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Twelve-Step Program for Controlling Mothers

August 19, 2014 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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The King of the Golden City (Week 4 of 5)

“….Some of those books belong to him. He helped the men and women who wrote them, and he is putting his mark into them. They will do his work, and he will be near by when boys and girls take them up to get amusement out of them.” – Prince Guardian to Dilecta, The King of the Golden City (Chapter 12, Paragraph 5)

When my kids were young, I kept a sharp eye out for Malignus (a.k.a. Satan), steering my children in the opposite direction every time I caught him peering around the corner. I was hawkish in my diligence to protect them from negative influences found on TV as well as in movies, books, games and people.  Our own sinfulness notwithstanding, their father and I did our best to feed our children only from the Table of Truth.  And they trotted through life, happy and innocent.  It was a challenge, but we persevered.

Or so we thought.

Today, our teens would tell you that they are sheltered.  And our loving protection no longer seems to bring them the great joy that it has in years past.

Go figure.

Kidding aside, I must admit that this change of course has thrown me for a bit of a loop.

Call me naive, but over the past couple of years, I’ve been absolutely shocked to realize that our children have minds of their own.  That our parental influence is just that – influence. One voice among many in the world. God willing, in the end it will serve as a primary influence; but, it's frightening to think that our children actually could choose not to embrace the Truth we've taken such great pains to teach them.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not trying to say that my teens have rejected our ideals.  Or that they are bad kids.  On the contrary – they're great kids.  But they have begun to make their own choices – some good, some bad.  Some just different.  And I'm well aware that this “separation” of their identity from ours is only just beginning.

As a mother, it is hard to let go. And I don’t mean a hike to the top of Mt. Everest in my bathing suit hard. I mean sometimes my insides are torn out and stomped to pieces as I look on helplessly, unable to move or even breathe until the moment passes hard (melodramatic, maybe; but if you’re a mother, you know it’s true).

Daily I have to remind myself that my children are not actually MY children.  They are God's children.  And His plan for their lives may be very different from mine.

In an effort to help maintain some modicum of sanity through these years of separation and change, I've taken the liberty of borrowing from the acclaimed 12-Step Recovery Program. Perhaps you would like to join me in a plan to approach those turbulent stages of motherhood with some semblance of peace.

12-Step program for Controlling Mothers*


STEP ONE: I admit that I am (virtually) powerless over the constant onslaught of worldly influences on my children – that in my desperate attempt to control their environment, my life has become unmanageable.  

I have [finally] come to realize that there is no way I can stand guard before every book, television show, movie, web site, app, teacher or friend of the enemy and protect my children from all outside influences. As my children get older, my primary role is to guide, not to protect.

STEP TWO: Come to believe that a Power greater than myself can restore me to sanity. 

Lord, only You can bring me peace.  I release to You my desire to control, because if I don’t, I will certainly break before the world breaks around me.

STEP THREE: Make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God.

THY kingdom come.  THY will be done, on earth as it is in heaven… That said, the most effective moments of my motherhood career will no doubt be spent on my knees. Saint Monica, pray for us.

STEP FOUR: Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.

I must change the focus of my efforts from my children (whom I cannot change) to myself (whom I can).  In addressing my own shortcomings, perhaps I can better reflect the light of Christ for my children as well as others around me.

STEP FIVE: Admit to God, to myself and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.

Frequent Confession must be part of my monthly routine.

STEP SIX: I am entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Spiritual reading and spiritual direction are a must in my search for interior freedom. By seeking to take practical steps, I can more effectively cooperate with God’s grace in my life.

STEP SEVEN: Humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings.

And ask…and ask…and ask; like the widow who was finally vindicated by the unjust judge, as a result of her perseverance (Luke 18:1-8).

STEP EIGHT: Make a list of all persons I have harmed, and become willing to make amends to them all.

Have I made mistakes as a mother? As a wife? Have I pressed where I shouldn’t have pressed? Controlled when I should have trusted?

STEP NINE: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

I have made mistakes in the past. I will make mistakes the future. Only sincere repentance for those mistakes will allow our familial relationships to grow in a healthful way.

STEP TEN: Continue to take personal inventory and when I am wrong, promptly admit it.

See Above.

STEP ELEVEN: Seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry that out.

In addition to much time spent before the Blessed Sacrament, I will pray the Serenity Prayer often:

O God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

STEP TWELVE: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, I will carry this message to other mothers, and will practice these principles in my affairs.

Consider the message carried.


* The 12-Step Program for Alcoholics has been around for decades. In an effort to avoid recreating the wheel, these steps are taken directly from the AA Big Book, but rewritten in the first person, present tense for purposes of this discussion – very minor adjustments have been made where necessary; commentary is original.


NOTE: Our next book is coming up fast! Beginning September 2, we’ll be reading The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Avila. That’s only two weeks away!!!

Reading Assignment:

Chapters 15-19

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you have grown kids who are passionate about their Catholic Faith?  If so, what advice would you give those of us with children still at home?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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