A Hill to Die On

Is it over-protective of parents to not let their kids have smart phones? No. It’s not overprotective – unless absolutely all forms of protection are “over-protective”. If parents are not there to protect our children from things that are proven to lead to their long-term unhappiness, then what are parents for?

Parents often ask: Shouldn’t we let them get accustomed to smart phones so they can regulate themselves? No. Adults don’t even have the ability to regulate social media use. If adults with fully formed brains aren’t able to put their phone down, kids certainly won’t be able to. Younger brains become adapted to phones even more quickly and fundamentally than adults. Their reality is shaped by online reality, their inability to cope with emotions and real-world experiences is shaped by their life online. This is why we see children increasingly pulling away from parents in outlook and culture. The developers of these phones and apps are smarter than our kids, and us – they know how to keep us coming back, they know how to create consumers.

As this study shows, (please click link) there really isn’t a lot of room for debate anymore. Smart phones are destructive to children’s minds and the younger a child gets a smart phone, the worse their mental health will be. The older they get a smart phone, the better their mental health will be.

Kids will fight it. They want the phone. But this is worth the fight, it’s worth their anger and nagging. This is a hill to die on. Their mental health is at risk. Delay a smart phone as long as you can. If they need a phone get a internet-less Gabb or Pinwheel, there are options out there. But let’s not send our kids down a road, alone, that is full of liars, thieves, perverts, and bullies – and not real ones they can fight – but fake entities, made to look virtuous.

I understand that many parents reading this may regret giving their child a phone and feel it is now too late. It isn’t. If you can’t physically take the phone away, arm you child with truth. Show them studies like the one linked. Have them watch podcasts or documentaries that warn them. The more they know, the more they can utilize their free will, against the odds. Let their own desire for happiness help them make good choices.

Our kids will face roads full of liars, thieves, perverts, and bullies – in the real world. As parents we want to help them develop the capacity to stand strong against evil influences. To do that they will need to be mentally tough, morally sure, and confident – let’s help them become what they need to be by not giving them a smartphone.


St. Sarah Smith

In C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce he shows us his vision of the afterlife. In his allegory, Lewis travels from hell up into heaven and describes his encounters there. He sees a woman of “unbearable beauty” accompanied by a whole host of admirers. He wonders if she may be Mary, the Mother of Jesus, since she is evidently a person of tremendous significance. His guide corrects him,

“It’s someone you’ve never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golden Green.”

“She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye.   She is one of the great ones.  Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on earth are two quite different things.”

“…And who are all these young men and women on each side?”

“They are her sons and daughters.”

“She must have had a very large family, Sir?”

“Every young man or boy that met her became her son – even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door.  Every girl that met her was her daughter.”

“Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?”

“No, There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more.”

A Mother and Child, Peter Vilhelm

Sarah Smith was most certainly viewed as a woman of little importance during her life on earth. Yet we see that her influence far exceeded her fame on earth. We are not told if she had her own children, but she was a mother. She opened her door and heart children. Children are now so often ignored or misused by our culture, so often they are victims of others’ selfishness or vice. Yet the mothering of Sarah Smith lifted them.

As Lewis’ guide reminds us, small things lift us to great things – the love of a mother can repair our world.

“It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life.”

Our calling to love and care for the world’s children is more precious and crucial than we will ever realize in this life. A life devoted to others, particularly children, is not easy. Yet I trust in this dream of Lewis’. We mothers are doing God’s work on earth.

Happy Mother’s Day.

A Childless Future?

As we approach Mother’s Day we think about the love and sacrifice of our own mothers. Even if our mother is less than ideal we can at the very least thank her for our existence. Throughout human history, most little girls have grown up to become mothers. Yet, increasingly, women are not becoming mothers. Since mothers entered the “workforce”, fertility rates have dropped dramatically. We are now reaching a point of population collapse (despite some very ill-informed people still claiming we have to fear overpopulation).

