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The Catholic Family Handbook – Father George Kelly

Photo 2Iphone summer 2013 211-002In view of the many social evils resulting from the 
decline in the father's influence, one of the most important 
functions the modern mother should perform is to help maintain or 
restore the father's position of authority in the family. In doing so, 
you will fulfill your own role as a wife and mother to a greater extent 
than is possible when you permit your husband to be the lesser figure. 
This was the secret of the success of olden fathers. Even though they 
worked twelve hours a day, their dominant role in the home was 
guaranteed and protected by the mother.

You can make your greatest contribution to your family as the heart of 
your home--not its head. From you, your children should learn to love 
others and to give of themselves unstintingly in the spirit of 
sacrifice. Never underestimate the importance of your role. For upon 
you depends the emotional growth of your children, and such growth will 
better prepare them to live happy and holy lives than any amount of 
intellectual training they may receive.

Most of us know persons who have received the finest educations which 
universities can bestow, who yet lead miserable lives because they have 
never achieved a capacity to love. On the other hand, we also know of 
men and women whose intellectual achievements are below normal but 
whose lives are filled with happiness because their mothers showed them 
how to love other human beings. It follows that in helping your child 
to satisfy his basic emotional needs to love and be loved, you give 
something as necessary as food for his full development. So do not be 
beguiled by aspirations for a worldly career or by the desire to prove 
yourself as intelligent as men or as capable in affairs of the world as 
they. The father must always remain a public figure. The mother is the 
domestic figure par excellence. In teaching your child the meaning of 
unselfish love you will achieve a greater good than almost any other 
accomplishment of which human beings are capable.

You are the most important person your child will ever know. Your 
relationship with him will transcend, in depth of feeling, any other 
relationship he probably will ever have--even the one with his marriage 
partner. As noted above, from you he will learn what true love really 
is. From the tenderness you show and the security you give, you will 
develop his attitudes toward other human beings which will always 
remain with him.

However, his dependence on you begins to wane soon after birth--and 
continues to wane for the rest of your life. In his first years, 
naturally, he will rely upon you almost entirely--not only for food, 
but also to help him perform his most elementary acts. But soon he 
learns to walk and to do other things for himself; when he goes to 
school he can dress himself; when he reaches adolescence and strives 
for the freedom that adults know, he will try to throw off his 
dependence so violently that you may fear that you have lost all hold 
upon him.

Your job is to help him reach this state of full and complete 
independence in a gradual fashion. And your success as a mother will 
depend to a great extent upon the amount of emancipation you permit him 
as he steps progressively toward adulthood. Therefore you should try to 
judge realistically when your child truly needs your help and when he 
does not.DSC02640-001Iphone Feb. 8, 2014 099

If you can reach the happy medium wherein you do for your child only 
what he cannot do for himself, you will avoid dominating him or 
overindulging him. The dominant mother makes all decisions for Johnny 
and treats him as though he had no mind of his own; the overindulgent 
mother will never permit her Mary to be frustrated in any wish, or to 
be forbidden any pleasure her little heart desires. The overindulgent 
mother may do without the shoes she needs to buy a doll for her Annie; 
she may stop what she is doing to help Johnny find the comic book he 
has misplaced; she may eat the leftovers in the refrigerator while she 
gives the freshly prepared food to her children.

The overindulgent mother is a common character in literature. Probably 
every American woman has seen movies and television programs, and has 
read stories in magazines and newspapers, in which these defects were 
pointed out. Yet every new generation of mothers seems to practice the 
same extreme of behavior. Some excuse themselves by saying that they 
want to give their children every advantage in life. Such an intention 
is laudable, perhaps, but the method is impractical. If you want to do 
the best for your child, let him develop so that he can face life on 
his own feet. Overindulging him denies him his right to develop his own 
resources and thus defeats the purpose of your mission as a mother.

Someone once remarked in jest that as part of her education for 
motherhood, every woman should visit the psychiatric ward of an army 
hospital. If you could see the countless examples of mental disorders 
caused largely by the failure of mothers to sever the apron strings to 
their child, you could easily understand why--for the sake of your 
child's emotional self--you must make it a primary aim to help him to 
develop as an independent person.

Priests and psychiatrists often see problems from different angles, yet 
they display striking agreement in pinpointing other kinds of maternal 
conduct which do great harm to the child. Their advice might be 
summarized as follows:

Don't be an autocrat who always knows best. Your child may have his own 
way of doing things, which may seem to be inefficient or time-
consuming. Have patience and let him do things his way, thus giving him 
the opportunity to learn by trial and error.

Don't be a martyr. Naturally, you must make sacrifices. But do not go 
to such extremes that your child feels guilty when you deny yourself 
something which rightfully should be yours, in order to give him what 
rightfully should not be his. A typical martyr worked at night in a 
laundry to pay her son's way through college. Before his graduation, he 
asked her not to appear at the ceremony--he said she would be dressed 
so poorly that he would be embarrassed.

Don't think you have the perfect child. Some mothers, when their child 
receives low grades, appear at school to determine, not what is wrong 
with him, but what is wrong with the teachers. When such a mother 
learns that her son has been punished for disobedience, she descends 
upon the school officials and demands an apology. By her actions she 
undermines the child's respect for all authority--including her own. 
You will probably be on safe ground, until your child is canonized at 
St. Peter's, if you conclude that he has the same human faults and 
weaknesses that you see in your neighbors' children.

Don't use a sickbed as your throne. The "whining" mother feigns illness 
to attract sympathy and to force her children to do as she wills. Who 
would deny the last wish of a dying person? In this vein she often gets 
what she wants--for a while. The usual, final result, however, is that 
her children lose both sympathy and respect for her.

Don't be a "glamor girl." Motherhood is not a task for a woman who 
thinks that ordinary housework--preparing meals, making beds, washing 
clothes--is beneath her. Of course, mothers should strive to maintain a 
pleasing appearance, but they should also realize that they are most 
attractive when they are fulfilling the duties of their noble vocation. 
You would embarrass your family if you insisted on acting and dressing 
like a teen-ager; and, if you adopted a demeaning attitude toward 
household tasks, you would teach your children that motherhood and its 
responsibilities are unworthy of respect.

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