Today is an exciting day, my dear readers! Have you heard me talk about my friend of several years, Leila? Here she is:
Well today, Leila is publishing her first book, entitled Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom.
As a general rule, I would say you should buy any book Leila writes, or even just recommends. She is a gifted defender of the Catholic faith. She is intelligent, courageous, and humble. I could go on with many accolades, but what you really need to know is that she is the mother of 8 children 6 of them boys! She is familiar with all the challenges our boys are up against these days, especially in the realm of sexuality and virtue, yet she is managing to raise faithful and chaste young men.
As a mother of 3 sons, I was so excited that Leila was writing this book! To look around at today’s culture and then to turn and look at your little boys and wonder how that culture will shape them – well, it is hard to be hopeful sometimes. But Leila’s book gives me hope, as well as practical advice that will help me be a better mother.
Since I got an early copy of Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom, I was able to put together some questions so you could get to know a little bit about Leila and this book, so here we go…
I love that you described the book as two Catholic moms sitting down over a cup of tea to have a conversation. It made it very honest and down to earth to me. And as a person who has only been mothering boys for 5 years, I so appreciated the stories you told about when you caved to some of your sons’ demands or that you had a difficult relationship with one of your sons for a few years. It’s comforting to know that we can mess up, but we can also change course, and our kids can still turn out ok.
Yes, that is part of the “hope” that I wanted to give the moms out there who are struggling, wondering what will become of their son(s). I had great fear about one or two sons in particular, and today they are just good, solid young men! For a while, I just had no idea how we were going to get out of this behavior problem we had with our third son, and it went on for years, with lots of attempts to fix things, in various ways. That’s probably a whole other story in itself, too long for a blog post! But it has a very happy ending. Keep praying, never give up.
Early on in the book, you talk about how important it is to be both a parent and a friend. How do you create the right balance in the relationship?
This is probably not a great thing, ha ha, but there is part of me that is still very much “young” (should I say “immature”?). Meaning, I like hearing about the kids at school and who my girls (at the time) thought was cute, etc. I like teasing my boys about stuff — in a non-mocking way, of course. I guess there is a playfulness that needs to be there? That is friendship. But at the same time, I am very strict about things of the faith (barring sickness or legitimate excuse, we will never miss Mass, not a day in my life while they live under my roof, for example), and moral formation. I don’t know that I always strike the right balance, as sometimes I’ve been too much a “friend” and sometimes that can lead to unconscious disrespect especially from boys. So, I reorient and try again. Sometimes it’s hit and miss, but that’s probably true for all parents and their kids. None of us knows exactly what we are doing all the time, and sometimes we look foolish. But, if the kids know we love them, and if they know we mean business on virtue training and our faith, then things tend to work out.
You discussed how each of your children is different, and so you approached the sensitive topics of sex and chastity in different ways and at different times. It seems to me that doing so, goes against a lot of what I see and hear in the parenting world- that parents find *their way* of doing things, and if we do things differently for different kids, we are somehow being unfair. Almost like it is more about the parents finding their method than the kids and their unique needs. Do you feel like you see that in this particular area of parenting, as well as in others?
You know, that’s a really interesting question. Here’s one thing that comes to my mind: In general, with a big family especially, you have to do things differently because there is no way at all that you can make things “fair” for many kids. Sort of like, if I take one child to get ice cream on the way home from somewhere, the others might complain that it’s not fair, so that is when I say, “If I have to be fair and treat all of you the same all of the time, then that means you will all end up getting nothing. Because it cannot be done. So, if that’s what you want….” And usually that stops them, ha ha. But that is not really what you asked. You asked about the topic of sex and chastity. I think anyone who has more than a bare bones outline of what they will do or say for each child might be making a misstep, since each child is SO different in temperament, intellectual understanding, fears, needing to know, etc. Yes, we have a *general* plan, but that is as far as it goes. We go with what the child needs, and we use the Church as a guide. I stress in the book how much the Church stresses the parents’ DUTY and OBLIGATION to teach children about sexuality. But that will look different for each child.
You have a chapter of the book entitled “Fear Has A Place.” I think most of us parents don’t realize that this is already a page in our playbook, like in your example of teaching a toddler not to touch a stove for fear they could get burned. But I still think the idea of using fear will rub people the wrong way, so for those parents who haven’t read your book yet, what would you like to say to them to ease their minds about this chapter?
I remember my dad teaching me how to drive and telling me that basically the car was a killing machine if it was not in the right hands. It made me really understand the power that a 16-year-old could have! That is the type of “fear” that we want to warn our kids about. The idea that there really ARE negative consequences to misuse of sexuality, and it’s stuff from which one cannot be easily extricated. It can really harm others, and even kill their soul, if not their body. Now, just like my dad, when he was teaching me to drive, did not dwell on the “killing machine” narrative, we shouldn’t be about negativity when it comes to sex. Sex is a great thing, sent straight from God for us! But just like a car, it has to be used as designed and intended. When that doesn’t happen, bad things result. We must tell our sons about the bad things that can result, simply because their education is not complete if they don’t get that part of the message. Not to mention that, just like telling a child not to touch a hot stove lest they get burned, there is a deterrent factor in letting them see the consequences of misuse. It sure helped my boys.
Several times in the book, you mentioned a child’s character, and that when you see your child’s character change, it means that you might need to make a change. Can you discuss this principle a bit, what it could look like or maybe give us an example?
Sure! In our family, that “making a change” might mean a change of schooling. For example, we might pull a child in the middle of the year and homeschool. Maybe later, the child would go back to the school. We had and have a great deal of flexibility in our schools here, which some folks may not have, but for us it is a godsend and we use the opportunities we have to make sure that we are doing what each child needs at that time (or what the family needs). One son did not thrive at the charter school that the rest of his siblings attended for high school, so we allowed him to go to the huge public high school nearby, with the caveat that if his character changes, he’s outta there. So far so good, because he knows we mean it.
It might mean cutting off video games completely (for several months at a time), or taking away means of communication if they are not communicating respectfully (so, the phone goes). We always say, “If anything causes evil in our home, the thing goes.” And so it does. Things like that. It goes back to one of the first principles of parenting that I outline in my book: Moral formation is the number one priority. The kids know how serious I am about that.
Thank you Leila! I encourage you to go buy Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom! It is being released today and is available on Amazon, paperback or kindle version!