Some women will say this is a good thing – women now have more freedom, they can now go into the world rather than be stuck at home. I, personally, am extremely grateful for the intellectual and career opportunities women now have. But as we see this dramatic shift in culture away from motherhood towards career we do need to honestly ask ourselves – where is joy and meaning found? Are their biological drives towards motherhood and constraints around it (fertility declines rapidly in our 30s) which may need to inform young women’s decisions? Is there a different path than the now standard – go to school…get a job…pay off debt…seek a relationship – which may be better suited to the average woman?

The clips included here are worth watching They show the state of women in our modern age and warn us to find a better way. Our modern does not seem to be sustainable or conducive to joy. As C.S. Lewis explains – “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Perhaps we should look again at traditional ideas of marriage and family, while also incorporating into our ideal the freedoms we women now enjoy.

I got married in my early 20s during college. I had five children by the time I was 34. I am 40 now. After getting over my initial depression over my old age, I now see an entire world is open to me. My youngest is now six, and motherhood’s heavy workload is behind me. I am now able to explore new interests, start a side business, and dig deeper intellectually. I have a stable home and a loving family who support and sustain me. I do not share this to boast but to show there is another way- one that includes children and is not hampered by them, but enriched by them.

I have three wonderful daughters. I encourage them in all their dreams and aspirations. I also tell them that first things should come first and that love and relationships come first.

This documentary on the reality of world population is important and informative.

The Mirror of Unhappiness

I had an experience the other day which gave me some insight into myself and how we all can be influenced by a ubiquitous object – mirrors. I went to a good friend’s house where my daughter was having soccer practice. My friends and I talked as the children played. We sat on her porch in front of a set of large windows. I have never been the type to look in mirrors much. It isn’t really a conscious choice but something I just don’t do. When I brush my teeth or if I put makeup on I focus on the task rather than my face. Therefore, there are days when I am blissfully unaware of my own appearance. As I sat there next to my friends, both of whom are very beautiful, I noticed myself in the reflection of the windows. I didn’t like what I saw. My hair was a mess and I had thrown clothes on without much care because I had worked out and hadn’t had time to shower. In my rush out the door, I had even put on my son’s Crocs- gibbets and all. Frankly, I looked haggard. As I looked into those windows at my own reflection, my world instantly shrunk inward and I became painfully self-aware. Looking into that mirror changed my orientation to the world – I went from carefree, chatting with my friends – to feeling I was inadequate and wanting to leave.

Honestly, I often do need to take more time for proper grooming and I should take an extra few seconds to find my own shoes. Some women need to focus less on their appearance and women, like me, might need to care a bit more. But I want to elaborate on this concept – a focus on self leads to unhappiness.  

Self-reflection is necessary for change and development,  yet it also tends to make us miserable. Jordan Peterson explains that, scientifically, “self-conscious thoughts load onto neuroticism (negative emotions).”

Woman Before Mirror, Ellen Emmett Rand

Self-conscious thoughts may lead to self-judgment in some women and vanity in others, but unhappiness will be its byproduct.  When we understand that thinking about ourselves makes us unhappy, we can be more discerning of what to do with these thoughts and the need to limit unhelpful self consciousness. 

 “There is no difference between thinking about yourself and being miserable.” Dr. Jordan Peterson 

Turning away from the mirror

Knowing the misery that accompanies self-obsession, it is no wonder that all religious traditions focus on controlling our innate selfishness and focusing our attention outward, toward God and our fellow man.  Those that devote their lives to God- from Catholicism to Buddhism – often take vows of poverty, wear simple clothing, and interestingly they also shun mirrors. You won’t find mirrors in cathedrals and many monasteries and convents do not contain mirrors.

We modern women are unique in our ability to constantly self-reflect, literally. Most of our ancestors did not have mirrors at all. Seeing their reflections in a pond or a well-made window might be their only chance to see themselves. While the rich could afford mirrors – and stories of Marie Antointte and Italian Countess de Castiglione demonstrate the vice of vanity, it was only during the Industrial Revolution that mirrors became common among the average man and woman. Imagine how different women’s thoughts might have been in this self-blind state. Certainly there would have been less opportunities for a woman to be thwarted in her daily work by a realization of her inadequate appearance.

