Two years ago, I posted a Screwtape Letter for a Homechool Mom. Well, guess what? He’s baaack! Nasty ol’ Screwtape has another letter of advice for his protegé Bitterwench, the devil assigned to a homeschooling mom.
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 ego-centricity. 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 teacher. 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. If you succeed in doing this, Bitterwench, you will be well on your way to inciting the mother to give up entirely on this nasty business of homeschooling.
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 the bear. The Enemy only supplies aid enough for the present day because he wants mortals to trust blindly in his schemes. The human creature who lives in the present moment is difficult to goad. But it is deliciously easy to torment the ones who dwell in the past or future into a state of depression or nervousness.
Besides Fear of Failure, one of the most powerful emotions a mother can experience is Pity. Self-pity is a most effective trap. But stronger yet is pity for one’s own off-spring. And with this we can induce our patients to commit many irrationalities which ultimately push their progeny into our hungry arms. Urge the mother to feel sorry that her children do not enjoy the latest toys and gadgets that their peers do. Let her regret that her brood do not have enough friends or that they have to suffer even the minutest discomforts. Let her feel pity when her children have to work a little hard or long or when they suffer a little boredom.
Never let it occur to her that her brats are far better off than most immature bi-peds. Rather, she must pity her children for the slightest imperfection in their lives and consequently coddle and spoil them until they become entitled, ungrateful, beastly little weaklings who are never content with anything. What a pleasant lot with which to spend day after day! Thanks to unfounded and irrational maternal pity, her urchins become so disagreeable that the mother will begin to resent her wretched off-spring. Be sure to turn this resentment into bitter remorse, not the type that leads to humility and contrition, but the brooding remorse that leads to shame and despair. I assure you, soft, pampered, weak-livered souls make tender, tasty morsels, while the bitter, angry sort produce a most satisfying crunch. Spoiled children and their resentful mothers make a delightful delicacy in the house of Our Father Below.
Finally, remember this: A tired woman succumbs more easily to feelings than one who is well-rested and clear-minded. You must see to it that the mother continually wears herself out in the pursuit of Unrealistic Expectations, and thus becomes an easy prey to our wicked hyperbole. The best time to play with your patient’s emotions, Bitterwench, is when she is exhausted. At such times, be sure to incite feelings of pride, discouragement, fear, or pity, and blow them out of proportion. You will find this all an amusing game, I am sure, but this is not simply devil’s play. Should she find time to converse with the Enemy, much will be lost. You must keep her so busy that she finds no time for such a dangerous undertaking. Humans have discovered that idleness is the devil’s workshop. But many of them, including your patient, have yet to realize that busyness, frenetic busyness, is our business as well.
I expect a full report of your progress in your next letter.