Two years ago, I posted a Screwtape Letter for a Homeschool Mom. Well, guess what? He's baaack! Nasty ol' Screwtape has another letter of advice for his protégé Bitterwench, the devil assigned to a mother of young children.
My Dear Bitterwench,
I am pleased to hear that already your patient has shown signs of peevishness and impatience. Do not think, however, that these are the results of your efforts. You should know by now that half-grown homo sapiens do not need much prodding from us to test the patience of the parents. Thanks to the pride and stupidity of Eve, humans are born selfish, lazy, and prone to whining. Nonetheless, make sure you capitalize on these juvenile tendencies. You should be able to wreak amusing havoc in that little home school by means of their innate egocentricity. But this is all elementary.
I see that your patient is a disgustingly devoted mother. Take this devotion, Bitterwench, and corrupt and convolute it. Twist dedication to her offspring into an attachment to success. She must be made to feel that unless her little brats are successful in several arenas of their lives, she will be a failure. Fear of Failure is one of our most delightfully destructive tools.
With Fear of Failure, we can prod the mother up the rickety ladder of Unrealistic Expectations and throw her down into the Pit of Discouragement. One day, make her feel that her off-spring are remarkably clever; the next day let them seem dull-minded or lazy. One day the brats may appear to be little angels, thanks to her expert parenting, of course; the next, let her see them as the disgusting vermin of a mother who cannot control her brood.
Wherever you lead her — whether up or down — she must be made to feel that these apparent successes or failures are hers and hers alone. Let her assume full responsibility for the behavior of her little imps. Undulating between pride and false humility, the mother becomes an ineffective, self-absorbed parent. As the year goes on, increase the undulations such that her expectations become more and more unrealistic, (especially for herself) and her periods of discouragement ever more deep and frequent.
Fear of Failure is also an excellent means of keeping her mind on the distant future. See to it that her definition of success is limited to success in the material world. Academic achievements, scholarships, and admittance into college must become a priority. Repeatedly tell her that she is not doing enough, that her little wenches are not learning enough. Make her worry that her urchins will not get a college education or enjoy a well-paying career. The results thereof shall be doubly pleasing. First, in being pre-occupied with material success, she will be prone to neglect the spiritual realm. Second, Fear of Failure keeps our patients out of the Present Moment.
Whatever you do, you must keep the mother's mind from focusing on the duty of the moment, for that is where the Enemy resides and interferes to a most sickening degree. Let her dwell painfully over past injuries and mistakes. Or put before her eyes imaginary scenes of future suffering and difficulties. Then you will have the pleasure of seeing her in anguish over sufferings of which she has not the strength to bear. The Enemy only supplies aid enough for the present.
Mary Cooney is a home-schooling mother of six who lives in Maryland. The first instalment of her diabolical advice is here.