Vanity, Auguste Toulmouche

Our modern culture, on the other hand, is always looking in the mirror. Many of us carry mirrors in our purses so we can check up on our face at any moment.  We take selfies and post them to Instagram, we consider our current “aesthetic”.  Social media, fashion, and materialism all drive us to create our “brand” – our identity and then broadcast it to the world. These mirrors contribute to the cult of Self and to our own misery. When we look into the mirror, we are alone with ourselves, and it is often a lonely experience.  We are precious children of God so we should not look at ourselves with disdain or feel inadequate, but we probably should look at ourselves less.  This is the key to humility, as Rick Warren said, ““Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less,”

The Eye that Ruins Us

Comparisons bring misery because we are never as beautiful, skinny or accomplished as the woman we wish we were. Benjamin Franklin said “It is the eye of other people that ruin us. If I were blind I would want, neither fine clothes, fine houses or fine furniture.”  

I only felt inadequate as I looked in those windows because I sat next to two beautiful women.  And yet, it was not really their eyes that “ruined” that moment, it was my own – my own self-consciousness. In reality, they probably didn’t care how I looked, I believe they love me as I am.  But my distorted self-conscious thoughts reshaped my view of reality. 

Again, this does not mean we do not self-reflect. If we can’t be willing to face those dark and often difficult truths about ourselves, our Shadow as Jung describes it, we cannot progress.  However, we must use these difficult reflections to learn and then move on – not return again and again, constantly ruminating about our inadequacies or relishing in our strengths. 

As Dostoyevsky tells us, “To be overly self-conscious is a disease.  An honest to goodness disease.” 

The Door out of Self

Constantly tuning into our condition, whether our physical appearance or our own mental state, and comparing it to others can cause us to become so self-absorbed that we forget about the condition of others.  When we are self-consumed, we miss the joy of the present moment; we miss tuning into others and discovering how we can help them; we miss the joys of nature and the beauty around us; we miss feelings of gratitude for the good things in our lives; we miss seeing the opportunities in our challenges.   

Perhaps the most inconvenient, yet powerful, doctrine of Christianity is that of self-denial.  Can you think of an idea as antithetical to our modern sensitivities and “enlightenment” as self-denial? And yet, scientific discoveries on the negative impact of self-conscious thoughts testifies that Christ’s words, spoken 2 millennia ago, are true, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25

Many view this doctrine of “self-denial” as a puritanical form of self-hatred.  But intuitively we know this truth; we know we need to “get out of our own head”, we need to utilize self-control and focus on others.  Our hedonistic impulses and selfish inclinations are not “us”, we are made for much more than bouncing between impulses. Happiness can be found in self-denial. If we truly want joy, we must spurn the mirror and self-obsession and think of others. As I saw myself in that window, I let the misery stew for a few moments and then tried to distract myself from myself by kicking a ball with a nearby child. 

“The love of our neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self.” George MacDonald

 Our necessary interludes for self-honesty and repentance should be quickly followed with the grateful acknowledgment of our blessings and our own infinite worth as a child of God. 

I am grateful for my painful experience with those windows at my friend’s house. I hope we as women can remember the power of mirrors, and consider looking at them, and ourselves, less. 


The Countess of Vanity, https://www.messynessychic.com/2017/09/07/the-selfie-obsessed-countess-of-vanity/

Jordan Peterson Discussing Self-Conciousness

Origins of American Education

Rare is the mother of multiple children who doesn’t have at least one child who struggles in school. A daughter who comes home tired and cranky. A son who is often in trouble for disturbing the class or not staying focused. A child who just isn’t catching on to math or reading. These realities can make us feel like we are failures or something is wrong with our child. Our children may also feel “dumb” or “broken” because they don’t fit well into the school system.

It is important for our kids to go through hard things. We don’t want to rescue them from every hardship. We also want them to learn self-control and social skills. But there are many ways and means in which to have our children face hardships and learn self-control – we need to start questioning if their long hours in public school are the best means to teach these lessons – and the best path to gain knowledge and gain competence.

