Why I haven’t posted…and why I am now.

Family can wound as often as it can heal. That truth has held me back from wanting to cast my own personal experiences out into the deep of the internet. The last thing I want to do is pour salt on the wounds of others, reopen my own mending lesions, or even create new injury – however unintended that might be.

There are other reasons. I lack confidence in my writing ability. I doubt that I have anything meaningful to say. I think there are already too many voices in the mix, creating cacophony instead of clarity.

Then three things happened: I went on vacation in a remote setting, my sister made a comment, and a friend of mine became a grandparent.

The remote setting, of course, carved out time to reflect (that is the point, right?). I had tons of time on my hands and I was restless. I am a pretty driven, goal-oriented person. I like lists, agendas, and evidence of progress. I found myself struggling to adapt to the ritardando. Gregory, in the fix-it style of the stereotype, suggested that I write a Growing Grand post, since time was no longer an excuse I could pose. After the initial defensive irritation faded, I decided to figure out what my issue has been in moving this ministry forward. I arrived at the conclusions above and the analysis that all of these things have a root of fear.

We took a break from the solitude of our vacation for a weekend meet-up with my sister and her husband. Our encounters come with a guarantee of embarrassing buffoonery mixed with bolts of profundity.  While traipsing through a beautiful garden tourist spot, pretending to be the women of Downton and wondering when the mint julips would arrive on silver trays, our conversation turned for a brief moment to our grandchildren (gasp at the surprise!) and the preposterous nature of modern playgrounds. “It’s too safe” was the general consensus. Life is risky.*

Enter my friend -the newly grandparented. Her raw emotion was so relatable to my own at the birth of my grandchildren. There is this mountain of parental protection, multiplied beyond expectation at the appearance of our children’s children. There is this instinct to act, but the concomitant realization that our role is to respond. We need to learn the art of fading at the exact moment we want to blaze.

All of these things coalesced in revelation. Growing Grand is not about me (another gasp of surprise) and it is a muted voice that needs a safe place to crescendo. Grandparenting isn’t parenting (thanks be to God?). It is quieter. It is in some sense riskier. It is vital. And grandparents need a community to talk all this out.

I don’t want my grandchildren to fear fear. I want them to understand that life is full of fear and a full life requires facing it head-on. I believe that an essential, quiet role of a grandparent is to live by example. So I write, and I encourage anyone – whatever your stage in life may be – who wants to grow grander to come along.

*More on this topic to come in a future post. Much to discuss, but doing so here strays from the point.

The Courage to Seek Forgiveness

In my last post, I talked about teaching our children how to ask for forgiveness. Today, I want to take it up a level. More important than guiding our children through the motions of seeking forgiveness from others, is demonstrating the behavior ourselves. Seems obvious, right? I find, however, that no matter how much I agree with “actions speak louder than words” and reject “do as I say not as I do”, when it comes to humbling myself and seeking forgiveness, I often confront a greater counter-force to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Truth be told, I would rather others simply sensed my interior knowledge of having done something wrong or offensive. I especially want those who know and love me to grant the benefit of the doubt, namely that I regret my bad behavior without having to mention it. If we could all just go on without acting hurt or angry because of what I did, that would be great. I expect many people feel the same way whether they know it or not. This attitude, however, demands too much of the offended party and compounds the injustice of the original injury. I am no more able to demand a healing from the doctor without a willingness to undergo a treatment than to expect the healing of my relationships without the willingness to ask for forgiveness and offer reparation.

As I advised before, I make it a point to use the words “Please forgive me for . . .” and name the offense. I am now open to a response and any emotion the offended has to share with me. I’ve earned it (presuming the response is proportional to the offense). If the person is a fellow Christian, I have hope that s/he will meet my request with mercy and grace, but that does not mean I am off the hook for the damages. Not only do I have an investment to make in repairing the relationship, I may have to repair physical property, too, depending on the offense. As we read in our catechism: Penance requires . . . the sinner to endure all things willingly, be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction (1450).

Indeed, this formula imitates the Sacrament of Reconciliation intentionally. The elements of which go back to the old testament where both verbal confession and reparation are part of the healing process (cf. Numbers 5). Though forgiveness should never be dependent on the reparation, offering something of ourselves demonstrates our commitment to the healing of the relationship and our earnestness. Penance is our participation in reparation and should be expected, though the price for our sins has been fully paid by Christ. (More on this here.)

In some cases, both parties have given offense. One may have started the rift, but the other widened it in a backlash. Some may think the initial victim has the moral high ground despite also becoming an offender, but I would turn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: [W]hen you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. (vv. 23-24, NRSVCE) Jesus makes no mention of who “started it”. The command is to reconcile; therefore, it’s always your turn to go first no matter who made the first offense.* Prayerfully, when you ask the other for forgiveness, the other will reciprocate.

* I believe I first heard this explanation from Dr. David Jeremiah on his radio show “Turning Point”.

I’m interested in hearing about your thoughts and experiences with reconciliation and asking forgiveness. Leave a comment below or leave a note on our contact page. Be sure to click “like” if you enjoyed this post and share it with others. Thank you.

Teaching Children about Guilt and Forgiveness

If there is one thing Ellen and I practiced in our years of parenting that we did not relinquish or modify as our parenting developed, it was how we taught the children about forgiveness. Leaning on materials donated to us by my sister* we learned that there is a difference between saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness. This lesson is something we share with every engaged couple whom we mentor for marriage and every parent we meet in preparation for the baptism of a child.

Although “I’m sorry” and “I accept your apology” are the mainstream way to smooth over a wound, the words don’t accurately communicate what the soul really needs. We usher two children involved in an altercation into this ritual then tell them to shake hands or hug to seal the half-hearted acquiescence to our demands for harmony. The exchange always seems to lack something because it bears no reference to what the parties ought to exchange. When I say “I’m sorry” I am expressing regret, not really asking for anything, though a request may be implied – amounting, on the surface, to a request that you acknowledge my sorrow. When I say “I accept your apology” I am not really getting anything or giving anything, I’m assenting to the fact that you regret what you did, which is only the beginning.

When I knew one of my children had offended Ellen, I would discuss the offense with them. Ideally, I would determine if the act was a mere accident or an act of the will. I would also discuss the moral nature of the act. If the act was immoral, then I would encourage my child to ask Ellen for forgiveness with these words: “Mom, will you forgive me for . . .” and in place of those three dots my child would state the offense. I especially emphasize this part of the request. Giving verbal expression of our actions is beneficial for us and the healing process. We are owning what we have done as we hear it sound in our own ears and we are showing the victim we actually know we did something wrong and it invites them to respond.

At this point, Ellen could give one of three responses:

  1. I love you, but that’s not what you did to offend me. Can we talk about what you did that hurt me?
  2. I love you and I’m rather angry/hurt/emotional right now. I need some time before we discuss this.
  3. I love you and I forgive you. Here’s why I was offended . . . .

Once the forgiveness is granted, we celebrated the mending with a hug and a kiss. (Note: I do not entertain here the possibility of not granting forgiveness, except to say Christ provides no room in the Christian heart for this option.)

Those who see guilt as a fabrication or manipulation might criticize the probing of offenses with our children, but distinctions matter if we are going to properly form our children’s understanding of sin and guilt as well as self-examination. We do not want our children thinking they have to ask forgiveness for amoral or accidental acts. I hazard to guess that too many people from a young age have been excoriated for things that were in these categories. Abuses of this nature can have a considerable effect on psyches and consciences, leading so many to suppress or ignore guilt and to criticize the faith and religion in general.

Regret or sorrow after giving offense is healthy. Our world, however, appears to have no idea what to do with guilt. When people quip about “Catholic guilt” I like to say the only reason anyone utters the tattered cliche: Guilt is real and experienced by everyone, but they don’t know what to do with it. Catholics do (or ought to). We acknowledge guilt and act on it. We seek forgiveness with those whom we offend and the Lord, who is the only one who can completely heal our troubled consciences.

When something is torn, we can try to repair it, but evidence of repair may remain for a while even if it can be well covered up in some cases. When we rend our relationships with one another, we need to mend the relationship with more than an expression of regret. For the Christian, the mending involves three parties. God, as the Divine Physician can bring a complete healing to any wound, leaving no trace of repair.

* From “Growing Kids God’s Way” by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo (video here)

Have you struggled with a proper sense of guilt or asking forgiveness? Do you have a perspective that I have not considered here? There’s a lot more here we could discuss, so please share your comments below. If you like our content, click “like” and share with your family and friends.

Who Wants to Be Human?

Lately, I’ve been disappointed in humanity. In particular, I’m disturbed by what’s happening to us politically. Something has gone terribly wrong and it seems to me that, every four years, we are getting larger and larger doses of ugliness and our elections portray less and less humanity. Were I an angel or an alien, I would seriously wonder who would even want to be human.

Our sorry state of political affairs is only a part of the many woes we have caused. As one rears its head, six others seen to rise with it. Dwelling on them is like a maelstrom that can suck us in and down with those around us. I know this is not our entire reality. I know there is so much good we do, but the water’s awfully murky right now, so today, I desperately need to focus on the One who, regardless of the indictments against us, wanted to be human.

This weekend, celebrating Christ the King Sunday, we read Jesus’ description of his second coming: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.” Son of Man is the title Christ preferred. Centuries before, the prophet Daniel prophesies, “As I watched, thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne [and] I saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven . . . . [N]ations and peoples of every language serve him [and] his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:9-14).

There is no doubt that Christ was indicating to his audience that he was the fulfillment of this prophecy. What does this tell me? God had a plan and has a plan. A plan that was woven into the fabric of time from before the beginning.

There is nothing new under the sun. Men and women were no less evil in the years after the Fall from grace, in the time of Daniel, or that of Christ than they are today; and yet, knowing how absolutely awful we could be, knowing the worst of the worst about each and every one of us, God said from all eternity, “I WANT TO BE HUMAN!”


Because God never intended humanity to be what we made it. He intended it to be what HE made it: PERFECT; and he still intends it to be perfect, even if he respects our free will. As the Son of Man, Christ provides us the very model of humanity. He was the Template in eternity by which and for whom God made humans and all of creation in the first place. We are not most human when we sin; we are most human when we imitate Christ.

The Son of Man, then, is our only hope of knowing and advancing human perfection. That he is God means the work of human perfection is possible, for all good begins with God. That he is Man means God invites man be part of the perfection process. That he is God-Man means, despite foreknowing all the events of human history would be corrupted, God created anyway; and despite foreknowing all our immorality, injustice, and depravity, God still said, “I want to be human.”

As Christians, the temptation to pull away from the rest of the world is strong. When fallen humanity is at its worst, however, God invites us to be our human best, to even more fervently manifest what it really means to be human, to know and more genuinely follow the Son of Man with all of his perfections. The world needs us to be human – to want to be human. It’s not easy, it’s a sacrifice, and it’s heroic. It’s what he wanted – to be human. I want to be human, too.

What are your thoughts on the current state of humanity? How has the your experience of the best and worst of humanity affected you? Let me know by adding a comments below or send us a message on our contact page. Let us know you enjoy our content by clicking “like”, then share with friends and family.

Fed State

I recently started intermittent fasting. It really wasn’t about weight loss for me (although I would welcome a little of that, no lie…).

I was listening to a Jen Fulwiler podcast, and she mentioned a book called Delay, Don’t Deny, by Gin Stephens. It sounded like a Catholic concept to me, and I was intrigued. I didn’t read the whole text, so I can’t give my seal of approval for the book – or really for Jen, either – but I was struck by the idea that our American bodies are in a fed state most of the time due to our regular patterns of eating and snacking. The fed state means that we are constantly either using or storing the nutrients as they enter our digestive systems. Many Americans seldom enter a fasting state, where the body can tap into its stores for nourishment.

There are a lot of physical, psychological, and emotional triggers and issues surrounding food and its consumption, and I want to be careful with my comments and thoughts, lest I lead anyone astray or misrepresent the science.

For me, hearing about the fed and fasting states took me to my mid-pandemic spiritual life. March, April, and May found me often seeking quick and easy comfort – in food, in wine, in entertainment – anything that distracted me for a few moments from the fear and uncertainty all around. I was in a constant fed state, living off whatever I took in on the regular.

The thing is, by June I was heavier but emptier than I was in March. The constant literal and symbolic feeding wasn’t leading me to health and happiness, I wasn’t tapping into my stores and finding satisfaction.

Catholicism is filled with paradoxes, and here we find some examples: we must empty ourselves to be filled, we must fast to truly appreciate the feast.

Catholicism also recognizes that we are not soul-less bodies or bodiless souls. We are integrated such that what happens to the physical body impacts the soul, and vice versa.

With that understanding, I knew it was time to get back in shape. I needed to know hunger for God, to tap into the rich stores of my foundation and allow Him to nourish me. I couldn’t live off the junk food that I was pouring in and be healthy. And, thanks be to God, I can do that by starting with the tangible and moving inward.

When it is time to physically fast, I do so knowing that I have the great privilege of having good, stored nutrients to fuel my body, and when it is time to eat, I do so with relish and joy. Food can be part of our joy, it can be part of what gives us comfort. The same can be said of entertainment or other recreational pursuits in moderation and in it’s due time.

Spiritually speaking, I use my (extremely mild) physical hunger to drive me to prayer. I ask to be emptied of my own selfishness to be filled with Divine love. I am also feasting on good soul food like Fr Jacques Phillippe’s Searching for and Maintaining Peace.

Pope St. John Paul II said in 1996, “One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. The effort of moderation in food also extends to other things that are not necessary, and this is a great help to the spiritual life. Moderation, recollection and prayer go hand in hand. . .

I cannot end this reflection without mentioning the reality that there are those among us who are truly, regularly hungry in both body and soul. I work on myself so that I can be ready and fortified to help others. I should be filled such that I can pour out the love I’ve received to others.

As a final aside, I have been serving on my Diocese’s Women’s Conference committee, and we have been planning for the virtual event (happening today!) with keynote speaker Emily Stimpson Chapman. She writes about food and its spiritual connections in her book The Catholic Table – Finding Joy Where Food and Faith Meet. I CAN give my seal of approval on this one, and I hope you will read it.

What fuels your spiritual life? How do you live out the integration of body and soul? Let me know in the comments below. Let us know you like this content by clicking like, then share with friends and family.


As tourists stream into chapels, cathedrals, and basilicas in Italy, they are greeted with the musky scent of history, breathtaking art, an aura of peace…and signs everywhere demanding silenzio!

It became a family joke during our once in a lifetime trip several years ago. To this date, a firm and enthusiastic “silenzio!” at family gatherings is guaranteed at least a snicker. Think about it, though. It’s a little sad that, even in the face of ancient holiness, we have to be reminded to be silent.

When you think of fun family times, doesn’t your mind immediately frame boisterous holiday dinners, competitive rounds of Uno, Catan, Risk, or (my personal fav) Agricola, and backyard games with crazy unwritten (and yet hotly contested…) rules? As I reflect on moments emblazoned on my heart as particular treasures , however, rare silent exchanges rush into view.

When our granddaughter was born last year, I had the immense privilege of living with my daughter for a bit while my son-in-law was completing some military training. One of my great joys was to let my daughter go to bed while I managed the final wake period of the day and prepared Aletheia for bed. I snuggled and sang to her, and she looked into my soul with her big blue-gray eyes. While the stars shone and the light of the moon rested on the windowsill behind me, we gazed at each other and connected in the stillness.

Recently, while visiting with my son and his family, my grandson and I were alone in the living room. The sun was creating interesting patterns of light and shadow, and Daniel was intrigued. The sun must have been shining on my hair, because he came close to study it. His chubby toddler hands moved slowly and ever so gently as he combed his fingers through my hair. I said nothing. He was so still and focused. We just looked at one another for a long moment and smiled. The deepest part of our souls connected in that moment – in silence.

We all know and acknowledge the distraction and noise of our 21st century lives. The ruckus of games and adventures are necessary and enjoyable aspects of our role as grandparents. But what a gift we give when we bring tranquility. As my grandchildren grow, I want them to remember the chases around the kitchen island, the wacky peek-a-boo games, and the splashes in the kiddie pool in the backyard. Even more, though, I want the kind of moments that I described above to be just as transformational for them as they are for me.

I hope and pray that my grandchildren will embrace soundless beauty. I want them to experience transcendence in silence – without needing a sign to remind them.

What is your relationship with silence? Have you had similar experiences in your family of families? Do you have any thoughts to share about silence in your spiritual life? Let us know in the comments section. Click like and share on content that appeals to you and let us know what you’d like to see covered here.

One Moment More

This month marks the fifth anniversary of my mother’s passing. My father had passed six years earlier. For many, the death of a grandparent is the first grief inducing event of it’s kind. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my experience of grandparents was not like others. Though I had mourned the loss of my grandmother, my Aunt Ann, Ellen’s grandparents, and other relatives whom I loved, I cannot say I experienced the same level of grief in my life as when my parents died.

The severance of my earthly relationship with my parents blessed me with an elevation of subconscious memory to consciousness, as though a movie reel turned on in my mind. I began replaying clip after clip of our lives together. I saw scenes of a younger me in which I was just too young, selfish, ignorant, or foolish to understand what was going on or how my words and actions impacted my parents and family. The older me was able to look back on those moments with a new understanding of myself and my parents.

In some ways, this reflection added to my grief. In others, I felt like I knew and respected my parents even more. Much of what they had suffered for love of me, I was suffering for the love of my own family. Many times I spoke to my parents as I watched those reels. I asked them, “Please forgive me.” I told them, “I understand now. I love you. I miss you.” I still speak to them today and how I long to have had more time with them in the flesh.

Very shortly after my father and mother died, there were events that brought me to tears in the middle of the work day. For my father, it was the gift of a tree from my colleagues, a weeping cherry, which I planted in his memory. He was quite fond of the cherry tree in his own front yard, so I planted one in mine. For my mother, I encountered a song, “One Moment More” by Mindy Smith. Though I don’t listen to country music, I tripped over this song on a Spotify channel I was listening to.

I think it struck me pretty hard because I had missed an opportunity to speak to my mom on the night before she died. She called me on the feast day of Saint Gregory the Great and left me a message. She said that she called to wish me a “happy feast day” (a custom among Catholics) and to tell me, “You are my ‘Gregory the Great’.” I didn’t call her back right away, and when I remembered, it was late. She didn’t stay up late anymore, so I decided not to bother her that night. I wish I had. The next day, the moment was gone and she passed.

The good news: As a Christian, I know my relationship with my parents persists in and through the person of Jesus Christ, who incorporated us into His Body, the Church. I have faith that as members of that Mystical Body, my parents hear me and, though I cannot hear them, they respond. For a time we are physically separated, but the promises of Christ give me assurance and hope that our relationship continues. Though I do not take for granted the graces of heaven, I trust that He who began a good work in me with be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). I am eager for that day. I have many moments I want to redeem.

Do you have memories of parents and grandparents like mine? I’d like to read about them in the comments. If you liked this post, click like and share this content with your friends and family.

Recognizing the Body

Not long ago, I was visiting my daughter, her husband, and our granddaughter. These days of social distancing are hard for everyone, but I can’t help but highlight the difficulties for young children (and their parents). One of my goals during the visit was to get Aletheia out for some unique experiences in the outdoors.

My daughter and I found a nearby park with walking trails and we set out on a very hot afternoon. We found a shaded, grassy place for Aletheia to get out of the comfort of the stroller and expend some of her boundless energy.

The terrain was uneven, and Aletheia sometimes stumbled, and even fell, as she learned to navigate over sticks, bumps, and small divots. She had to experiment with how high to lift her feet, how fast she could go, or how much force she needed to use to climb over small hills. Toddlers need experiences like this to exercise their proprioceptive sense, that is, the communication between receptors in joints, ligaments, and muscles and the brain which help them understand their body’s position and movement. It helps them recognize their own body and gain control over it.

We don’t think very much about this sense, but it is central to our everyday experience. Those who lack proprioception may fall or trip more often (and thus have more broken bones) or use excessive force for delicate tasks. In the extreme, there have been cases of a complete inability to sense the parameters of one’s body, making it impossible to move, grasp, or feel (for example, see Losing Touch: A Man Without His Body by Jonathan Cole, 2016).

Some activities to nurture the proprioceptive sense in young children:

(Some ideas taken from Balanced and Barefoot, by Angela Hanscom, 2016)

  • Encourage “heavy” work:
    • Pull a full bag of toys across the room
    • Pull a wagon (loaded with treasures, perhaps?)
    • Push an ottoman to a favorite reading spot by a window
    • Push a log to make a bridge or a seat
    • Lift cans and boxes to help unload after a shopping trip
    • Pick up stones or rocks for building and playing outside
    • Provide heavy and light objects together for children to experience the difference
  • Practice working with delicate items (with discretion and safety!)
    • Allow children to briefly handle breakable objects (with supervision). Even very young children can learn what “gentle” means! Here is our grandson making “coffee” for his family:
    • Allow children to help care for plants
    • Give children a few stacked cupcake liners to separate
    • Help children learn to remove one sheet from a paper towel roll

I couldn’t help but make a different connection as I considered the concept of “recognizing the body”. Some translations of 1 Corinthians 11:29 use this terminology in terms of receiving Holy Communion. St. Paul explains the importance of recognizing (or discerning) that in Holy Communion, we consume Christ. The Catholic Church teaches that we receive the Real Presence of Christ: body, blood, soul, and divinity. This Eucharist is the center of the Christian life. Through it, the whole Church is united into Christ, as a body is united to its head.

So, in a way, we can consider right reception of the Eucharist an exercise in spiritual proprioception. As we enter into the mystery of Christ’s Passion, we gain an understanding of who we truly are, and who we are meant to be. We gain a sense of our own place in the Body by recognizing the Body of Christ. Without this proper disposition, we lose touch, we fall.

Some suggestions for strengthening your spiritual “proprioception”:

  • If you are able, regularly make visits to an Adoration Chapel or a Church to spend time in silence and prayer
  • Read what the Church teaches about the Eucharist in the Catechism
  • Read some books about the Eucharist (The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn or The Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre – just for starters)
  • Get in a habit of praying before and after receiving the Eucharist. Here are some examples.

Do you have other ideas for building physical or spiritual proprioception? Let me know in the comments below. Let us know you like this content by clicking like, then share with friends and family.

Dangers of Hindsight

As my children entered young adulthood, a theme emerged. I found myself discounting my experience as a young mother. The “should haves” abounded. I should have been more relaxed. I should have enjoyed each moment with our precious cherubs. I should have been more flexible. I should have embraced a different (fill in the blank) parenting philosophy. 

Then my children had children. Suddenly memories and emotions flooded back. Babies are HARD! And there is  a ton of stress and confusion. While I didn’t enjoy watching these new parents struggle, I found that significant personal healing accompanied their foray into the wilds of child rearing. I had two babies in 11 months! The idyllic domestic scene that I imagined I “should have” created was not realistic – or even really desirable. Doesn’t something truly grow grand under a little pressure?

My parenting story is littered with mistakes, sins, and omissions. I have wounded my children, and they have wounded me. But do you know who encouraged me to give my young mother self a little grace? My own daughter – my eldest. The starter child, if you will. And as she heaped love, mercy, and forgiveness upon me I realized that I had to broaden my perspective. For if I cannot look gracefully upon my own early mothering, might she wonder if I can look with grace upon her fledgling attempts? And what example does my self-castigation set for my children? What was sinful has been confessed and is as far from me as the east is from the west, and what was immature is slowly and sometimes painfully being pruned by the Master Gardener Himself.  

So I am declaring grandparenting an age of grace – for myself, my children and their spouses, and my grandchildren (that’s the easy part).

How have your children, young or old, been a grace to you? What expectations of yourself are you working through? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like what your reading, please click “like” and share.

Honoring Our Children

I remember when I had that list of things my parents did that I said I would never do to my kids. Yeah, well, what goes around comes around, right?

Our children and their spouses have different parenting styles from us and each other, partly because of who they are, partly because of who their children are, and partly because of who we are. One might say the basics should be the same and I might agree to some degree, but going about the basics of feeding or nap time, e.g, can play out quite differently than I think they should. How do I react to that? Are choices they make a commentary on or rejection of how we raised or children?

Honoring our children as parents posed new challenges for me. Last year, my daughter spent a few weeks with us after the birth of her daughter. Our tolerances for her daughter’s nap time fussing were indeed different. I might think, “If she would do this, then she’d save herself aggravation.” That’s partly (mostly?) an opinion and perhaps a weakness of novice grandparenting. Watching my child experience a common frustration with her own child was hard. As a father, I found it harder to shelve my years of indisputable sagacity (*cough*) and not offer a remedy. (I failed.) Though difficult in the moment, my daughter was committed to her ways which were indeed full of love and neglected nothing for my granddaughter. I remember taking care of our granddaughter and committing to do things the way my daughter would, but not without some internal reflection and personal admonition. I needed her to know she could trust me and I dare not let my pride change this baby’s experience of parenting in an intrusive, unexpected way. That would be harmful.

When our children are visiting, sometimes (continuing with my example) our grandchild isn’t falling asleep, or won’t eat, I am tempted to think I offer an objective third-person perspective. It would be shallow to say it’s because they’re novice parents, but I see that my desire to help sometimes comes from a sense of having superior knowledge. Although I do have more experience, my son and daughter and their spouses may tell you, “Dad doesn’t know my child like I do.” The reality is there’s not always a simple answer. I may try something and it will work, once. Try it again, it doesn’t. Realizing such difficulties are often the result of a different environment or some confusion on the part of my grandchild should be enough to prevent me from thinking I could provide an easy solution; nonetheless, it’s hard to watch your children and grandchildren endure the common growing pains of being a family. My job is to avoid making it more painful, so I have to take my cues from them.

To better honor my children, I have to continue moving beyond the functional cause-and-effect logic that betrays the greater complexity of our humanness. I had draw on a beautiful truth which I had meditated and preached on a number of times before. We often say a child is an unrepeatable gift, but more than that, a child is a unique encounter from which a unique, unrepeatable relationship develops. No other person can have the relationship we have with each of our children or they have with each of theirs. These singularities are part of the mystery of being made Imago Dei, in the image of God; therefore, when we encounter another person, we encounter all the potential and actual God-likeness that is bound up in them. When we enter into relationship with them, we open ourselves up to God’s marvelous work in their lives such that we might see God in a new way, which is wonderful blessing, but one that comes with some friction. The wonder and the blessing grow even more profound when we invite others into the relationship, as will the friction. That friction is what moves us forward and remains a necessary part of a growing relationship.

As I once vowed, I will not be an interfering grandparent who doesn’t respect my children’s wishes. I, therefore, have come to respect that special and unique intimacy my children have with their children as much as I wanted my own relationship with them to be respected. Truly, to witness it is a privilege. For them to invite me into it is a humbling honor.

What do you find wonderful about the gift of relationship? How have you honored others in your family? Please let us know in the comments below. If you like what your reading, please click “like” and share.