Explain Yourself!

Explain Yourself!

Children have the remarkably annoying habit of interrogating us don't they? They’re obsessed with the fundamental nature of things, why the world is the way it is, and how to logically connect it all together. The endless "why"? questions.

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Tolerate Mistakes!

Tolerate Mistakes!

In Amoris Laetitia Pope Francis, in the very beautiful first section of Chapter 4 says: 

“We encounter problems whenever we think that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn out our way. 

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The School of Home

The School of Home

Last week I said I would try and bring some practical insights to various extracts from the apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

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Practical Ways to Put your Spouse before your Kids.

Practical Ways to Put your Spouse before your Kids.

I’ve heard many times that in order to truly love your kids, you need to love your spouse first. 

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Be Slow to Anger

Be Slow to Anger

This sounds like a no-brainer, but I swear children are hard-wired to find our weak spots.


Even babies are out to get us or so it feels, like when our 2 year old wakes up at 1 or 2 am and won’t go back to sleep in her cot so ends up in the marital bed pummeling me in the back with both feet. Eventually she falls asleep while I lie awake for the next two hours, hopefully mustering up enough energy to carry her back to her own room and bed. Or like the time she so was pleased with herself at pouring full glasses of water over the brand new sofa (thank God it was only water!) she slow-clapped her efforts, and even though I laugh about it now, I wasn’t laughing then.

Biologists like Katherine Hinde know that babies cry at night for a reason. They’re not trying to make us miserable; they want to eat and survive. Even when my 6 year old son constantly leaves practically all of his toys out strewn across his bedroom floor all the time; it isn’t because he’s lazy about keeping tidy (though he needs to work on it) but because he wants to explore every permeation of his imaginary world with all of the objects (yes all at the same time) because he’s wanting to be creative and feel relaxed and happy about enjoying those toys without restriction or inhibition. I can’t be constantly annoyed about normal childhood development, nor do I have a right.  God is slow to anger, too. “Even when he scolds us, he does so with a caress,” Pope Francis reminds us. For me, this means no yelling because I had a bad day at work, or because I’m stressed from lack of sleep and it feels like we’ll never get out the front door on time for the school run or catching the train to work etc.  It means forgiving mistakes quickly, and disciplining only when it’s for my children’s own good.  In short it really means embracing not just the first bit of the famous ‘Serenity Prayer” but the lesser known second half too.

Serenity Prayer
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 
Amen.

Edmund Adamus

 

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Loving Unconditionally

Loving Unconditionally

When we had our first child, I had no idea how to be a parent and I am sure that echoes and resonates with many others who started out on this fascinating but rather frightening adventure that is being a parent...


... and obviously in my case being a father. However, it’s not just about being a good parent but being a good, dedicated, intentional Catholic parent raising Catholic children and that’s a whole different ball game as I am discovering day in day out with a 6 year old son and 2 year old daughter! Sure  I have bit of theology I can draw wisdom from, and some pastoral experience of supporting others that I can dredge my memory bank for when I need it.  But if I’m honest raising children continues to baffle me. Is there a method to becoming a good parent? I don’t think so because parenting isn’t like creating a perfect assembly line product— each child is different. And thank God they are for that’s what reminds me that we’re all unique, made in His image and likeness and that my children (though they share mine and my wife’s traits, our genes, my looks - God help them - though they are blessed with hers) are destined for eternity with Him and not to be my/our projects.      

Although I don’t follow any parenting approach in particular, there are helpful hints to be found in the way that God parents us. I figure if anyone knows how it’s done, it’s God. These lessons aren’t limited to parents with strong faith though — they’re just grounded in common sense advice from child-raising experts.
Our family hasn’t endured an adolescent (can’t abide the word ‘teenager’) yet, so we’re not in the slamming doors phase where the kids swear they’ll never forgive me for not letting them go to the party/disco whatever, but even our youngest can test my ability to patiently love her. Nevertheless it can be tough even now (no matter how cute they can be) to not return their naughty behavior by withdrawing my affection (though I’m a big softy really and I don’t withhold it for long – barely a few seconds a times!)

As a parent, it’s natural to want to reward good behavior with affection because it might promote good behavior in the future, but one expert. Alfie Kohn, writes that it is far better to love children, “for who they are, not for what they do.” He goes on to list all sorts of subsequent issues that children develop when their parents love is conditional. When it comes to God’s parenting example, it is heartening that he never gives up on me.

Another emphasizes unconditional acceptance and patience, saying; “God loves first, even when love is not returned.” My children might be ungrateful at times and fall short of my expectations, as they struggle to individuate and  find their place in the world, but no matter what, my job in my own imperfect fatherly way is to love them as patiently as possible because that’s the way God the Father loves each of us and as the venerable Fulton Sheen said: “Patience is power.”   

Edmund Adamus

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He Loves You all Year Long

He Loves You all Year Long

The other night I was reading this cute book to my daughter before bed called, “I Love You All Year Long.” 


It goes through each season of the year, and how the mother loves her child in each season. It’s March here in Colorado, so the idea of swimming and beaches with sandcastles seemed very appealing. Yet, the raking of leaves and hot apple cider on a hayride did not have the same draw. After giving it more thought, I realized that a hayride and hot cider is so exciting and refreshing after a hot summer of drenching in sweat! Currently we are getting a spell of warm weather here and the kids have been playing outside every day, which makes me long for summer. But how exciting was it to get the kids bundled up to go play in the first snow!


That’s what I love about the seasons here. They are always changing, which allows us to appreciate the unique opportunities each season presents us with. This is much like the seasons of life that we find ourselves in. Sometimes like spring, they are full of new wonders and are very colorful. But they can also be rainy, keeping us indoors. Sometimes like summer, our lives are very dry, needing constant watering, even though we are busy doing lots of things. In fall, we rake out the dead leaves and really celebrate the changing of seasons. The different colored leaves of autumn are one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen! Then come the holidays during the winter, filled with anticipation, parties, and family time. But the days are cold and dark.

Every season of life has its ups and downs. Even our spiritual lives reflect these same truths – we have dark nights where we feel far from God, we have spring times of faith when we are filled with hope. Sometimes our prayer is dry and needs lots of water, and other times we rake out the dead of sin and can see the fruit of our efforts. But there is always something we can gain from each season. We need these ups and downs to not take a particular state for granted. If we can recognize these different seasons, we can appreciate what they bring, and look forward to the next change. The only constant, like in the book, is that God loves us in each season of our life. Our goal is to love him back the same in each.

At my brother’s wedding several years ago, Fr. Brady opened the Mass with the words, “The only tragedy in life is to not become a Saint.” We will experience tragedy – cancer, death, betrayal, poverty, etc. But redemption and our reward in heaven overcome all of these. On the other hand, missing the opportunity for holiness in each of these trials is the real tragedy, as God offers us grace continuously, no matter the external circumstances. Missing out on an eternity in heaven? That’s the worst.

Not feeling like you are a Saint? Neither did many of the saints. A saint is anyone in Heaven, whether the Church has publicly recognized him or her or not.  We are all called to be saints. What do all saints have in common? They never gave up in each season of life. They clung to grace to get back up again when they fell, and they embraced God’s constant love in each of these ups and downs. 

 
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