To learn prayers by heart is to ensure they are there when you need God the most.
I could hardly believe it when I found myself reciting the Hail Mary as I was quickly wheeled into the operating room for an emergency C-section this past January. While the predominant emotions of the final moments leading up to my daughter’s birth were fear (“Will my baby be OK?”) and disappointment (“This isn’t going as I hoped it would.”), I also remember surprise that this particular prayer surfaced to my consciousness. Before the surgery, it had been years since I had prayed to Mary.
Every day is different in homes with young children, and so can be the prayer.
When our oldest daughter started kindergarten, we replaced previously lazy mornings with a chaotic new routine of rigid uniforms, rushed breakfast, and wrestling kids into the car. Once we got the hang of it, I began to appreciate starting the day with a quiet drive—everyone together and safely contained in car seats. One day, halfway to school, I eagerly announced, “Let’s say a Hail Mary.”
My daughter met my eyes in the rearview mirror with a glare perfected at an early age—a learned behavior modeled by me, unfortunately. “We pray all day at school, Mommy,” she whined.
Church teachings give parents conflicting messages about the best balance between work and family.
“Havoc” may best describe the lives of many Midwestern families this winter, as Mother Nature brought unrelenting wind, rain, snow, ice, and record-setting chills. For families like mine, balancing professional lives, parenting, and maintaining a household are demanding enough without becoming the object of nature’s merciless torments. Nonetheless, despite all the challenges that the conflicting demands of work and family introduce in our lives, this living on the edge of chaos is exactly what we chose. Most American parents want to work beyond the household, and most are doing so.
Any Catholic teaching on family spirituality must consider the economic reality of American families.
I have one child, a son, born when I was two months from turning 35—the age when expectant mothers are termed geriatric. My one son seemingly presents a problem for a surprising number of strangers and people I know well: “Only one?” they ask suspiciously as they look at me with narrowed eyes. “But isn’t he going to be lonely?” (As the most off-the-charts extrovert in our family, he is not.) See also: “But big families are fun!” (For whom? I long to retort.) “I think you’ll regret it later if you don’t have more.” (The reverse could also be true.) “Children are a blessing!”
Catholicism is easier to pass along than you might think.
“Show, don’t tell” is one big commandment of writing. Telling is super boring: “The left fielder had a strong arm.” You want a writer to show you the scene: “As 31,942 fans watched in disbelief, Oakland A’s outfielder Yoenis Céspedes hurled the ball 300 feet from the left field corner of Angel Stadium and cut down the Angels’ Howie Kendrick as he streaked for home.”
Four practices that can help parents and children move toward authentic conversation.
Kevin and Amy have a rule at their dinner table for their three teenagers as well as themselves: What is said at the table stays at the table. “Our family committed to this when the children were young so they could express themselves without worry that their siblings or parents would talk to other people about what they shared,” Amy says. “They also don’t need to worry they are going to get in trouble for what they say. This has worked well for us, and some of our best conversations continue to happen at dinner.”
Traveling with adult children can be like parenthood turned upside down.
I went to Spain so I wouldn’t need to make any decisions.
Liam, our 20-year-old, is spending this semester studying in Spain, and two of my friends offered to move into our home for a week and take on life with our two high-school daughters so Bill and I could visit him. The semester coincided with our 25th anniversary, and after asking each friend approximately 16 times if she was serious about the offer, Bill and I booked tickets and hotel rooms and didn’t plan anything else.
God calls us to open ourselves up to others and push ourselves to be our best, always.
When I was in eighth grade I was what I like to call a standard achiever. To me this meant doing the amount of work needed to get where I wanted to be and no more. In that first semester, I worked hard to get the grades and standardized test scores needed to assure I would be placed in (nearly) all honors courses in high school. The following semester, my grades tanked.
Teaching children to love Mass is much like teaching them to like vegetables.
Parents who want their children to grow in appreciation for and commitment to Mass are much like parents who are determined to make sure their kids go off to college loving vegetables. Both recognize that their child’s best opportunity for adult physical and spiritual health will come out of the habits they establish in childhood.
Words aren’t always the best way to communicate meaning.
My family is best understood through our use of language. Weekly hour-long phone conversations. The notes I would throw down the stairs after I was sent to time-out when I was little: “Dear Mommy, I wasn’t trying to be a brat, I’m just really hot and I want a fan!” Books, thousands of which line the walls of my parents’ house. The words we use to share, to pray, to celebrate, and to fight.