Before changing course, we need to gather facts. All my children are currently in public schools, so I am on this journey of discovery myself. I am not suggesting everyone needs to pull out of public schools at this moment – but we need to begin to question, to open the door to insight.

Often we take what is normal and expected as what is best. I, for one, believe that many traditions and norms in society are usually there for good reason. But occasionally, you do stumble upon a long-held tradition that doesn’t seem to be bearing good fruit. Our children are the fruit of public schools. Some may be thriving, others may not be – but national statistics tell us that largely children are struggling. Rather than blaming the fruit – let’s look again at the tree. In reality, the modern public school is not traditional, it is intrinsically radical, as John Gatto reminds us,

“Is there an idea more radical in the history of the human race than turning your children over to total strangers whom you know nothing about, and having those strangers work on your child’s mind, out of your sight, for a period of twelve years?”

This 4-minute clip may help us start to uncover some facts about the structure of public schools. We, as deep-thinking mothers, need to start to look hard at what kind of tree is growing our children. With our knowledge, we can use our talents and energy to find solutions. We can work to change any norms that need changing – and build a tree that helps our children thrive.


Books to read:

The Underground History of American Education, John Taylor Gatto


The Phases of Learning, Oliver DeMille


Full episode with Jordan Peterson and Jeff Sandefer

Live in the Present.

Oftentimes when people advise us to “live in the present” we sense hedonistic undertones. “Eat, drink, and be happy for tomorrow we die”, a phrase taken from the Bible – is twisted to mean we should have no concern for the consequences of our actions but live for pleasure. However, the present is not simply for pleasure but for building virtue. Living in the past can limit our motivation and fill us with regret. Imagining a grand or miserable future can lead to fear or naïve expectations. The present is when the work of God can be done, where virtue is formed, and where freedom is found.

As mothers we have relevant concerns with the future and the past shapes our perspectives and habits – but what we do today – with the precious child before us at this moment – is what ultimately matters. Let’s live this moment before us and be glad in it.

Some quotes on the value of living in the Present.

The best preparation for the future is the present well seen to, and the last duty done.” George MacDonald

“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118: 24).

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

“He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time, which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity or with the Present–either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.” C.S. Lewis

“The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“The future is a blank wall on which every man can write his own name as large as he likes.” G.K. Chesterton

“Wipe out the imagination. Stop the pulling of the strings…. Think of your last hour. Let the wrong that is done by a man stay there where the wrong was done.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“We live only in the present, in this fleet-footed moment. The rest is lost and behind us, or ahead of us and may never be found. Marcus Aurelius, Emperors Handbook

The Mysticism of The Russian Easter Overture

From a young age my parents often played classical music in our home. I remember initially being annoyed by it – I preferred music with a strong beat and words. But my parents persisted – they enjoyed it and wanted their kids to develop a taste for it. Therefore classical music was in the background of our family culture. One of my older brothers took an interest in classical music and became quite the expert on it. He would go into his basement bedroom and listen to the great Russian composers for hours. I didn’t understand why, but the music drew me into that cold basement. I found there a respite from the stress and worries above ground. As I grew into a teenager and went to college I listened to classical music often. My favorite piece became the Russian Easter Overture, written by Rimsky Korsakov in 1888 on the theme of Christ’s resurrection. This piece of music has been an inspiration to me at many points in my life.

I am a skeptical person.  From I young age I have questioned just about everything.  I like to know things for myself.  At certain times of my life, I have found myself questioning too much – unsure of the reality or truth of anything, or anyone.  Almost out of habit when I have these feelings grow in my mind I find myself turning on The Russian Easter Overture.  I am not entirely sure why, but this piece has a mystic quality for me – it calms my mind and stirs hope in my soul. Good art has the ability to elevate us above our present doubts and concerns and enables us to apprehend wisdom that the intellect cannot grasp.  

Chesterton elaborates on this need for the mystic experience found in art:

“Mysticism keeps men sane…The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.”

