Sunday, December 25, 2005

What a Mother Means to a Son: the Orderer

Mothers bring more to their sons than nurture and affection. They also bring order to their son's lives. Think for a moment about everything that Mom teaches her son to do in an orderly fashion. She washes and folds his laundry, helps him brush his teeth, teaches him to use the bathroom, makes him wash his grubby little hands, disciplines him when he does wrong, regulates his tv watching time, directs his daily napping, makes him healthy lunches, supervises his play time with friends, and so much more. Mothers do alot with their children, but it seems to me that their work of ordering their child's lives is as significant as any other aspect.

I suspect that we adults are so used to order that we don't realize how valuable it is for our lives. Sure, we think about it when we do our taxes or hire employees or attempt to organize our files, but otherwise, we give little mind to the extreme ordered-ness of our world. We don't pick up this trait by accident. It's developed within us by our parents, and I would argue, especially by our mothers who taught us the basic DNA of the daily life. A sense of order helps greatly in the adult world. We can observe deadlines, work responsibly, conduct relationships well, and concentrate when we need to do so. Those who were brought up in an ordered fashion are better able to observe boundaries of life. We can understand that friendships are to be invested with responsibility and care, that our bodies must be heeded to function well in life, and that the right way to do things does matter, even with something as basic as toaster installation.

The cultural attempt to deconstruct authority that transpired some three decades past had sweeping effects that we can all observe but affected life in more nuanced and hard-to-spot ways as well. The counter-cultural generation, once free-living hippies, now uptight boomers, raised their children with an increased focus on freedom and a decreased focus on order. Order was decried, and personal liberty exalted. Such a shift brought changes at the worldview level as postmodernism crept into the American consciousness but also at the more basic and intimate level of personal development. Children of my generation, I think, are less aware of the order of the world and are at home in disorder and chaos. Lives without schedules, relationships without bounds, philosophies without coherence--such is the stuff of the disordered life. Where can we trace this, at least in part? To the breakdown of Mom's role as the "orderer." When a generation of women prize autonomy over instruction, and raise their children from the phone, not the home, their children are affected, and order everywhere suffers. How good it is that there are parents out there who will teach their children of order. How gracious of God to give us this guide in the natural plan for the family, and how needed it is in this world so enamored with chaos.


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