My husband and I were the first in our group of friends to come to the church, almost immediately after we became parents for the first time. We eagerly absorbed new information.
I was very pleased to learn many new words and concepts, and I almost stopped asking naive questions in the church, like, "Is this already Communion? And when is Communion? Father, what sins should I confess, I have not stolen or killed anyone?".
Among my friends, I was the most religious for a long time. My tiny first-born stretched out his hands to everything delicious on the table, anticipating the prayer before eating. And I sternly (oh, how ashamed I am now!) told him, "Come on, be patient, my good boy!". And my friends laughed at me and my neophyte strictness.
For a long time, I was interested in everything that Orthodox parents are advised to do. I read everything I could find about it, but the advice I came across was contradictory. For example, some old books said that children should be spanked. Others said that children should be brought to morning prayer. But what if they don't understand the prayer? Should they be forced to stand through the whole service in the church or should they play with their peers in the churchyard? And what to do when a child is sick - give antibiotics or pray harder? Should they be vaccinated or rely on God? And how to impress upon your daughter that what's important is not the shape of her nose but how spiritual she is? I asked myself all these questions and was always in doubt.
My good friend, a priest, treating me to tea and cookies in the circle of his large beautiful family, said: "Don't push them too hard! Don't push them! They will behave as you do in your own family! They will resemble you, not the preachings you speak!"
This kind shepherd, who had raised many children of his own, explained to me simple but important things. If your child has problems, try to solve them in the best and most reasonable way possible. If they are struggling with their studies, find a good teacher instead of taking the stance of a wise adult and saying, "What, studying is your job! You must do it well, God loves hard workers!" Look at their math textbook and your tone might lose some of its pompousness! Or, if your child has crooked teeth, urgently go to a good orthodontist. Straighten their teeth so they won't be ashamed to smile in front of their peers. And then, tell them that their spiritual appearance is also important. But, after the orthodontist.
Dear parents, who ask God as many questions as I do! The path to Orthodox upbringing lies through the orthodontist, the teacher... and through us, through such simple and honest things.