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Yesterday I was in the kitchen making Hot Cross Buns, another Easter tradition, and I put on the Russian Easter Overture. I found myself weeping into my dough. The majesty of this music is evidence for me of the reality of beauty and goodness. It makes hope real and life jubilant. I have found many intellectual answers to my doubts but intellectual knowledge is not as convincing for me as the divine assurances found in this piece of music

I am immensely grateful for The Russian Easter overture and what it has meant to me over my 40 years of life. I am thankful that my parents and my older brother nurtured an appreciation of this art in my childhood. As parents, we should bring art into our homes; it can speak to our children’s souls in ways that our teaching can’t. It can also give rest to our own souls as we face the difficulties of parenting. When words fail, when your seeking leaves you lost – I hope you have a Russian Easter Overture you can listen to, to keep you sane.

Procession of the Cross, Illarion Michajlowitsch Prjanischnikow

Resoures on Art:

Queens Banning Tik Tok

Our current news cycle is full of stories about Tik Tok. Government officials are threatening to ban the site because of foreign influence and its negative effects on children. In reading the comments on articles about this issue, many mothers and fathers express how damaging and addictive Tik Tok has been for their children.  Many seem eager for the state to step in.  G.K. Chesterton once said, “Without the family, we are helpless before the state.”  But the comments coming from these families instead show they feel helpless without the state. But do we really need the government to ban Tik Tok?  

I am not an expert on these matters but it seems like it’s in society’s best interest to get rid of Tik Tok.  Nonetheless, banning it seems like an exercise in futility. When the underlying culture has a desire for such content, another Tik Tok will soon emerge.  Sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook can be equally destructive.  Supply will always meet demand. 

So what are we to do considering the ready supply of damaging technology, the insatiable appetite of addicted youth, and the mountain of evidence showing us that these platforms damage our kid’s minds, destroy their self-confidence, and undercut the values taught in our homes? (If you feel these concerns are exaggerated or just the age-old fear of  change – go on TikTok, do some simple searches, and see what sort of narcissistic, immoral, and demeaning content is readily available to young children.)

To seek solutions, I turn to a topic to which many busy moms can relate.  Due to a variety of reasons: stress, poor willpower, and convenience foods, it seems like every other week I am starting a new diet – seeking to undo the damage accrued over the last week. On those rare occasions when my diet is successful, the key to success lies in two things: ensuring that I control both my demand for junk food and my supply of it. I have to psychologically prepare before a new diet – I have to be motivated to actually stop eating junk.  But I also have to actually get rid of the supply. If chocolate chips are accessible, then when the stress descends, I grab a handful. But if they aren’t there, I’m unlikely to drive to the store to get some.

Faerie Queen,  Briton Riviere

Influencing Demand

I believe in order to overcome Tik Tok, and all the other destructive pulls upon our children, we would be wise to remember what a “family” can really be –  what it is meant to be. As  Chesterton explains, 

“The “state” is made up of a number of small kingdoms, of which a man and a woman become the king and queen, and on which they exercise a reasonable authority, subject to the common sense of commonwealth, until those under their care, grow up to found similar kingdoms and exercise similar authority. This is the social structure of mankind, far older than all its records, and more universal than any of its religions, and all attempts to alter it are mere talk and tomfoolery.” GK Chesterton

We as mothers control supply and demand in our little kingdoms –  our homes. We are the queens of our castles. Inside this kingdom, we set up rules and traditions. When I was a child, our family-kingdom had different traditions than the neighboring ones. We shuddered when we heard other kids say  “shut up” because it wasn’t allowed in our home.  They surely thought we were strange. Every Saturday night we all gathered around and cheered our brothers while they had boxing matches in our living room. Each kingdom is strange because each kingdom is as unique as its king and queen.  This is part of the joy and diversity of life, observing the strangeness of other families while we ourselves belong to a strange family. 

The family is the test of freedom; because the family is the only thing that the free man makes for himself and by himself.

