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Today our younger daughter turns 13. Yes, it’s her birthday. We now officially have two teenagers in the house.

On this Mother’s Day weekend, our daughter’s birthday got me thinking about the responsibility I have as her mother. In a few years our daughters will leave the protective nest my husband and I have provided and will be launched into the real world. What kind of young women will they be? And what is my responsibility to bring them to that state?

One of the things that happens (largely for commercial reasons) around Mother’s Day is the media covers all mothers with a thick, superficial, suffocating layer of syrupy-sweet mush about all the sacrifices we make, the wonderful things we do, the perfection we achieve and other saccharin accomplishments. Held up to this lofty and unattainable ideal, it’s enough to make any mother ashamed of her numerous faults, oversights and insecurities.

But what does it mean, really, to be a mother?

From a biological perspective, of course, all you have to do is push out a baby. Lots and lots and lots of women have done this, including many who shouldn’t.

Of these women – the ones who really shouldn’t have babies – I think most highly of those who know they’re unprepared to be mothers and then give up their babies for adoption. The teenage mother of my youngest brother knew this. Rather than attempt to raise her son on her own, she made the great sacrifice to give him to a loving family to raise.

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Not all mothers are prescient enough to do what’s right. Far too many mothers fail in their task of raising their offspring to become moral and productive members of society. Our country is rife with children who grow up with an entitlement mentality, who complain whenever a hard task is required of them, who are lazy, who have flexible morals, who have the work ethic of lichen and who think the world owes them a living. These children become a detriment rather than a benefit to our nation.

A few years ago a campaign was launched stating that “It takes a man to be a dad.” Similarly, it take a woman – a sensible, practical, dedicated, level-headed, sacrificial woman – to be a mom. Mothers don’t just ferry their kids from soccer practice to piano lessons after school. Mothers also impart morals, values, training, discipline and high expectations in their kids. Or at least, they should.

But too many mothers are slack in this department. I’ve seen mothers dress up their 8-year-old daughters like little sluts. I’ve seen mothers let their young sons hit girls and merely shrug it off. I’ve seen mothers let their children run rampant through a grocery store, yanking packages off shelves as they trot in their dust whimpering, “Johnny, don’t do that. … Johnny, stop it. …”

And of course, far too many mothers want to be pals with their kids rather than parents. Big mistake.

Let’s face it, a lot of mothers are falling down on the job. They’re launching a bunch of spoiled undisciplined brats upon society. This does no service to anyone, least of all the children.

But it may not be entirely the fault of the mothers. Many of them don’t know any better because many of them are descendants of the feel-good anything-goes mothers of the ’60s generation. Or, alternately, many mothers today are descended from the career-is-paramount radical feminist mentality that also took hold in the ’60s. Both these extremes do a flagrant disservice to the children wrecked by such “mothering.”

One of the problems, I believe, is we’re trying to re-invent the wheel. For thousands of years, mothers (in conjunction with fathers – remember them?) trained their children to conform to the highest standards of their culture and religion. Today we turn that training over to public schools, peers, pop culture, television and a hundred other lowly irreligious influences and then wonder why our nation’s morals are in the sewer.

We mothers are told that if our kids don’t attend government schools, ape their peers, dress “fashionably” and be intimately familiar with whatever dribble is on television, then our children will grow up to be misfits having the social skills of, say, wood lice. Instead, the opposite is true. Children who are raised and trained by mothers who reject our broken society’s standards of skanky dress, easy sex, raunchy music and other “popular” values turn out children who are polite, self-disciplined and have a high work ethic. These children are the hope of society.

As I write this, it’s late evening and I’m sitting in the living room of a neighbor’s house. The neighbor’s 16-year-old son asked for my 15-year-old daughter’s help with a video project he’s doing for a school drama class. The boy’s parents had an evening commitment and couldn’t be home. Because we have a rule that the teens aren’t allowed to visit each other without a parent at home, I volunteered to chaperone the kids while they worked on the film project.

The boy is entirely trustworthy. My daughter is entirely trustworthy. But it would open the door to temptation to leave two teens alone in the evening to work on a school project. It’s also a lesson for my daughter on her responsibilities when she becomes a mother. So … I’ll sit and write my column in the neighbor’s living room. It’s what responsible mothers do.

So moms, here’s an assignment for you. Think about what you want your children to be like in their 20s or 30s. Do you want them to dress like skanks, procreate unthinkingly, have a mouth like a sailor and be unemployable because of their snarky attitude? Or do you want them to dress neatly, wait until marriage to have kids, speak politely and impress prospective employers with their respectful stance and high work ethic?

Whatever it is you cultivate now will bear fruit in the future. Now is the time to step up to the plate and train up your children in the way they should go, so when they are old they will not depart from it. It’s what responsible mothers do.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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