My husband is the Associate Principal of a large Catholic high school. There is much about his job which is heartbreaking. Our secular culture today seeks to ravage the innocence and chastity of our young people – no matter where they attend school – Christian school, private school, home school, or any combination thereof. While his school has a conservative uniform, a strict code of conduct, a caring Christian faculty, regular access to the sacraments, and engaged parents, sin still abounds. Part of that is due to normal teen development. Sadly however, much of it is exacerbated and worsened by cultural practices like sexting, snapchat, etc. The school can do much to help to counter that culture, but the battle is raging all around the students all of the time.
One of the great things that Greg gets to do is organize school assemblies with A-list speakers. These speakers are Christians who are helping our young people put the armor of God on and do battle with the demons that seek to entice, tempt, distract, depress, and scandalize them and their peers. Last fall, Greg brought Jason Evert in for the second time. Jason is a powerful speaker, and the Holy Spirit moves through him in obvious and significant ways. Jason’s talks are uniquely effective for the high school crowd. Each time Jason has come, the counselors, the chaplain, and the campus minister have lines of students outside their office doors looking for more information on a host of issues. Knowing this, I mentioned to all of my homeschool friends that Jason would be presenting a parenting talk, and that it was free to anyone who wished to attend. Greg also invited the homeschool kids to join him during the school assembly if their parents wished for them to be there.
In preparation for Jason’s talk, we shared his talking points and videos with any of the homeschool parents who wished to preview the content. An interesting thing happened: most of the parents decided not to send their child to the presentation because the subject matter, while effective for school students, was too much for homeschool students. I am sure there are homeschool kids in my community who are involved in dangerous behavior, but, in our circle, we believe that these kids have a level of innocence and healthy ignorance that would leave them scandalized by Jason’s talk. The parents opted to send the dads to the parent talk and keep the teens home from the school talk. It was a wise decision.
But, those mamas and I knew that we needed something more than what we were doing. All of us have “the orange book” or something like it, but we wanted something more. Something modern, something more specific, something more parenting-focused to help us not only raise our children with a healthy understanding of their sexuality, but also guide all of us through the cultural challenges of our time. In our discussions, I remembered Leila Miller’s brilliant book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men. (You can read my review here.) Fortunately for us, Leila has a new book out that goes even further, Made This Way: How To Prepare Kids to Face Today’s Tough Moral Issues co-authored by Trent Horn of Catholic Answers.
We mamas decided to read these two books over three months. This month we had our first session where we talked about Raising Chaste Catholic Men. Many of the mamas have daughters who attend our Young Ladies Literary Tea, so we scheduled our club to meet before that club. My sweet friend Giovanna opened her home to all of us. The girls who attend the Young Ladies Literary Tea hung out with Giovanna’s daughter in her room or went downstairs to play with the younger kids in the basement. (We asked the mamas to leave their other children at home if possible.) Because we were meeting over the lunch hour, we planned a lovely luncheon for kids and moms alike. Due to the sensitive nature of the material, we reminded the children of the need to stay in their play spaces until our club was finished. It really did work beautifully.
In this club we have a dozen mamas including a veteran mom who has married children. What a gift it was to have her there! Her experience and wisdom were an encouragement to us as we talked about some of the very serious topics. I have asked a priest friend to join us for our last session in April because he is a millennial male who had to navigate his way through all of the cultural challenges. He has another kind of wisdom to share with us.
We talked about how practical the book is. We love her advice about safeguarding the latency period and being honest, but age appropriate, with our children with any questions they bring. We talked about the kinds of responses we can give to our children when they see or hear things which are plainly disordered. One mama mentioned that she drives her son to a lot of basketball games and they see a lot of scandalous billboards when they drive on highways. She has found the car ride to be a wonderful time to talk about these things with her teen son because they don’t have to look at each other, and they can be relaxed and candid during the long drives.
This first book was mostly about preserving, and if necessary regaining, chastity. Made This Way is going to be meatier and more challenging because it deals with a lot of sticky issues: divorce, same-sex marriage, gender confusion, pornography, abortion, reproductive technology, contraception, modesty, and homosexuality. I love the format! Each topic is treated in three ways: what the Church teaches, advice for little kids, and advice for big kids.
I think all of us mamas thought that the best part of the club was the camaraderie. Counter-cultural parenting can be lonely and difficult work. Leila’s friendly tone and intelligent advice inspire us to confidence that we can do this. Having a dozen other mamas walking the path with us, what a gift! One mother called me the next day and said, “When I looked around the table, I thought that it was just an unimpressive group of homeschool moms… but then you asked them to tell their stories… and I realized how incredible each and every one of them were. I knew that this was a group to run with. They are unassuming ‘fly-under-the-radar’ types who could change the world if they banded together.” And really that is the point. We change the world by going home and loving the family we have. If we can help each other do that well, only God knows what He will do with these children to truly change the world.