I’ve written and rewritten this post. I have so many different thoughts as I come towards Easter- thoughts of grace and gratitude and love and hope. Each time I sat down to write, none of those ideas spilled onto the page. I could force them there, and I did, but only when I started this subject, did everything fall in line.
This is a post about why we indoctrinate our children. We do indoctrinate them. On purpose. I don’t mind people calling it indoctrination. I want the doctrine in. We plan specifically to teach our children our religion. We try to read scriptures with them daily. We share stories of our ancestors living religion. We go to church every week. We pray. We talk about Jesus when we are on walks or camping or shopping or cooking. They’ve heard it enough that it comes out of them. I’ve overheard imagination games including scripture stories. They sing hymns spontaneously. They play pretend baptisms in the bathtub. There have been pictures of Jesus, and one creative child made a nativity out of breadsticks (do you eat those?).
We teach the high standards connected to our religion. We teach the principles behind the standards. We don’t date until we’re sixteen – bless my oldest daughters for keeping that standard and setting that example. We wait until marriage for sex. We don’t drink or smoke or do drugs. We dress modestly. We consider what they hear and watch. Sunday means focusing on Jesus, not football or shopping. We try to be kind and serve those around us. We take people dinner, chop down trees and weed. This is how my husband and I both lived our young lives. We teach our children because this is who we are. Even if we never said a word about our faith, we can’t help but live it.
Why all of this effort? It isn’t easy. It does make us different.
We believe it’s true. We do love Jesus. And we have found that trying to keep these rules brings a huge amount of freedom. We want to give that freedom to our children. So we indoctrinate them.
Teaching any ideal is a challenge. We, as parents, are shockingly imperfect. Our children have noticed this! We don’t suggest our children be like us. We encourage them to be like Jesus. He is perfect. There is a pattern they can follow.
Ideals can be painful to teach. Frequently while I teach an ideal I am reminded of just how far I am from that ideal. The more important the ideal, the deeper the pain. When we teach about something as critical as the family, for example, we can all feel how far we are from the ideal of a loving. Yet without the ideal, without the standard, we all drift.
Standards are like anchors. Yes, they limit movement. Yes there is tension and struggle. Without an anchor you are left to the current and winds. Anchors are most important during a storm. Generally a vessel carries its main anchor at the bow of the boat.
Standards are like kite strings. We can see clearly how the string is holding us back and limiting how high the kite flies or where it goes. It makes for tension instead of easy floating. Yet if the kite string breaks…what happens? It does flow freely, briefly. Then it falls.
Freedom always requires discipline and knowledge. It is far easier to raise a child in freedom than to reclaim them after they are caught in addiction, or life changing choices. It’s far easier to lead them to adulthood with ideals and standards and rules and then let them choose their own. They cannot choose freely when they are young, when they are surrounded by a cacophony of voices and opinions and have very little wisdom or maturity to create their own standards. We try to give our children a knowledge of standards and a family culture of obedience so they are free to choose for themselves.
We don’t let children choose what they eat by leading them to Walmart and turning them loose. What would they chose? Can you imagine learning to be healthy by this method? Would they learn moderation? Would they ever learn to leave the candy aisle?
In all of this discussion of why I indoctrinate. In all of this discussion of standards, I don’t want to overlook the most important portion of what I give my children: my understanding of grace. All of these standards, all of this obedience does not save. We do not get to heaven if we are obedient enough. It’s not a pass/fail situation with possibility for extra credit. It’s heaven. It is only for people who can be perfectly loving. That’s none of us, no matter how many times we’ve read our scriptures, or how capable we are at saying no.
We have our children do chores, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage. How could our works earn us a far greater reward? Only Christ. Only his sacrifice. Only His life and death and resurrection.
In my experience, obedience doesn’t gain us heaven, but it does increase our desire to be there. It increases my desire to receive heaven. Obedience also reminds me constantly of all that I lack and how fully I need Jesus.
So this week, we’ll talk about Jesus, listen to more hymns, read more scriptures and go to church, even during “school” time. We will indoctrinate our children because we love them. We indoctrinate our children because it seeps out of us without us even trying. We indoctrinate our children because we want them to be free.
Britt grew up in a family of six brothers and one sister and gained a bonus sister later. She camped in the High Sierras, canoed down the Colorado, and played volleyball at Brigham Young University. She then served a mission to South Africa. With all of her time in the gym and the mountains and South Africa, she was totally prepared to become the mother of 2 sons and soon to be 9 daughters. By totally prepared she means willing to love them and muddle through everything else in a partially sleepless state. She is mostly successful at figuring out how to keep the baby clothed, or at least diapered, though her current toddler is challenging this skill. She feels children naturally love to learn and didn’t want to disrupt childhood curiosity with worksheets and school bells. She loves to play in the dirt, read books, go on adventures, watch her children discover new things, and mentor her children. Her oldest child is currently at a community college and her oldest son is going to high school at a public school. She loves to follow her children in their unique paths and interests. She loves to write because, unlike the laundry and the dishes, writing stays done. Whenever someone asks her how she does it all she wonders what in the world they think she’s doing.