Monday, November 4, 2013

Family Matters

Today, Grace and I kept each other company, and I reminded her of all the good times and special people who have made the trip to spend time with her. My in-laws (and SIL) arrived one week ago, last Monday night, fresh from Indiana. My mother left two weeks ago and my father will be down in two weeks to help bring Grace home to the Midwest. I loved having them here, and not just because I could actually type this post without a newborn on my lap. (Two hands!)
SIL and Grace
In these five weeks (and two days) since Grace has been born, I've been having serious soul-searching time on my hands. Maybe this is because I am exhausted; maybe this is because I can't move around as much; or maybe it is because the realism that I am responsible for this little rosebud and her development.

I've thought a lot about how I was raised and how my husband was raised, and how to best incorporate the things we loved best into our children's lives. We were both raised Catholic; our parents are married (still!); we lived in a cul-de-sac neighborhood where we knew our neighbors well. Then the small differences start - I went to parochial school Kindergarten through senior year of high school; Will was homeschooled until high school, then Catholic school through senior year of college. Both my parents worked outside the home; his mother worked within the home. My extended family is mostly within a 15-30 minute drive of each other; his family is spread out.

But those are mere family constructions - what I learned from babysitting in college and nannying after college was the nature of the beast: that families are happy not because the mom stays home or goes out to work, but that the children know that they are loved by their parents, children and parents interact with mutual respect, and the parents actively love each other.

Dinner with the grandparents
This is not a magic spell - there will still be crying and tough love, eye rolling and frustration. Lessons learned, virtues cultivated, and hard pills to swallow. More importantly, however, I want to create a childhood worth savoring, worth passing on to the next generation.

I love how my Dad would lay between our beds and tell us stories, creating family myths about a mouse named Nicodemus. I love how my Mom would rally all the kids together for games of 50-50 Scatter, or croquet, or trampoline competitions. We read a lot of books and played with our menagerie of stuffed animals, play mobiles, dolls and Legos. I disliked the chore lists and point system, but it makes sense now that there are only two of us cleaning up our own messes. Then there were the holidays and the birthdays, celebrating family being together.

I love all of that -- and what I experienced in college with my adviser's family: family night prayer, celebration of feast days, and active catechizing. Perhaps it is because we went to Catholic school (K-12!), but my family did not put direct emphasis on the above. They came up individually, and my parents instilled a beautiful and deep faith in each of us, and this desire to share and plant this faith in my own children is stronger than ever since I met Grace.

And I feel so blessed that both our parents are practicing Catholics, who go to mass with us, and will also teach the children the way of the Cross. Moreover, I love that Grace is born into a loving family, full of aunts and uncles and cousins and a larger extended family, excited to meet the new baby. The family example is what children need - to know that their faith is rooted in something beyond a personal preference, to see the difference those people can make in a child's life, and the way each person can be a different face of Christ, a different face of Love.

More than our own families, there are friends, and our parishes - the communion of saints - those happy people, with us and beyond us, who pray with and for us, celebrate with us, mourn with us, and always live with us. They are part of our olive branch family, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

My dad and sister

A few of my aunts, my grandmother ,and my mother
Because, ultimately, that's what families are intended to do best - love.

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