My son is approaching his 17th birthday soon (Domine ad adjuvandum me festina), so I was journaling recently about parenting. I titled it, “Parenting: What I Occasionally Did Right, But Wish I Did Better.” Of course, it’s what my wife and I did right, but the “occasionally/wish” is my own moral grappling with the past. All parents who want to live their God-given trust well must grapple, and honest parenting makes Confession into your favorite Sacrament.
There was a section of the journal entry, as I wrote, that suddenly turned in to an “Even better than…” litany. It was written in a simple, randomly arranged, free flowing stream of consciousness state-of-mind. And it was a wonderful litany of thanks to God for all those extraordinary people who have helped shape my spousal and fatherly heart.
For what it’s worth, I share it here:
+ Even better than showing them a sacrificial life is allowing them to sacrifice.
+ Even better than serving them is to allow them to serve.
+ Even better than showing them how to pray is allowing them to pray.
+ Even better than trying to model suffering well is helping them to suffer well.
+ Even better than creating consequences for bad decisions is allowing them to suffer the natural consequences of their bad decisions.
+ Even better than protecting them from bad decisions is helping them learn from bad decisions.
+ Even better than pointing out their faults is praising their virtues.
+ Even better than telling them what chastity is, is to be chaste myself, when they’re watching and when they’re not.
+ Even better than telling them to respect their mother is to never ever tolerate disrespect for their mother.
+ Even better than talking to them about God is talking to God about them.
+ Even better than sermonizing morality is narrating great lives.
+ Even better than issuing moral commands is wondering aloud at the beauty of goodness.
+ Even better than telling them to “honor thy mother and father” is to allow them to see I honor my own.
+ Even better than telling her to “Get off the iThing!” is to say, “Let’s go fishing.”
+ Even better than making it to work on time is staying to look at her crayon drawings.
+ Even better than telling him to not be lazy is to have him help me fix the mower.
+ Even better than telling them to be charitable is to refrain from speaking uncharitably of others.
+ Even better than yelling is serene and unyielding firmness in my expectations.
+ Even better than talking is listening.
+ Even better than my private life lessons is my public life witness.
+ Even better than raising Christians is raising Christ-lovers.
+ Even better than the silence after they’ve fallen asleep is their voice first thing in the morning.
+ Even better than loving them is loving my wife, for when I love my wife well I love them best.