G. K. Chesterton

Children accept the reality they are given. Those of us older than 35 never yearned for a cell phone when we were kids.  We didn’t whine for a Tik Tok account.  Of course we didn’t –  these things didn’t exist.  We can make them not exist in our kingdom.  We are allowed to have family rules and traditions. It is not “controlling” to set up a family environment the way you want to. We are not a tyrant if as “Queen” we have a plan for our kingdom. It is called parenting. Our method of rule is particularly important when our children are young. These are the years they are developing their morals, their sense of self, their ability to have self-control, and their psychological and emotional depth. Often as mothers, we feel we are always saying no, particularly in our immoral culture. But the wonderful thing about setting up your family culture is that you aren’t saying “no” – you are saying “yes!”  You aren’t ruled by worldly culture – you are your own ruler. You are replacing those chocolate chips with colorful fruits.  You are developing a home full of adventures and traditions. My husband grew up playing soccer – he has coached all our kids and after work he plays soccer with them on the lawn.  We are a soccer family. I grew up traveling – our kids have developed a love for it as well and we take them on foreign adventures. 

If our children display an interest in something, we encourage them to pursue it and include it in our family traditions. If we fill the space with wholesome activities and interests, then our children are less likely to feel a lack from not having Tik Tok.

Another way of controlling “demand” is to educate our children about the dangers of Tik Tok and other technologies and the harmful messages found therein. Children are capable of grasping truth and the more we teach them, the more they understand. We can help them recognize the consequences of bad habits by pointing out everyday examples-  from my own inability to resist chocolate chips to their little brother’s habit of biting his fingernails to their friends’ obsession with Fortnite. We can teach them the importance of using time wisely and the necessity of hard work. The Truth is powerful, even to children. 

Controlling Supply

We are the gatekeepers to what our children consume. We can’t blame the world, the government, or greedy amoral corporations. If our kids are consuming junk – get it out of the house. There are times when we need to clear out the supply of chocolate chips or technology.  We need a fresh start to give us room to improve our desires.  If I go two weeks without chocolate chips, I stop needing them.  Change the passwords and throw the video game console off the balcony if you need to –  do what needs to be done in your kingdom. (It’s far better to be aware enough to not let things get to the point of having to throw it off the balcony – but it is still often better to do that than to give up and yield your influence right when your children most need it). Our children will adapt to changes in supply.   

When we send our children to public schools, they will see the other “strange” ways of living life. Their friends will have Tik Tok.  If they go to friends’ houses, they may see strange traditions – like spending hours playing video games.  Hold strong to your traditions, and your kingdom. When I am on a diet, I don’t hang out in bakeries.  If our children have influences that we feel are pulling them away from what we believe to be best and true, then we should pull back from those influences.  

“There is no doubt that it is around the family and the home that all the greatest virtues, the most dominating virtues of human society, are created, strengthened and maintained. “

Winston Churchill

There are times when even with our best efforts to encourage our children to develop good habits and desires – the call of Tik Tok and technology remains. My grandmother was the healthiest woman west of the Mississippi. She grew all their family’s food, owned a health food store, and was never a hypocrite because neither chocolate nor sugar ever passed her lips.  But when my mom was a child,  she would save any coins she could find and go to the corner market to buy candy.  This is the nature of life – our children make their own choices and they need to live and learn.  However, my mother retained the wisdom of her mother and despite her earlier rebellion, she returned to the wisdom of her youth and continued the tradition of healthy eating. 

Always in my mind as a mother is a question – “Am I being controlling?”  When we control something, we force it against its own nature.  Controlling children against their nature can be harmful. But as mothers, we are there beside our children as they develop their natures – their interests, habits, and personalities.  We do have to exert a bit of control in our children’s lives or they would run into the street and eat bags of sugar.  But as we walk with them and teach them virtue by example, the need for control diminishes.  They have their own knowledge and their own desire for virtue.  As our kids become teenagers, we slowly step back and give them more autonomy.  They will sneak candy sometimes. They may throw a fit about not having Tik Tok.  We don’t “freak out” or condemn them – we aren’t tyrants.  We trust in the lessons we taught them, we encourage them, but we still maintain the traditions of our home.  When they leave the house they can keep our traditions or drop them. My sons don’t box in our living room. But having traditions is not controlling, they provide stability and unity in a chaotic world. 

