Perhpas like some of you, I had serious workaholic tendencies in the early part of my career. When my first son was two, I began working for my current company in the pursuit of a more balanced life. But, it wasn’t until my wife and I entered the Catholic Church over four years ago that I truly understood my family is my vocation.
Sounds great, but what does that mean? Isn’t our career our “vocation”? How do we accomplish this lofty goal?
I want to share with you five simple actions that my wife and I are trying very hard to pursue in raising our children. We often fall short, but we keep trying because shirking our parenting responsibilities or delegating the job to others is not an option. For your consideration:
- Teach our children about the Catholic Faith and to love God. Our children will love God and have strong faith only if we do. They will only pray…if we do. They will only be joyful about attending church…if we are. My wife and I try hard to be devout Catholics and for us, the greatest vocation is our family and raising our children to love and serve Christ and follow our Faith. You might find it interesting to note that the white paper Religious Involvement and Children’s Well-Being by Lisa Bridges and Kristin Moore (www.childtrends.org) reports that young people who frequently attend religious services and say their faith is important to them exhibit higher levels of altruism and much lower levels of drug and alcohol use and sexual activity than those of little or no faith.
- Time-Our children need our time. Let’s put down the Blackberry, turn off the television, cancel the golf outing and spend more time with our kids! Quality time is the key-actively engaged in talking or doing something with them is what they need…not reading a magazine while they watch Sponge Bob. Also, dinner time should be sacred. There is tremendous value in coming together for a family meal at least once a day.
- Teach them Responsibility and Stewardship. Helping our children learn responsibility at a young age and teaching them to have a good work ethic is a great foundation for them to build upon as adults. Teaching them to serve and give back will help them be better human beings. This isn’t classroom stuff-they will only learn from our example. Here is a helpful tip I will pass on from the Hain household: For the last 3 years we have asked our boys to each donate 10 of their undamaged toys or books a few days before their birthdays and Christmas. We take them to North Fulton Community Charities and have them bring the items inside for donation. They have learned that they must give…before they receive. It also keeps the house a little cleaner! We also get them involved in other service projects through Cub Scouts and our parish.
- Love, love, love! Showing our children we love them and more importantly telling them we love them is incredibly important. We hug our kids and tell them every chance we get. But, love is also caring enough to be tough, candid and providing limits. It is also about loving each other. Want to give the kids a good example to follow? Show your spouse affection in words and deeds as often as possible. Mother Teresa once said: “Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other — it doesn’t matter who it is — and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.”
- Stay focused on the goal. It is very important to remember that we are made for Heaven, and not this place called Earth. I must do everything I can to help my wife and children (and everyone else!) get to Heaven and my wife is called to do the same. It is easy to get lost in the mundane details of raising a family, but it is critical to know where our journey will end.
The Catechism #2223 says, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.’ Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them.”
We don’t have all the answers and some times we worry if we are doing enough. But, our children are a gift from God and our marriage is a blessing so we keep trying and humbly asking Him for help and guidance. They occasionally drive us crazy, but we are determined to not waste any of the precious hours we have with our children. Our kids need us to rise to the challenge-their future, and ours, depends on it. Imagine the impact families could make on our communities if we simply focused on building their faith in Christ, showing them love, teaching them strong values and then sent them into the world to do the same. How would our world be different? It is an incredible responsibility, but I can think of no greater calling!