Hmm. That would assume I would know what I’m talking about, wouldn’t it? Frankly, I’m not sure that I am an expert on the subject, even though all four of my children now qualify as functioning adults with jobs and places of their own. A part of me says I should ask my wife, who probably qualifies as the resident parenting genius.
Frankly, when Donna and I started having children more than 28 years ago, we didn’t really talk about the right way to do things. We sort of flew by the seat of our pants and tackled each crisis as it appeared. Something must have worked, because we have four well-adjusted children who are healthy and appear to be happy. More than anything, I think they are good people who aren’t afraid of work, laugh easily, enjoy each other’s company and appreciate extended family and friends.
Granted, they aren’t perfect, no matter how much we thought we wanted them to be.
Still, we all have a great relationship with each other in part because of some specific things we did that proved to be important. I can’t stress enough how important some things can be. Consider this advice for young families or even more mature families who continue to look for ways to get closer to each other.
For instance: Our children have seen that their parents love each other as well as like each other. When times get tough, they see Donna and I pulling together, not moving apart. They see us laugh and cry and work together. I hope that will translate to good marriages for them in the future because they have seen a marriage that works.
We tried to eat dinner together as a family as often as possible — and still do even now when we get them to come by (and since it means a free meal, that’s not hard to do). I can’t stress enough how vital that is. And we took a family vacation every year. Together, somewhere, anywhere. We got to know their friends and made it clear they were welcome in our house — and we voiced concerns about friends who didn’t meet our approval for one reason or another. We got to know their dreams. We encouraged them to take responsibility in life. We stressed the importance of extended family and gave them a chance to develop close relationships with their grandparents. They adore their grandparents and revel in chances to gather with aunts, uncles and cousins.
They are good friends to the other people in their lives. They know that the phrase “hard worker” might be the best line on resumes. We tried to model all of that during the last three decades.
And we tried to impart our faith into their lives. Not that they share the faith that Donna and I have or attend Mass every Sunday. It does my heart a lot of good when I get to receive Communion with them at Mass. I rejoice in such rare moments.
But I have come to accept that their faith is their faith and will develop in God’s time, not mine. I have to have confidence in the way we have lived that in their lives. I think we did many things right in that regarded. For one thing, we heeded the words in Psalm 127:
Unless the Lord build the house,
they labor in vain who build.
Unless the Lord guard the city,
in vain does the guard keep watch.
As we built our family, our own little “city” in our home, Donna and I constantly placed God first. We attended Mass as a family every Sunday. We prayed at meals — every meal — and at bedtime — every bedtime. We were active in our parish. We had a Bible in our living room and used it. We had a copy of the catechism and used it.
So they are grounded in faith. There is a base of experience to which they can refer in good times and in difficult times. My prayer for them is to join me in heaven some day, to be people of faith who gain a grateful and loving respect for Jesus Christ. Sure, I wish they would exemplify that right now, today, while I can enjoy it. But my prayer has to be for each of them to develop their relationship with the Lord according to His will, not mine.
So if they have to meet many struggles in life and not discover a genuine love for God until much later in life, that will be OK. God will answer in His time.
And we all be together in heaven one day. I have God’s promise.