When each of our children was born, Mike and I laid them before the Blessed Sacrament and gave them to Jesus. We knew that each one of them was a tremendous gift, and we were delivered a huge responsibility to raise them the best that we could. However, we also had the grace to understand that ultimately they belong to the Lord and not to us.
First off, I realized as I had a few children that no two were alike. Some had similar personalities but no two were alike. Just when we thought we had it figured out with one, along comes another and it was all different. Some basics remained the same but the style could sure change.
I have made plenty of mistakes with all eight of my children. I still do, but I have come to realize that there is no perfect parent and no perfect child. Parenting is an exciting learning adventure for sure. It is a journey not for cowards.
Recently I had all 8 of my adult children home for Christmas along with 11 grandchildren. As I sat and watched them all interacting, it was a spiritual experience. Each of them has their own journey that they are walking and will continue to do so. Each has his or her vocation and mission in this world to fulfill. Some know that vocation and for others, that is still unfolding.
Each journey has not been trial-free and it never will be. Hardships are part of the road for every human being and to try and shield your children from all pain is not doing them a favor. Mary was not able to shield Jesus from the cross but she stayed there with him at the foot of the cross. Sharing in our children’s joys and sorrows is a parent’s role. We cry with them and rejoice with them but we cannot take away their crosses, as much as we would like to.
It has been my experience that as they grow, it is necessary to let some rope out little by little. By that I mean allowing them to do more and more — with wisdom and still keep a careful eye on them. They will fall at times but that is part of the path. Hardships develop character. When we smother them too much as they grow, we will stifle their necessary growth. This is very difficult for a parent. But I have seen children, who were not allowed to gradually spread their wings, eventually rebel and turn away from their parents completely.
Remember we are preparing them for their God-given part in life, for their vocation, to show care and compassion to others, to make a difference. We are not preparing them for ourselves. They belong to the Lord. They will eventually be sent. Will they be ready? Do they know how to struggle and persevere? Are they becoming who they are meant to be? Some may take longer than others but all are called by God.
Yes, I did homeschool them (which I am very glad I did) to help prepare them for life, but I also let them be in activities with others so they could learn to deal with kids of all kinds – some who followed God and with others who did not.
I recommend that you don’t try to fit your children into a mold that you create. Let them be who God wants them to be. That often turns out differently than we had imagined. Watch and see how God is leading them. They have a journey to make, like we all do.
Even Jesus at 12 years old said to his mother, “Did you not know that I needed to be in my Father’s house?” I really don’t think she knew that. In fact, Mary may have thought something like, “No, I did not know that! You scared Joseph and me to death, and you nearly drove us nuts looking all over for you!” But she pondered on what he had said all the way home.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man who’s quiver is full of them.” Psalm 137:3-5
When any of my kids left home for the first time, it was always hard. I cried a lot. Then I would go outside and pretend I was taking an arrow out of a pretend quiver on my back and acted as if I was shooting that arrow into the air, saying, “God, I’m sending them out. They are all yours. They are in your hands. Take good care of them.”
Love them, laugh with them, teach them, cry with them, help them, pray with them and for them, but let Jesus be their Savior. Do your best and let God do the rest. He will never leave them or forsake them.
Happy New Year!
Mary Ann / Mother Hen
PS… Last year I read a book that had a short spiritual reflection for each day. I found it very fruitful in my life and I would like to recommend it to you. It is called Grace in Every Season. The reflections are written by Catherine Doherty who founded Madonna House in Canada.