Our culture assumes all traditions are stifling and nonsensical and we see the depressing consequences of such a belief. (A great essay by Chesterton on the subject) Traditions are the wisdom of the ages, or as G.K. Chesterton says, “Tradition is democracy extended through time.” If I were to embrace my grandmother’s tradition of healthy eating, I could prevent my endless dieting; and if my children follow my wisdom, they can prevent the time-wasting and self-consumption of Tiktok. Good traditions are timeless – they are wisdom shared with beloved descendants.

“Those who leave the tradition of truth do not escape into something which we call Freedom. They only escape into something else, which we call Fashion.”

G. K. Chesterton

Be a Confident Queen

Many children with Tik Tok and other destructive technologies likely got them in a similar way – they wore their parents down with complaints until they gave in. Their dads got sick of being the bad guy or their moms didn’t want the fight. They allowed their small kingdom to be invaded by a kingdom of debauchery. This is lazy parenting. I know the temptation. Parenting is incessant and difficult, but if we give in to our children’s demands when we know the consequences, we will regret it.  

If we don’t know the destructive nature of these new technologies, we need to become informed so we are armed for the battle of wills. (resources supplied at the end of the article) There are many “nice” moms who are worn out and stifled by motherhood because they don’t have the courage to create the kingdom for themselves and their families that they want. They are too concerned with being “liked” and not concerned enough about being right. They allowed their small kingdom to be invaded by a larger, corrupt empire.

Ruling our own kingdom and setting up traditions contrary to our culture is difficult. It requires a lot of self-discipline and rejection of the easy path. But we mothers don’t want easy. We want results. We want our children to be happy, well-rounded, and virtuous. We are happy to put in more effort if it means we get to have a good relationship with our kids and give them a good start. If, instead, we abdicate the responsibility of raising our children to the culture – to TikTok – we will end up with children who feel like foreigners in their own kingdom.

“The family is the nucleus of civilization.”  Will Durant

As we wait and see what the government does about Tik Tok, we realize that ultimately what they do doesn’t matter – it is what we do that matters.  Society is only as good as its families, as good as its mothers and fathers. The government is not virtuous; the government doesn’t know or care about our children. But we can be virtuous; we can care about our children.  Ban Tik Tok or not, but it is us parents who decide what our kingdom will allow. 

“Only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard or a status by which to criticize the State. They alone can appeal to something more holy than the gods of the city.”

G.K. Chesterton


A great resource with a lot of data from a previous denier who has accepted the dangers of Tik Tok and other social media. 

Tik Tok Damages Brains: https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/34138/20211025/tiktok-bad-brain-constant-social-media-streaming-narrows-collective-attention.htm

Raising Rebels https://philosophyofmotherhood.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/raising-rebels/

Encouraged by Virtue

“When you need encouragement, think of the qualities people around you have: this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, another’s generosity, and so on. Nothing is more encouraging, as when virtues are visibly embodied in the people around us, when we’re practically showered with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Let’s acknowledge the virtue, talents, and beauty of others. As we do we are reminded of the goodness in the world. Our cynical and competitive culture seeks to convince us that all goodness is hypocrisy, all virtue is masked vice, and love is really just self-interest. It’s not true. Yes, there is weakness and imperfection in all of us, there is also strength and virtue. Today as we observe our world and our divine sisters and brothers let’s brighten our day by focusing first on their encouraging qualities.

Balx du moulin de la Galette, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Avoiding Cantakerousness

I recently finished reading Candide, by Voltaire, the humorously tragic story of a very unfortunate man. After a lifetime of calamities, he begins to question if his optimism has any grounding in reality. Is anyone genuinely happy? Voltaire’s parody is extreme in its portrayals as he seeks to disprove the statement that “all things work out for good”.

Life can certainly be a struggle. We should be grateful for the respites of happiness and comfort we receive. The story of Candide shows that much of our unhappiness emanates from moral evil.  However, we are reminded that our own ingratitude and criticism also bring misery.

