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Mother and educator

May 9, 2011

In union with her spouse,

a mother provides for the education of her children.

Nobody can absorb the primary responsibility of parents

for the education of their children,

and whatever support the family receives from others

in this venture,

it is the parents themselves

who bring their children into the culture of life

or not. 

The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children. This is deeply set into the dignity of becoming parents. We are not incubators, then babysitters, then chaperones, and then somehow responsible for the character development of our children. It doesn’t work that way.

From the first moment of conception, we are responsible for the formation of the child who lives within and this formation begins with what is in our hearts. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception – that Mary was free from even the shadow of original sin and lived her entire life in grace – points to this truth: that the child lives in the universe of his mother and is in some measure constrained by the leanings of her heart. The Lord could, in his humility, be constrained by human flesh, but not by the immediate atmosphere of sin while he was within Mary. This doctrine only makes sense if we recognize that every mother is the universe of her child, and that our interior lives matter for our children, right from the start.

This first season of formation points to the reason why education is the primary responsibility of parents: nobody else has the center as a mother does, and while she needs the support of others, she cannot give up the primacy.

The most important single influence on the love that a mother can give her child is the love and support of her husband. If she can depend on that, then she can give her heart and her strength to their child, and if both spouses live in the presence of God, their mutual support, and thus their relationship with their children, has a transcendent stability, which is their first gift to their children. Education that takes place within the context of such a stability forms a child to use his mind boldly, because this stability is not just ease (a good marriage is not “ease”), but it is clarity, the start of a clear path.

If we allow anybody else to have primacy of education, we are giving up a privilege that inhabits the center of parentage, not just an allied responsibility or a social afterthought. Even a good school must be the satellite of the home, and not the other way, because in school, teachers change from year to year and have many students; it is the parents who choose, support, and supplement the deficiencies of the teacher; they are the ones who have first authority and first responsibility in the context of their first love. It doesn’t work the other way.

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