As a parent, I have a responsibility to imitate God’s loving guidance for my children. God, in His infinite perfection, is the Perfect Father, and parents have to model their child-rearing after Him.
Consequently, the way we parent our children will have lasting effects on the way they perceive God. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become acutely aware of the similarities in how I talk to God and how I talk to my own dad. It’s amazing how my mind has categorized the two so closely.
Now that puts a lot of pressure (as if we didn’t have enough already) on parents. I have wonderful parents who were exemplary models of God to my siblings and myself, but that is not a universal experience. I constantly remind myself of my need to be loving, just, kind, merciful, and forgiving to my children, lest I place a stumbling block in their path to God.
One of the big perks of this responsibility is the ability to say, “Because I told you so.”
Remember being a little kid and asking your parents “why?” about something only to be shot back with “because I said so”? I remember being so infuriated by that phrase. It was always so unsatisfactory, I wanted to know exactly why.
My first memory of this was when I had learned the song “Where is Thumbkin?” I was so confused as to why “Mr. Tall-man” always had to hang out with “Ring Finger” and couldn’t stand up by himself. Well, at five years old, the only answer I was going to get was “because it’s not nice and because I said so.”
Twenty-some years later, I look back and chuckle, acutely aware of why it’s exceedingly rude for Mr. Tall-man to hang out alone. But at the time, even if it had been explained to me, I wouldn’t have understood. Furthermore, parts of that explanation, I simply wasn’t ready for.
Now I don’t know about you, but God tells me, “because I said so” quite often, and I’m learning to be satisfied with that answer. I do my best to never stop learning about God, but there are many aspects of His infinity that I simply cannot comprehend yet and several aspects that I can never hope to understand.
A three leaf clover will only get you so far at understanding the Trinity before your head starts to spin. We spent the last chapter of the “Marian Catechist” program talking about how Jesus is one Person in two natures with two wills, and while I passed the test with a good score, I don’t feel any closer to understanding that mystery than before I had to study twenty pages straight from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Too often, I see people who refuse to accept God’s “because I said so” as sufficient. They don’t trust that God does have an explanation for what He tells us, they think He is just trying to make their lives unnecessarily difficult.
“Why can’t I use artificial contraception?”
“Why do we have to go to church every Sunday?”
“Why can’t I just be a good person instead of messing with all these rules all the time?”
Well, because God says so. That really should be a good enough answer for anybody. But it isn’t.
Here’s where I think parents may have abused their privilege. If we use the phrase out of laziness or selfishness, that is what we are going to project onto our children’s image of God. They won’t trust that even if they don’t understand something we–or God– do, we nevertheless do it out of love for them.
Of course, those three objections above have very clear and logical answers. Unfortunately, not everyone will take the time to listen to them, and not everyone may be at a point in their Faith life where they can understand them, just like I couldn’t understand why Mr. Tall-man might be rude. But that is the glory of our wonderful Faith. Anything that God tells us has a reason. And that reason is always that He loves us, and He wants the best for us.
When we disregard His teachings because we don’t understand them and deem them unnecessary, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. He doesn’t want us to be miserable, He wants to save us from our misery.
That is the kind of love and guidance we need to give our children. So yes, I will continue to tell my kids “because I said so” upon very frequent occasions. But going forward, I hope to be more and more mindful of my reasons for using the phrase, and I hope to use it to bring my children to a deeper understanding of their Heavenly Father and His great Love for us.