Recently we were in a gathering of a number of families, and the conversation came up about what our kids do. They were all absolutely shocked that we don’t have video games, regularly watch television, give our kids cell phones (etc.) And yet they were shocked that our kids were polite, considerate and conversational with adults, attentive during presentations and at the dinner table… that they enjoyed spending time reading “big” books, having good conversation, engaged in creative play….
The truth is while I am a proud parent, I’m not so in any way that is not accessible to any other parent. Our simple norm has been this: Expect them to do what they’re able to do. Every time. Without exceptions. Without excuses. If we don’t, our negligence will become their life-long liability.
Let’s get specific. Expect them to make their beds well and keep their rooms clean. Expect them to be polite and respectful. Expect them to be intuitive of the needs of others, and to act on it. Expect them to practice their pianos, to read good books, to have good, thoughtful conversations. Expect them to have the capacity to find joy in life, to build meaningful, lasting relationships, beyond the cyber world. Expect them to regularly tune out the world for some moments and be captured by God’s real presence in prayer, and to connect God’s presence to their daily lives.
I don’t know how any parent, who really understands the great nobility of parenting, could look at a stay-at-home Mom (or Dad) and ask, “What do you do all day?” As if parenting is merely a bunch of minimalistic survival logistics! With all due respect for those among us who genuinely, really need the assistance of someone watching their kids all day, I have to echo the words of my brother-in-law: “We didn’t have children for other people to raise them.” Particularly in this culture, we need to think long and hard about whether we’re really sacrificing things for our kids, or sacrificing our kids for things.
The most important message for Lent comes from our Holy Father:
"For Christians, fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor...The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy...Prayer also allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God... through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism. This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions."