthew 18:3

There is a lot you can read about need-oriented or Attachment Parenting in the media or on the internet – but one question you will hardly find to be answered:

Is there any Catholic Approach to those need-oriented ideas?

A few websites do offer a Catholic Attachment Parenting Approach, e.g. the Catholic Attachment Parenting Corner, Intentional Catholic Parenting or Simply Charlotte Mason. Mostly Attachment Parenting is a secular philosophy of education, though.

How so?

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Attachment Parenting is all about freedom, need-orientation, respect and about being loving, caring and understanding with each other as a family. Somehow, these ideas seem to be more popular in secular circles – maybe because they can be considered very liberal.

But let’s see, does Attachment Parenting require a secular and/or liberal worldview?

Not really. There is nothing wrong with living social-conservative Catholic values – it’s just an unconventional Approach: You don’t teach your values by indoctrination, you simply live by them. So you’re creating kind of an observational learning experience for your child.

Besides, freedom, need-orientation, respect and being loving, caring and understanding with each other are Catholic values, too, right?

Let’s talk about the Bible verse quoted above: Jesus tells us we should become like children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. He truly appreciates children! So how could we not treat children according to those beautiful Attachment Parenting ideas as we strive for loving our children just as much as Jesus does?

What do children really need?

Preparing for the birth of a new baby is a great thing to do – but sometimes you kind of get distracted by all the “needs” you will probably have to meet.

How many playsuits does your baby need? Will you be in need of a baby stroller or will a baby sling do? Will there have to be a nursery or will your baby sleep with you?

What does your baby really need?

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After all there is really one thing that your child will need: You. And that’s basically it. Your child needs you and your sensitivity. It s in need of your love and care. Combined with all the basic needs such as being fed when the baby is hungry, being rocked to sleep when the baby is tired, being comforted when the baby isn’t well, being held warm and dry, being cuddled that’s all there is to it.

Your baby doesn’t care about the color of his playsuits. Your child doesn’t care if his playsuits are all new or if they were pre-owned by another baby. Your baby doesn’t care too much about toys, baby strollers, a beautiful nursery and all the equipment you are made to believe a baby needs. However, your baby deeply cares about you!

So don’t get lost in details, don’t invest too much in “baby equipment” – try investing in yourself as a (becoming) parent, in inner growth, in your relationship with God and in your relationship with your child. That will do!

Two under two – No-Cry-Solutions…

As a young Mom of two kids under two you are in special need of No-Cry-Solutions – and they are not always easy to find…

Children are so precious, they are always honest, they are generous, they gracious, they are funny and sometimes they are even wise. We can learn a lot from them – mostly about ourselves. And mostly in situations that are very demanding.

As a parent of two kids under two you will maybe face situations like that more frequently than other parents, e.g. in moments when both kids are crying. And how do you find a No-Cry-Solution after all?

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Well, sometimes you won’t, that’s a fact. But most times you will, so there’s no need to get demoralized. What about leaving the room for just two minutes for a quick prayer? What about singing a song you and your children enjoy – not just to calm them down but also for you to cool off?

In our family Mom had  to (and sometimes still has to) learn to ask herself a real basic question: “Is it really necessary for the children to do as I say right now?” That may sound too simple, but it sure is very effective: Does the toddler really need take a nap right now? What about a quick family hug first, or another song, another story or just another five minutes time to play or do whatever the toddler needs to do.

Will the world really fall apart if the toddler takes her nap half an hour or an hour later? The secret to Mom’s No-Cry-Solutions is to cool things down by slowing them down. Slowing down things helps to not getting to excited about things.

And one thing that never hurts and always helps is a quick prayer.

 

Two under two – our new series on Living a Catholic Fairy Tale

Two under two – an introduction

 

Life is changing – always and in every moment. Life can be challenging, life can be painful and life can be so beautiful. And sometimes it is just everything at the same time.

But how is life with two kids under two?

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Is it possible to find a good solution for one of those moments when both kids are crying? How do you make enough time to play with your older child? How do you survive Holy Mass with two kids under two? Is there any chance to have just a few minutes to yourself?

If that sounds interesting to you you’re more than welcome to follow our new series “Two under two”. And be assured: There is definitely no way to handle all those challenges without God’s grace!