For the past several days, we’ve had just two kids at home, Trevor and Lily. The elder three were at Extreme Faith Camp, Brendan as a leader, Gabe as a member of the prayer team, and Rose as a camper. Their return, I think, was bittersweet for the younger ones — although bored and (allegedly) overworked at points, they enjoyed having Mom’s and Dad’s full attention. Lily got in trouble for interrupting far less, because there was far less to interrupt. And Trev got to go to Culver’s and Jurassic World with just Jodi and me.
We parents, on the other hand, missed our teens. It took only a day or so for me to stop and calculate that we are just six years from potentially being a permanent four-person household, and eight years from Lily being alone with us, At some point unmarked in the past, the pitter-patter of tiny feet was drowned out by the flitter-flutter of tiny wings as the fledglings prepare to leave the nest.
This, I’m discovering, is going to be harder for me than the fact that I, too, am aging and yet still feel like I have much to learn — in fact, my own feelings of inexperience in this world only magnify my anxiety for my offspring. Have a taught them what they need to know to survive? Will they thrive? Will they avoid the pitfalls and snares in which Jodi and I have become entangled over the years? Have the courage to be faithful in public? To remain Catholic, with all that entails?
We see encouraging signs from each of them. Bren, now 17 and approaching his senior year, has changed his views on a military career, primarily due to moral concerns. He takes his faith very seriously: donates to Catholic causes, joins his friends for weekday Mass on Wednesdays, joins his girlfriend Olivia in the Adoration Chapel in our church. Gabe, nearly 15 and a coming sophomore, still has his eyes on the priesthood, joins his brother and friends at Wednesday Mass, and just last night asked where he could find the Divine Office that priests commit to praying daily — hinting that he’d like to take it up, but that he’d rather not do it alone. Thirteen-year-old Emma came home from having been deeply impacted by Eucharistic Adoration at camp, trembling with emotion before the Blessed Sacrament and alternating between sorrow and joy (ending on joy) as she prayed.
Yesterday I came home from the church for lunch, and popped in a DVD that would not play in my work computer. The video came up immediately, and featured Fr. Robert Barron tackling common Catholic apologetics questions in short video clips. I began cherry-picking a few that might be interesting, and Trev, who will be 11 in few days, sat down to watch. For more than an hour, we watched and discussed the rational foundations for our Catholic faith. It’s amazing to see what he absorbs in such a short time, and I pray the same has been true for the others.
Lily, of course, is only three. She knows Jesus by sight, likes to pray (the Angelus and petitions, in particular, and especially for her friends and for babies) most evenings, and is at home in our church, if not fully engaged by the Mass yet. As I continue in my job as faith formation director, planning the coming year’s program, I realize how much more we could be doing with our parish youth, and by extension, how much more I could have done with my own children. Lily will benefit from that realization — and yet when I look at her four older siblings, I wonder how much I should do differently. But how can I give anything less than my all for my family when the stakes are so high and the implications, eternal?