Dual Parenting Action
There are a lot of social reasons why well-constructed families are important to our society. Research shows that poverty rates and criminal behavior among children in families with unmarried parents are likely to grow astronomically. However, in the United States federal and state governments are so fixated on treating the symptoms of this disease through problematic welfare and social service systems that it is left to a vanguard of Christian organizations to carry the banner for traditional marriage.
Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage describes this situation as “completely curable”, and has mounted various campaigns (most notably the Federal Marriage Amendment) to get the federal spotlight focused on the positive aspects of lasting traditional marriages.
Aside from supporting these major campaigns, which we should do, there is one definite way to turn our society towards a positive view of marriage: to live it. The best promotion for solid marriages and healthy families is to make people believe by showing them how good they can be. And one of the best ways that we can show this is to make sure that in Catholic families both parents share an equal level of responsibility in the raising of their children.
The Key to Power
Responsible parenting is a hard job. Some children are calm and composed from day one. Others (mine) are rambunctious little citizens that keep a sharp eye on all of my weaknesses so they can be exploited. Being in this situation requires a lot of patience, a lot of grace, and a lot of dual parenting action.
What is this mysterious term: dual parenting action? It is a term that I coined to describe those times when both parents are available, active, and on the same page when it comes to raising the children. At no time as a parent do you feel more empowered than when both spouses are working together unselfishly to bring love and order to the house.
Dual parenting action is a kind of a superpower (like kung fu action grip, only better). There is nothing sweeter. When attained, it makes marriage and parenting much simpler, and its effects (in how spouses and children treat and regard each other) are apparent to everybody who comes into contact with your family. However, there is one strong prerequisite to being able to wield it: a healthy marriage. Without mutual respect and admiration between spouses, it is nearly impossible.
Now, I’m no family counselor or therapist—so what I know about marriage is limited to my own experiences, the time I’ve had to share thoughts and feelings with married friends, and extensive reading. But I think all responsible men are in agreement (at least in principle) on this point: in marriage, you have to check your ego at the door.
But what does this get you in actual practice? I’ll give several examples.
Dual parenting action means that parents can cheerfully give in to one another when, in a stressful public moment, there is a difference of opinion as to how a child should be disciplined.
Dual parenting action means that at social events both parents will manage to be engaged with the children in a cooperative manner rather than one parent spending most of the time with the children while the other one socializes.
Dual parenting action means that spouses can humbly take cues from each other as to when anger or exhaustion is affecting our parental judgment.
Dual parenting action means that the husband doesn’t shirk his evening parental duties because he regards his day job to be more important than what his wife does during the day.
Dual parenting action means that wives don’t begrudge their husbands the time they have to spend at work because they see the father’s attentiveness to his children at home.
No doubt about it: dual parenting action is a sweet, sweet deal. Once you’ve tasted the power of dual parenting action, you never want to go back to parenting any other way.
And the Point Is?
I do not mean to self-righteously state that I am always a successful cooperator with dual parenting action. Believe me: I’m more than capable of being the idiot and making “dual” into “duel”. But, there is a need for good Catholic parents to champion responsible child-rearing by being at the forefront of our “profession”. Equal involvement from a time standpoint is rarely possible, but equal commitment and responsibility is.
As in all things relating to holiness, there is a paradox here. The best way to be effective outwardly is to be effective inwardly. In order to change the world, it isn’t necessary to spend all of our time on the battle lines (or on soap boxes) — and even less necessary to endlessly fret about whether this is our calling. The most important war to be won is in our own souls and in the souls of those entrusted to our care. Paradoxically, this has a tremendous power to change the world for the better.
So while we contemplate how to best support the Marriage Amendment, welfare reform, and other issues that can affect the struggle for traditional values on a political level, let’s remember that the most effective grassroots campaign is the one that begins at home.
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