Parents exercise their love for their children by caring for their physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and moral needs. Concern for these needs takes much time and commitment on the part of both mother and father. (US Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 378)
For most married couples, children are a natural part of starting a new family. Whereas at first a couple is intensely focused on each other, the birth of their first child (and any subsequent children) enlarges their sphere of concern to include these new family members.
Our Catechism reminds those of us who are parents (or who will one day be parents) that having children brings an immense responsibility to make sure that we do our very best in raising them. It puts emphasis on the amount of time that it takes to devotedly raise our children—time that we are challenged to sacrifice from other pursuits.
Practically, this means that no job, no volunteer organization, no hobby, no friends, not even our extended family members have the unique claim on our time that our children do. While grandparents, teachers, coaches, relatives and other adults can and should help us raise our children, the ultimate responsibility rests with us.
Raising our children encompasses all of the areas listed above—we are the primary religion teachers of our children, passing on our faith and morals through word and example. We are the primary socializers of our children, teaching them how to act and behave with others, both through our words and through our example. And we are the main caretakers of our children’s hearts and souls, nurturing their emotional and intellectual growth in appropriate ways, and sheltering them when they are young from the harsher elements in our world.
It is not an easy task. But it is part of our road to holiness, just as silence and simplicity are the road that religious travel on. God gives us this great gift of children to stretch us, while at the same time bringing us untold joy with their presence. [I tell parents of pre-teens and teens that they are growing in the same way and at the same time as their children. Adolescence is a time for the whole family to adjust, and sometimes it can just as hard on us as adults as on our kids. Roles are being redefined, teens are doing their developmentally appropriate task of pushing boundaries and asking questions, and parents are challenged to continue loving the young adults that are forming in front of their very eyes. The love will in some ways be the same as the love given to the newborn, toddler and elementary aged child, but in other ways it will have to change. Just as we don’t treat our 4th grade child like a toddler, we must also adjust to treating our pre-teens and teens in slightly different ways then our 4th graders. This becomes immensely important as they journey through high school, where we have four short years to teach them how to function as adults out on their own. No one said being a parent was easy 🙂 But it is an immensely rewarding and challenging responsibility chosen by a couple and graciously gifted by God.]
Blessings & Peace,
Hugo De La Rosa III