Christian parenting: Life’s greatest adventure

“To what do you most aspire for your children — comfort or character?”  —Gary Thomas

One day, my daughter and I were in the backyard spending time with the neighbors. All the kids like to run into one another’s yards and play; it’s a welcoming community without boundaries. One particularly exciting structure for some of the kids is a handicap ramp. On this sunny summer day, Daniella, then 18 months old, was playing on the ramp. While mid-climb, she leaned over the side, lost her footing, and landed her face onto cement. My heart stopped when her face hit the ground. I ran to her aid and began checking for signs of a concussion, cleaning up her bloody face, and doing everything I could to comfort her, but it was not enough. She had pain that I could not take away. It was after this fall that I realized there is nothing worse for a parent than witnessing their child’s suffering. 

Parenting is hard

I am one of 14 kids, and my mom always seemed to be happy, calm and together. I think in the back of my mind, I expected parenting to be an easier vocation, like my mom made it look while I was growing up. I have been surprised by the journey. Motherhood has challenged me to grow in ways that have invited me to be who God created me to be. I have learned to love like I never have, to be humble even when I don’t want to be, and to live in the moment when there is a whole future to worry about. Beginning with the first moment I knew I was pregnant, I have constantly been reminded that my daughter’s joy, peace, understanding, love and value is not dependent on me, but on her knowing God. I would love to be relieved by this truth, but instead I am more aware of how important it is to live a life that leads her to Him. 

“There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” —Jill Churchill

‘Sacred Parenting’

Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas discusses how suffering in all its forms develops a child’s character. “To what do you most aspire for your children comfort or character? On almost a daily basis, we have to choose between the two, as they inevitably come into conflict,” he says. Thomas clarifies that we do not need to create opportunities for our children to suffer, as life presents its own. 

Ironically, as my daughter took her tumble, I was sharing with my neighbor how hard it is for me to discipline her when she is not careful. Sometimes discipline feels like a punishment, and that it will make her dislike me. After a black eye from falling onto cement, though, discipline and structure don’t seem so bad. There’s no perfect solution for parents seeking to maintain order and structure while also expressing perfect love. “The balancing act we parents attempt is convincing our children: 1. You are loved more than you can imagine, and 2. The world does not revolve around you,” John Eldredge eloquently reminds us. The best way we can do both is to point our children to the Cross and everything that it reveals. 

Parenting goals

“When a child is given to his parents, a crown is made for that child in Heaven, and woe to the parents who raises a child without consciousness of that eternal crown!” (Fulton J. Sheen) It is really only when I take the time to reflect on my true hopes for Daniella that I am reminded that I do not need her to be a doctor, lawyer, or even go to college to know I am raising her in a way that is pleasing to God. God does not need perfect parents to raise children. He needs parents who are constant reminders of His goodness, love, truth and promises. We all want our children to be happy and know they are loved. Raising them in truth and a life in Christ is how we can ensure their lives will have peace, joy and love as opposed to comfort and dependence on things of this world. “All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace” (Isaiah 54:13). 

It is never too late

As parents, we make choices for our children every day. It’s hard to know whether the decisions I make are right or wrong. In retrospect, I probably should not have let Daniella roam freely on a handicap ramp, but dwelling on my shortcomings won’t make me a better mom. It’s a nice reminder to know that when I fall short, God steps into the gap. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).

Mary Morasso is a mother and parishioner of SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Sterling Heights. She holds a bachelor's degree in pastoral theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary and has taught theology at the high school level.