I intended to get this done for Jennifer F.'s group writing project at Et tu?, but I guess it's better late than never. Apparently a whole week to write a few paragraphs is not enough.
Three Things My Parents Did Right
1. Mom read to us every night and encouraged us to read.
We had a bed time routine of reading and prayers every night. I always looked forward to our nighttime reading ritual and I am so thankful that Mom took the time and energy to do it every night. Mom was (and still is) a high school math teacher and always had mountains of papers to grade and regular quizzes and tests to create. She had plenty of excuses to speed up the bedtime routine, but she never gave into them. I think that habit is in large part the reason why I have always been a voracious reader and have a great love of books.
Because Mom was a teacher, she was home in the summer time with us. During the summers we made regular excursions to the library to check out books. I loved going to the library and being able to use my own library card. I truly remember those trips more fondly than any trip to a toy store or fast food restaurant.
2. We ate a home cooked meal as a family every night.
I did not realize that eating a family dinner is not the norm in America until I was an adult, so a couple of years ago I probably would not have even thought to include this as one of the three things my parents did right. Not only did it teach us basic nutrition principles and get us involved with cooking at a young age, but it grounded our family. Eating supper together around the table was something we could count on and it helped bind us together as a family. We sat and ate and talked about our day and none of us were allowed to leave the table until everyone was finished and we said the after dinner prayer. It was a simple prayer and as standard to me as the "Bless us O Lord" before meal prayer, but I don't think I have ever heard it anywhere else. Just in case you would like to add it to your family tradition, here it is:
"We give thee thanks Almighty God for these and all thy benefits, which we have received from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen."
3. Mom and Dad stayed together.
My parents were devout Catholics who lived their faith everyday, but that did not mean that they did not have struggles. When I was in elementary school, life began to get hard, very hard, and it took a toll on their marriage. A series of hardships began to fall on them, one after the other after the other. Dad began to have health problems, followed by a serious injury in a car accident, followed by more medical problems. Eventually, he became completely disabled and was physically unable to work, so Mom became the sole breadwinner for the family. Around the same time as Dad's car accident, the local economy busted and they also faced layoffs, some failed businesses, crushing debt and mounting medical bills.
Dad has said that there were times when he spent his weekly adoration hour literally yelling at God.
Needless to say, all of this was very difficult on their marriage. In fact, more than once Dad walked out the door with no intention of coming back. But, he did come back. And, they would start over working at their marriage. They started over again and again. They persevered because of their faith, their children, their vows, their love of each other, and for the sake of their immortal souls. They continue to persevere and work on their marriage even today. In fact, they are now very active in helping putting on marriage retreats throughout their diocese.
Their example means more to me than I could possibly put into words in this post. Mom and Dad, I love you and am so grateful.