As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Catholic Guilt

These days, I am feeling strongly convicted that I need to be more kind to my children. My three oldest boys share a bedroom. For the past several months bedtime has been tricky, as the youngest of the three Stephen has a difficult time settling down, keeping the older ones (and in fact, the entire household) awake. Our solution has been to sit outside their room after they go to bed, and speak swiftly and sternly at the first sign (or rather, sound) of disruption. It has been working pretty well.

Last night when the boys went to bed, Timothy was upset. I tried my best to comfort him, but (as is common with Timothy) there was nothing I could say to calm him down, and so I ended up having to leave the bedroom while he was still crying. Not long after I left, I heard the slow creak of the door opening. Thinking it to be the cat, I jumped up and started shushing at the door. Only then did I discover that it was Stephen, up out of bed. I reacted with a harsh, "you get back to bed!" It was only when I was tucking him back in that he said, "but Timothy's still crying." I looked at his little face, and my heart broke. He was pouting, and he was really upset. He was concerned for his brother, and I thought he was just being defiant (and treated him that way). I felt like mean Miss Hannigan in "Annie".

People often speak about Catholic guilt, but I think those people must not truly understand the heart of God, and His intentions in providing guidance through the teachings of the Church. It is precisely the teachings of the Church that bring me comfort in times like this. God wants me to be patient with the kids not because He wants me to feel bad about times like this, but because He knows that I will not be happy if I am constantly giving in to my emotions. He knows that by learning to control my impulses, I will see the bigger picture, and that in being loving in all situations, I will be happier myself, and make my children happier as well. And when I do fall short, as I so often do, it is the teachings of my faith that help me to know I am not stuck there, and that I am not an awful person. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but forgiveness is just a breath away (the breath it takes to form the words to ask for it), and once received, brings us to a place where we have a fresh start.

Today is my fresh start, this very moment. And I am so grateful for the faith that brings that to me. In the Catholic Church I find not teachings that guilt and shame me, but guidance that helps me grow more into the person God wants me to be. A person who is happy, a person who is free, and above all, a person who loves God and His people (especially those entrusted to my care) above everything else.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Culture of Life

I think most often, people think that being open to life is the job of parents. As Catholics, we vow to accept children lovingly from God, and it is a vow Jeff and I take very seriously. We know that each little one we bring into this world helps us to become more of the person God intended us to be. But we also know that the buck doesn't stop with us. Because being open to life is an attitude not just for the parents, but for the entire community surrounding the family. And it doesn't stop once the baby is born, it continues for the rest of their lives.

We are so incredibly blessed to have two sets of parents who bend over backwards to help with our children. If too much time goes by without us calling them, they are calling us saying, "Can we come see the kids? We miss them!" They are always willing and ready to watch some or all of the kids if we need to run an errand, or just take a break. We are so fortunate, because not everyone has this. If it wasn't for their openess to life, our children wouldn't have half the life they have now. And we would find it much more difficult to be good parents without their love and support. Whenever anyone tells us what good parents we are, I say that we couldn't be good parents if our parents weren't first good to us.

Not only do we have awesome parents, but we also have a great network of family and friends who love and support us in our journey as parents. Whenever we have friends over, they are all eager playmates for our children. And when we bring our kids on outings, we find in them extra hands to help look after the kids. When we show up at friends' houses, they are happy to have us all over, even when they know it will mean their place could quite possibly be turned upside-down! They don't shy away from including us because we have children, and never act as though they are a burden. Some of our childrens' best friends are in fact our friends, and it makes me so happy that for Jeff and I, having a good time with friends can include our children as well. We are building happy memories as a family that I know will benefit our kids for years to come.

So my challenge to everyone reading this today is this - whatever your stage in life, whether you have children or not, make it your mission to be open to life by supporting young families. Jeff and I are infinitely grateful for the support we receive on a daily basis. We could not do this without you!