Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
I've noticed something troubling recently at Mass. It's parents at Mass without their children. And I'm not talking about the wee ones who cry and eat Cheerios in the pew. Actually I still see them quite a bit and am glad for it. It's the teens I don't see.
I've noticed parents that I've seen for years bringing their little ones to Mass suddenly flying solo as their children become teenagers.
What's going on? Is it some misguided notion that you shouldn't force religion on teenagers? Is this a trend you see at your parish? It seems pretty foolish to me. If you ask me, parents should be forcing teenagers to do all sorts of things, shouldn't we? If we see our children veering in a dangerous direction what does it tell them when we don't attempt to change their direction? If we don't require them to attend Mass as teenagers either we don't care about them so much or we don't consider religion all that important. I don't really see other options. And believe me, they notice.
Parents nowadays, it seems to me, are spending too much time trying to act like their teenagers, dress like them, and speak like them in an effort to relate or remain relevant? When did relevance become so important? My parents didn't care about seeming relevant or cool. That's what growing up is about, isn't it?
I've heard so many people say that kids grow up so fast nowadays but young people don't seem more grown up to me. Do they to you? Sure they're exposed to a lot more than most of us probably were. But that doesn't seem to have made them grow up faster or better. In fact, doesn't the opposite seem to be true? I see parents allowing their children to make calamitous decisions and calling it "growing up."
This is not a gripe about "those darn kids today." This is a gripe about those darn parents today.
I spoke to a mother recently who laughingly told me that the only way she learns what goes on in her teenager's life is via Facebook. Another woman in the group laughed and complimented her because her daughter hadn't even accepted her as a "friend" on Facebook so she couldn't get on to her daughter's account. What?!
When our children are babies we cater to their every need. When they're toddlers we walk behind them ready to catch them. Then we bring them to every dance rehearsal, soccer game, and playdate. And then when they become teenagers and things become most confusing for them we decide its hands off time.
Are we insane? Because your children no longer cry when they need you doesn't mean they don't need you. Silence is actually more worrisome. We don't let our kids walk down the block alone but we let them on the internet without supervision for hours a day?
I think children are suffering from parents that are too interested in being their kids bffl's than actually being Mom and Dad. Too many parents aren't willing to have their kids angry at them. I don't think my Dad thought too much about whether I was mad at him or not. And I didn't get a choice about going to Mass. Well, I had a choice. It was attend Mass or I could go find a place of my own.
Even if the kid refuses to acknowledge anything transcendent about the Mass, if nothing else it'll teach the kid to sit still for an hour and learn patience. I'd say about 80 percent of life is doing things we don't necessarily want to do at that moment. This will get them used to it.
And one more thing -- they'll see that it's important to you. And no matter what they may say, that matters to them.
Kids will see that you don't care about what the world thinks of you and despite what they say kids are so laden with caring about what everyone in the world thinks that they're terrified half the time. Kids crave to not care so much what others think. Seeing the solace you take in religion gives them a roadmap, a perspective outside the culture. Mass is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child. Whether they say they want it or not.