Testimony > Family

Bringing up one’s children is bringing up oneself

How can we bring our children up to be happy adults and maintain and deepen the love which unites us with our spouse? Juliette, mother of five kids aged 11-25, shares her path in learning about family life. For her, bringing up children is necessarily about bringing herself up too.

I got married at 20. I was full of hope about what life had in store but I didn’t have any internal structure to deal with family life. I was far too idealistic about my own human abilities and the constraints of daily life. Like most young people, I couldn’t control my excesses. One expects so much of love when in reality one doesn’t give a great deal in order to let it happen. And hope quickly dies out when you don’t have a loving adult at your side to guide you and share his or her experience.

Baby bottleMy first son was born into these difficult circumstances. Then I met IVI which gave me the desire to construct myself and hope that, with God’s help, I’d be able to do this. In my family life, this faith that we develop in IVI first of all made me far more open towards my children: it gave me the ability to want them and to welcome them. Before, I had found that the world was too ugly for me to want to have them but I think above all that I was selfish and thought they’d just be a nuisance: raising children means giving a lot of yourself, developing massive stocks of patience, listening and tolerance in order to discover who they are and at the same time who we are too… Because in my opinion you can’t construct children without constructing yourself too and that takes daily effort!

Not putting them through what I’d been through

The most difficult thing when you bring up children is going beyond the flaws that your own childhood leaves in you so you don’t reproduce these same flaws. It’s very hard to teach something one never learned oneself. For a long time I was relaxed about school results because I myself had never been pushed to study. Then, thanks to the transformative work we do in IVI, I realised this was a pattern I’d inherited from my childhood. Even if school isn’t perfect, the work children do there is very constructive for them and awakens their curiosity: it’s vital.

I’m still weak because I’m afraid of offending people, it’s lack of self-confidence. But I manage to tell myself that it’s never too late, I manage not to feel guilty and to be humble about my imperfections. It’s a real relief to entrust my children to God who will know how to take care of them. I give them all the love I can every day and trust God to look after tomorrow.

Looking at the world with hope

One crucial thing IVI has brought into my family life is undoubtedly hope: we live in a difficult world but I manage to believe and I try to teach my children that everything is possible, that this world isn’t closed for them, unemployment isn’t inevitable… Everyone can find his place and his path as long as he maintains a spirit of hope. Of course it’s a struggle. My eldest son is unemployed at the moment: I can clearly see that the problems he’s facing are shaping him, giving him a suppleness and humility he didn’t have before. Like many young people I know, he is very demanding about his future job and at the same time doesn’t want one that’s too tiring. The rejections he gets force him to present himself differently, to think about what he really wants. I see the positive side of these failures and we manage to talk about it together.

Communicating is coming out of your shell and seeking the other person

In fact I was never very talkative but I have understood the importance of verbal communication above all through looking at how some of the people in my prayer group are – they’re not like me at all. These aren’t friends like the ones one chooses and these big differences make us grow. I’ve learned to communicate with my children, to ask them questions to make them think. You have to come out of your shell and seek the other person. It’s not easy when one’s never learned this and it doesn’t come naturally.

Constructive limits

I am slowly making progress when it comes to firmness: I’m not firm enough with my children, I know it and I have trouble changing. I’ve noticed that my eldest son is much firmer than me with his two 11-year old brothers: after a meal, he asks them to put their plates in the machine. If they complain, he doesn’t give up like I do. He asks them to put the knives, glasses, forks and everything in too… He sees it right through where I give up halfway… He doesn’t mind if the children complain and in the end they do what he says.

Transmission and freedom

Through my faith, I try to give my children as much love as I can and to remove from myself everything that prevents this. I try my best with a lot of faults! Then everyone’s free to lead his life the way he thinks he should. Only one of my five children is in an IVI group.

Nothing’s impossible with a faithful heart

The self-transformation work I did in IVI has also affected my married life. It took me a while to realise that faithfulness is essential: married life only begins once there is faithfulness. Only when there’s this real commitment can be the couple evolve. Otherwise one hides behind a veil and cheats. I think fidelity between a man and a woman is necessary to give the children structure, without that no union is possible in the family. It’s the opposite of the modern world where we think we can have whatever we like. There came a time when I tried to be honest with myself: either I lead a selfish life according to my emotional desires, or else I really build a family. But it’s hard to keep up one’s enthusiasm in the simplicity of daily life when one has wanted to spend a certain period of one’s life living out the highs and lows of passion. I think that the woman, who gives life to her children, also opens up her husband to the fullness of life through her love.

Differences are a source of gain

My husband isn’t in IVI: for a while that bothered me because I thought we weren’t heading in the same direction, that we didn’t have the same objectives. But I realised this was nonsense. Personally I need to pray but spiritual life is essentially one’s relationships with other people and relationships with other people are important to him: he is generous, open and takes people the way they are. Our different choices are not a source of division.