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.
One parent reflects on why she doesn’t make Mass mandatory for her children.
As a child I attended a K–8 Catholic school and went to church with my family every Sunday. For me, Mass was a thing to get through so that we could go home and have donuts for breakfast, what I thought of as the reward for going to church.
My brain rarely connected with what I heard from the altar. Most weeks, as I sat in the pew, my mind wandered, and I played mental games to pass the time, such as discovering how many of the alphabet’s letters were in that week’s bulletin. (If it was all 26, I won.)
Help children find the holy in all parts of the holiday season.
It is hard for a baby in a manger to compete with eight reindeer and Santa holding a huge pack of gifts. The anticipatory pause of Advent—quiet and dark blue—has a difficult time holding a candle to the glitter and colorful lights of a city’s exuberant holiday decorations. But what if we don’t need to compete? What if we can help our children find the holy in all parts of the holiday season?
Thrills aren’t just for kids.
Little ditty about Jack and Diane. Two American kids growin’ up in the heartland. John Mellencamp’s popular song makes me uneasy. Whenever it comes on the radio as I’m making the bed or driving the kids to school, I stop and listen. And the refrain that comes shortly after that famous beginning always startles me. Makes me swallow hard. Makes me bite my lip and check to see if it is true for me yet.
Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.