Hint: Families have never been just a mom, dad, and 2.5 children.
The fairy tale pushed by bedtime stories, Disney movies, and traditional values in general is that we grow up, find that special someone, marry, and have children. But as central as marriage and childrearing are, especially for Christians, as far back as biblical times families have always been about something more than the couple, their 2.5 children, and their family dog.
Sometimes the most important job of a parent is to watch and wait.
I was standing in the middle of a small frozen lake near our house, chatting with my husband and Nate, another father in our neighborhood. I was in ice skates and a down coat; Bill and Nate had on heavy boots and warm gear. The ice was about eight inches thick from a recent cold snap, and the wind was brisk from the north. As we talked, I noticed our teenage daughter walking out onto the ice in socks and sandals. From the other shore, Nate’s teenage son approached in basketball shorts and bare legs.
Use books to teach kids—and their parents—about seeing the world through another’s eyes.
School lunchrooms all smell and look the same, the overripe aroma of hundreds of lunches barely contained by cream-colored walls just this side of salmon. Every table is a petri dish despite the wipe-and-spray done by careless seventh graders more interested in squirting the back of each other’s pants than sanitizing eating surfaces.
Don’t wait for kids to grow up before showing them how to share the wealth.
This year I did something I swore I would never do: I ditched the parish pledge envelopes and signed up for automatic deduction.
Families aren’t perfect—but neither is Christmas.
My father hates Christmas. We have a picture of him lying on my parents’ couch, wrapped up in a blanket, wearing both a Santa hat and a look of utter mournfulness.
For most of my childhood and young adulthood, this was something to tease him about. How could you hate Christmas? What part of gift giving and receiving, good food, and family is not to like? How could anyone not like the music, the celebration, the candles, and the hushed holiness of the Midnight Mass?
Last year, though, I started to understand where my dad was coming from.
From the archives: Take time this year to observe Advent among the worry, hurry, and frantic activity of the holidays.
In the middle of June, on a bright, hot, green, snow-is-the-furthest-thing-from-my-mind day, my middle daughter looked across the breakfast table and asked, “Mommy, when is it going to be Advent?”
She was quite serious; Easter and Pentecost seemed a long time away. Surely it was about time Advent rolled around again. Or at least so she hoped. She was, to say the least, disappointed when I explained she had an entire summer and fall to wait before Advent peered over the horizon.
To give children a meaningful faith formation, parents must do some soul-searching for themselves.
In 2012, for baptism preparation, my husband and I brought our 3-month-old son down to a musty church basement where a nun played us a 20-year-old religious videotape. It was hardly rigorous, but gathering with a half-dozen other families representing at least four separate nationalities at this urban church, all of us struggling with but also enjoying our new children, felt right. We were bringing our firstborn child into our family, which in turn all of us in that basement were a part of. The message warmed my heart, despite the video’s dated haircuts and clothes.
Want your kids to make activism a part of their lives? Then let them see you in service—starting in toddlerhood.
One day as we were walking home from kindergarten, my 5-year-old daughter sighed loudly as a plastic bag blew past her feet on the sidewalk. “What is it?” I asked. “The oceans,” she said with a world-weary sigh. “I’m worried about all the sea creatures. Especially the whale shark.”
Silence is a particularly difficult ask of an 8-year-old boy.
Until I had children, I didn’t understand Mass as an athletic event. Before we even get to the homily, a point when many Mass-goers get to sit and relax, I have perspiration on my upper lip and forehead. My arm muscles burn from balancing an ever-curious baby on my hip and wrangling a 3-year-old who would like very much to escape the pew and race down the aisle to the altar. While these two Littles keep me and my husband hopping, it’s our 8-year-old whose constant pursuit of distraction makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon by the time the recessional hymn begins.
What does ‘until death do us part’ mean for those left behind?
After 75 years of inimitable companionship—not to mention inspiration and children—my wife Kay said, “Enough,” (though not aloud) and started tending to last things. With her typical low-key demeanor—you know, that “thy-will-be-done” reticence common to certain women—she responded to the final summons from the author of life in a manner suggesting she was privy to the script. This was a couple of long years ago.