Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Parenting Question

Usually, I use this column space to reflect on scripture or other spiritual reading. Other times, I share some hard earned wisdom culled from this school of life. Today, I am using it to ask for help from those of you farther on the parenting journey than I. How do you raise your children with a firm understanding that premarital sex is seriously wrong while remaining staunchly pro-life?

The national percentage of out-of-wedlock births is currently about 40%. In the city where I live, that rate is much higher. My children are growing up in a world where having children outside of marriage is considered normal. I try to impress upon them that this is not the way it should be.

At the same time, I am staunchly pro-life. I am thankful that these mothers chose to have these babies. I know that they could have made a different decision. Each child is a gift from God. A child born as a result of premarital sex is an instance of God bringing something good out of something wrong. Recently, we have faced this situation in my own family. My grandniece was recently born to my nephew and his girlfriend. The baby is beautiful and we love her. I still want my children to wait until they are married to have sex.

I grew up in a very authoritarian household. I knew that if I was ever unmarried and pregnant, I shouldn’t bother coming home. While fear of my parents wasn’t the only reason I waited to have sex, it was certainly part of the equation. Yet, I know the strength of emotions and hormones and that things very easily could have been different. I’d like to think that if I ever did find myself pregnant, I would have had the strength to carry the baby and not resort to abortion, but, honestly, I don’t know what I would have done. I know that I would have been very scared.

I don’t want my children to feel that way. I don’t want them to feel that if they have committed a sexual sin and are facing the consequences of that, that they are unwelcome or that I won’t love them anymore. I don’t want them ever to feel that abortion is the appropriate answer to that situation.

What is the answer to this? I can preach about self-respect and respect for members of the opposite sex. I can stress that premarital sex is a mortal sin and a one-way ticket to hell if they don’t have the opportunity to go to confession before they die (this was a fairly strong motivator for me). I can emphasize that having a child out of wedlock will dramatically alter the course of their lives – that they will be facing a responsibility that they are not ready for. And, they may still find themselves in a situation where they give in to their desires and face an unplanned pregnancy.

I’ve often heard the argument that you shouldn’t tell your children, “If you are going to have sex, I want you to protect yourself by using a condom,” because you are giving them permission to have sex. You are supposed to hold up the high standard and trust that your children can live up to that. Is saying, “If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you can come to us without fear,” the same thing? Do I simply tell them, “No matter what you do in life or what circumstances you find yourself, we will always love you?”

So, I turn to you, and ask you to share your wisdom. How have you walked this line of taking a strong stance against having sex before marriage while being pro-life and supporting those who have children out-of-wedlock?


Eric Baker said...

I would like to offer a little something here to help with this question. By phrasing the question they way you did you are seeking this answer from only the parents. This will only give you answers from one-side of the equation. And then, you have to hope that the parents have heard the truth from their children. I am sure that the answers you receive will have wisdom in them which hopefully you haven't already tried. Also by asking parents who are 'further along' this path you do also risk receiving advice which may have worked back in the 70's and 80's, but may not be applicable today. I'm not saying it won't, but the dynamics have changed out there somewhat.

So my advice would be to seek answers from people in their 20's today and what advice, guidance from parents worked for them. There you will receive the most honest and relevant response. In today's society to honestly say that you waited until marriage is not the easiest thing to say and it takes some courage to say that. Yes, there may be some untruthful answers from those who live in the more religious segment of society who may want that limelight. However, I would say that what worked for that group of children in general is going to be the relevant advice to hear as a parent.

Denise said...

I don't have any "btdt" answers, as my kids are still about the same age as yours. I hope that you share any wisdom you receive from others, though!

Thinking it through, I don't think the situations/responses you are describing are any different than what the Church teaches us about Christ. The Church has always seemed to me to be the perfect blend of idealism and practicality. God (through His Church) sets high ideals, knowing all the while that we are fragile and we fail - so He provides for that, too (Confession). He asks great things of us, and gives us His grace and love free for the asking - and yet loves us anyway when we take all that and still add to the burden of sin Christ carried to the cross.

So I guess pending wiser advice, that's how I'm planning on presenting the issues you bring up to our kids when the opportunity/time comes. The Church teaches certain things because God knows and loves us, and knows what is best for us. But people blow it, and God loves them and brings good out of it anyway. So too, do parents: our ideals are because we want our kids to walk as closely with God as possible, but when they blow it we forgive and try to bring good out of it - as we hope they, too, will do, when we blow it as their parents.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur said...

Thank you for your comments! I greatly appreciate them.

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