A legacy of faith and love

Lessons Learned

By Kristine Schroeder

Yet another report of a tragic school shooting. Innocent lives gone. Hearts forever shattered. And the question remains – Why? Some point to lax gun control. Others contend more mental-health awareness and services are long overdue. Still others suggest we need policeman in schools, armed teachers and locked doors to diminish this cycle.

While all of those ideas may help to alleviate the ongoing tragedies that haunt our nation, a friend recently said what I have been thinking for quite a while. These problems began with the breakdown in family life. Today, it is often difficult to discern who is in charge – the children or their parents.

Since Mom’s death in May, I have contemplated the best legacy of our parents. It wasn’t money. While growing up, our parents provided the necessities. We worked for our wants. College was three-fourths our responsibility. Currently, all eight of us are self-sufficient. We bought our first car and house. Once married, we were on our own. That upbringing gave us confidence in our own abilities and a realization that the world did not revolve around us.

Mom and Dad presented a united front when meting out discipline. We were disciplined with firmness, fairness and a sense of humor. We knew who was in charge, and it wasn’t us. However, like typical kids, we pushed the limits at times.

I attended an all-girls high school in downtown Indianapolis. Because the area was a bit sketchy then, my mother banned shopping with my friends after school. One day, I decided otherwise and returned home two hours past schedule. Mom was angry and grounded me for a week. Defiantly, I said, “I don’t care. You can ground me for two.” She did, and stuck to it. I learned two valuable lessons from that experience: 1) Mom meant what she said, and 2) I needed to think before speaking.

Our parents shielded us from adult concerns and problems. When my brother Tom had exploratory back surgery followed by a full body cast during three months of his eighth-grade year, we children went about our daily lives assuming all would be fine. Now, I understand that our parents had many concerns. On the other hand, our parents did not coddle us. If we were in trouble at school, we were in trouble at home. Though understanding, they let us work through our disappointments and did not rescue us from failures. They were not swayed by our teenage angst.

As preteens and teens, our parents had their own ideas about what was age-appropriate. Spending the night at a friend’s house was not allowed until high school. Dad always said, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Mom thought stockings were too grown up until eighth grade graduation, and no one dated until age 16. Mom said, “Kids grow up too fast.”

Looking back, I agree. While my own rules may have varied slightly, the lesson I gleaned from our parents were to trust my instincts and not be swayed by what the world promotes. Their example encouraged me to think on my own and stand firm in my beliefs.

Finally, I credit Mom most with handing down our Catholic faith. Dad supported 12 years of Catholic education. However, Mom wrangled seven children in church every Sunday while Dad put more importance on his golf game. Unfortunately, his lack of commitment to Church attendance has had a ripple effect in subsequent generations. Going to church as a family is imperative to living a Christian life in a secular world.

If we hope to see our world change, families need to strengthen. Children today do not need more toys, electronics or clothes. What is lacking is moral direction, discipline and a sense of purpose that can best be taught in the family. As parents and grandparents, it is our responsibility to model the Catholic faith and to teach its tenets. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Let him, not the world, be our guide.