Candide and his friend Martin, in their search for a happy man, decide to visit a rich man who had magnificent possessions. They discover that he, rather than gaining joy from his advantages, finds fault in most literature, music, and art, and is bored by his home and possessions.

Candide, naive and hopeful, says to Martin, “‘You must admit that there is the happiest man alive, he is superior to all he possesses.’

‘Don’t you see, said Martin, that he is disgusted with everything he possesses? Plato long ago said that the best stomachs are not those that reject all food.‘

‘But’, said Candide, ‘Isn’t there a pleasure in criticizing everything and discovering faults where other men detect beauties?’

‘That is to say,’ replied Martin, ‘there is a pleasure in not being pleased.”

Criticism, while not a “pleasure”, is attractive nonetheless. For those of us with a critical and discerning nature, It is difficult not to notice the negative, not to compare and contrast, not to see the “lack of ideal”.  And yet, in our criticism, we may leave less room for positivity or enjoyment.

A young father emailed me once and described what sounded from his tone like a desperate situation. He had what appeared, externally, to be a wonderful life – beautiful children, a marriage, and a good job. However, he explained that after work he dreads going home. He knows that as soon as he walks in the door he will be hit by a deluge of negativity and complaint. He said his wife’s attitude has spiraled to the point where she can no longer go five minutes without nagging, complaining, or arguing. I only got one side of the story and maybe the husband was a jerk, but we have all seen it – a once beautiful woman who gives in to negative thoughts and negative emotions. It ages her – it ages everyone around her. The male equivalent is the easily recognizable “grumpy old man”.

 At the end of the book Candide finally achieves what he has been seeking, sacrificing for, and suffering to find – the “love of his life” Lady Cunegonde.  He has followed her around the world, through many perils – the thought of her has been his point of hope. 

Voltaire writes, “It would be natural to suppose that, after so many disasters, Candide should lead the most pleasing life imaginable, married at last to his mistress…”

They began a life free from trauma and wickedness and settled into quiet tranquility.  However, instead of the pleasing life Candide had hoped for Voltaire tells us, “His wife daily grew uglier, and became more cantankerous and insufferable.”

She, like too many women and men, allowed her negative thoughts to transform what might have been a happy ending, into a life of disappointment and misery.

It is difficult for me not to notice things. I sympathize with Dostoyevsky who said, “To be acutely conscious is a disease, a real, honest-to-goodness disease.” 

But I have learned, and Candide reminded me, that if I don’t restrain this critical propensity – temper it, and learn self-control in what I choose to express – I may turn into that rich man or Lady Cunegonde. It takes an enormous amount of self-control to restrain our criticism.  Frankly, I find it easier to withstand a plate of homemade cookies than to not point out the poor writing in a popular movie, or the poor manners of the neighbor’s kids.  And I really like cookies.  Hormones, sickness, and justified injustices make exercising this self-control of criticism even more difficult. But just like those cookies will end up living on my thighs, negativity lives in our souls and darkens the world around us. 

“The soul becomes dyed by the color of its thoughts.”

Marcus Aurelius 

Psychologists have shown that in order to maintain a positive relationship with others every negative interaction must be balanced by five positive interactions.  Negativity is unfortunately more potent than positivity.  This doesn’t mean we can never point out falsehoods or bad manners – it just means we should emphasize the positive more than the negative.  We should be more conscious of what we choose to express and follow up on necessary negativity with an increase in positivity. 

Ultimately Candide resigns himself to a life less than imagined.  He and his friend Martin determine, “We must work without arguing, that is the only way to make life bearable.”  Honestly, I found the book to be a caricature of life rather than an honest depiction.  Voltaire was trying to make a point that life was fateless and miserable, and he wouldn’t allow any truth, goodness, or hope to obstruct his mission. And yet, it reminded me of the suffering criticism and negativity can cause – life is difficult enough – let’s not ruin those respites of peace and happiness by being cantankerously critical. 

Melancholy Woman, Pablo Picasso