Families aren’t perfect—but neither is Christmas.
My father hates Christmas. We have a picture of him lying on my parents’ couch, wrapped up in a blanket, wearing both a Santa hat and a look of utter mournfulness.
For most of my childhood and young adulthood, this was something to tease him about. How could you hate Christmas? What part of gift giving and receiving, good food, and family is not to like? How could anyone not like the music, the celebration, the candles, and the hushed holiness of the Midnight Mass?
Last year, though, I started to understand where my dad was coming from.
From the archives: Take time this year to observe Advent among the worry, hurry, and frantic activity of the holidays.
In the middle of June, on a bright, hot, green, snow-is-the-furthest-thing-from-my-mind day, my middle daughter looked across the breakfast table and asked, “Mommy, when is it going to be Advent?”
She was quite serious; Easter and Pentecost seemed a long time away. Surely it was about time Advent rolled around again. Or at least so she hoped. She was, to say the least, disappointed when I explained she had an entire summer and fall to wait before Advent peered over the horizon.
To give children a meaningful faith formation, parents must do some soul-searching for themselves.
In 2012, for baptism preparation, my husband and I brought our 3-month-old son down to a musty church basement where a nun played us a 20-year-old religious videotape. It was hardly rigorous, but gathering with a half-dozen other families representing at least four separate nationalities at this urban church, all of us struggling with but also enjoying our new children, felt right. We were bringing our firstborn child into our family, which in turn all of us in that basement were a part of. The message warmed my heart, despite the video’s dated haircuts and clothes.
Want your kids to make activism a part of their lives? Then let them see you in service—starting in toddlerhood.
One day as we were walking home from kindergarten, my 5-year-old daughter sighed loudly as a plastic bag blew past her feet on the sidewalk. “What is it?” I asked. “The oceans,” she said with a world-weary sigh. “I’m worried about all the sea creatures. Especially the whale shark.”
Silence is a particularly difficult ask of an 8-year-old boy.
Until I had children, I didn’t understand Mass as an athletic event. Before we even get to the homily, a point when many Mass-goers get to sit and relax, I have perspiration on my upper lip and forehead. My arm muscles burn from balancing an ever-curious baby on my hip and wrangling a 3-year-old who would like very much to escape the pew and race down the aisle to the altar. While these two Littles keep me and my husband hopping, it’s our 8-year-old whose constant pursuit of distraction makes me feel like I’ve run a marathon by the time the recessional hymn begins.
What does ‘until death do us part’ mean for those left behind?
After 75 years of inimitable companionship—not to mention inspiration and children—my wife Kay said, “Enough,” (though not aloud) and started tending to last things. With her typical low-key demeanor—you know, that “thy-will-be-done” reticence common to certain women—she responded to the final summons from the author of life in a manner suggesting she was privy to the script. This was a couple of long years ago.
Sometimes I don’t get my son, with his rough-and-tumble play and love of wrestling with his dad.
Thwack. The kickball ricochets off the front of our house and the arguing begins. “Safe!” yells Henry. “Run to second!” yells Thomas. “I got you out!” yells Nate. “You’re all cheaters!” yells my son. Each declaration ratchets up to earsplitting levels. I watch from the window as they abandon the kickball and start to circle each other like lions weeding out the weak. By the time I finally throw open the door to intervene their passions are running so high and their fits of opinion are so strong only dogs can understand their shrieks.
Some things you can’t find at Bed Bath & Beyond.
I basically lived at Bed Bath & Beyond in the weeks before moving to college. From memo boards to mini fridges, shower caddies to twin XL sheets, the home goods giant had everything I could possibly need—or at least everything my school’s residential life office told me I needed. Most of it turned out to be helpful at one point or another. (The pink toolbox was a lifesaver on move-out day.) But the items I treasured most in my dorm room were not made of colorful plastic. Instead they pointed me towards something even more important than a college degree: my faith life.
Time never stops moving, so take a few minutes to celebrate the things that make life feel full.
I don’t know how old I was when I was first introduced to Henry David Thoreau’s admonition “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” but it must have been fairly young because it stuck to me in the rudimentary way of childhood when you accept fully the premise of a thing, when you swallow it down wholesale and it becomes you.
Taking vacation is a vital part of our spiritual life.
I should take them to Utah.
Like all of my crazy ideas, this one popped into my head while I took my morning shower. As a divorced dad who lives six hours away from his kids, I’m constantly looking for new and creative ways to be in their lives.
A huge fan of the West, I wanted to see my kids’ faces when they first saw the rolling plains of Kansas, the towering Rocky Mountains, and the strange rock formations jutting out from the desert floor near Moab. Seeing their faces would be worth whatever meltdowns we might face on a 20-hour drive.