Creating a Family Culture

When my eldest son was in preschool, I made the mistake of handing the buck to the Pope when it came to some of our parenting practices. When Jack would ask why he couldn't watch a particular show that his friends were watching, I'd say, "Well, we're Catholic and those families aren't, that show just isn't a good one for Catholics."
But then it came time for kindergarten, and we enrolled him in our parish school. Now he was being influenced by even more kids, and older kids, and the things they were watching and doing were even further outside what we considered acceptable. But now, they were all Catholic. It seemed pretty unreasonable to Jack that he wouldn't be able to go to a co-ed slumber party, or watch a particular PG-13 rated movie, or stay up until 10pm, because the kids he knew who were doing those things were also "Catholic."
We didn't last very long in that particular school (homeschooling has been a better fit for us for the past six years) but I learned an important lesson.
Now my kids all know that the reason we do things or don't do them is because WE ARE TIERNEYS. No more, no less.
We have a family culture. It is completely unique to us. It's cobbled together with pieces of Catholic and American and Irish and German and Marine Corps and Chicago and SoCal and Jock and Geek and Nerd cultures. It's all our own.
Our kids understand that Tierneys do things the Tierney way. They have absolutely NO expectation of being permitted to do or not do the things that other children do or do not do. Because they know that they are Tierneys and Tierneys ALWAYS x but Tierneys NEVER y.
We are lucky enough now to be a part of a community that shares our traditional Catholic faith and values, but even within that group there is an astounding amount of variety in what different kids are allowed to read and watch and do, what chores they have, how late they stay up, and how they approach their school days.
None of this is a problem now. We don't have to make value judgments on other people's parenting decisions. We don't have to tell our kids that other families are doing it wrong, or less-Catholic-ly. We just tell them that the Smiths do things the Smith way and the Tierneys do things the Tierney way. It covers a multitude of questions. Almost all of them.
Establishing that family culture was hardest with our first. I think it was for a combination of reasons. One, he's very observant and is always up in everyone else's business, so we've always had a lot of explaining to do for him anyway. Two, as our oldest and our only one who was ever enrolled in a brick and mortar school, he has been exposed to more kids and more varied kids. Three, he just tends to suffer things more than the other kids do.
So it took a while with him. He would ask why he couldn't play that video game or have a cell phone or have his own room when other kids he knew could. We would explain to him the reasons why we didn't think those things were a good idea, but we would also ALWAYS remind him that we are Tierneys and the main reason he doesn't have his own room is that Tierneys don't have their own rooms.
After years of not backing down, we got him on board. And once Jack is on board with something, all the other kids fall in line like ducklings.
Our kids know that while Tierneys DON'T do things like Have TVs in Their Rooms, or Order Chicken Nuggets at a Mexican Restaurant, or Eat Meat on Fridays, Tierneys DO do all sorts of other awesome stuff that other families don't do like Have Conversations With Their Children, and Like Spicy Food, and Eat All the Treats in the House on Fat Tuesday.
It keeps us confident in our particular brand of parenting, and it gives the kids pride in being members of our family, which they understand to be unique and special and unlike any other. Even if that means they have to go to bed earlier than the Joneses on New Year's Eve. Because the Tierneys always go to the Parade. And we always do it well-rested. It's just how we roll. ------------------------- It's been a while since I linked up with the gals at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday. So here goes . . .
Sweater, skirt, shoes: Boden Shirt: Anthropologie Bracelet: the Irish Saints (from QVC, thanks Gramma!)
This photo shoot brought to you courtesy of: official sleeping baby (2 months) official sleeping baby holder (11 years) official photographer (9 years)