Even Ducks Can Hiss

I always knew ducks quacked. But I never knew they hissed. Recently, as I walked along a path near our home, a mommy and daddy duck hissed at me. You would think they thought I wanted to take their little baby ducks home and cook them for dinner.

Over time, as they saw me taking more walks, mommy and daddy duck got used to me and stopped hissing — for the most part. But daddy duck still looks at me from the corner of his eye every now and again, stretches his long neck, and just in case I am even thinking of pulling any funny stuff, gives me a little hiss.

We parents “hiss” to protect our children. The problem is many of us hiss over the wrong things. We hiss when the umpire dares to call little Tommy out as he runs to first base. We hiss at the catechetical instruction that teaches the truth that hell is real, and that a good way to get there is to skip going to Mass every Sunday. We hiss at the teacher who tells our child to stop talking when he should be quiet. We hiss at the judge who fails to give our child first place in the contest. Oh yes, we hiss. The parental instinct to protect our children is alive and kicking. But it is sometimes warped and misdirected.

It is misdirected because there is no time to think, and no time to spend time alone with God anymore. Twisted media images warp our minds and shape our thoughts, bombarding us from morning until night, displacing our time with God and efforts to seek truth and virtue.

The parental instinct to protect is ingrained. But it is off-kilter. We parents need to start hissing at the porn shops in town, knowing that with every porn shop, the chance that one of our children will be raped rises. We ought to start hissing at the pornography filtering its way into commercials and into the lives of our young. We ought to be hissing over the ridiculous notion that a reward needs to be attached to every accomplishment in life, denying children the joy of knowing what it's like to do good just for the sake of doing good. We need to start hissing at children’s liturgies and literature that dumb our kids down, and catechetical programs that deny them the hard but true faith taught by Rome. We ought to hiss at clothing designers who produce nothing but indecent garments for the female population, from toddlerhood to old age, as if our primary purpose in life was to spawn populations of prostitutes.

We are too busy to think to hiss about such things. It’s hard to hiss about morals when Susie is getting ready to dance the part of Clara in The Nutcracker, Tommy has his “traveling” baseball team, and Katie a gymnastics meet. There are too many parties, there is too much cake, and we spend too much time preparing for and attending it all. There are awards dinners, ceremonies to celebrate this and that, and graduations. We can’t miss our favorite television shows. And then there are the bills, the cleaning and the shopping. So who has time to sit and ponder the will of God?

When time is not made for prayer, we parent without wisdom. We run the risk of caring about all kinds of things that, in the end, just don’t matter. We also run the risk of not caring at all about important things that do matter — things that will matter not just tomorrow but for all eternity — like the state of our souls and those of our children. It’s easy to run around hissing about any old thing on our child’s behalf, whether it poses a real danger or not. Even ducks do that.

The problem is not that we’re not hissing. The problem is we don’t know anymore what to hiss about. We are running so much we have no time to pray and discern what is right and what is wrong. If we never stop running, then exactly when is God to speak to our hearts and fill us with His wisdom?

We are not just running from God; we are running from Him fast. But God is pursuing us, even if, with our backs to Him, we’re oblivious to that. In the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta “If you are too busy to pray, then you are too busy.” If we cannot pray, we may still hiss. But we’ll hiss over all the wrong things. If we cannot pray, we can still parent — but we cannot parent well, “for the Lord gives wisdom” (Prv 2:5).

© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange

Mary Anne Moresco writes from Monmouth County, New Jersey.

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