Our family recently spent
a week at the beach. We rented a house on the beach with a lovely boardwalk to the clear blue water, surf, and sand. This is a yearly gathering that we have made as a family for over 40 years. For the last 17 years we have gone to the same island, because it is isolated and lacks the touristy trappings that tend to distract younger children.
For our large family,
this is an important time to just "be" in one another's company. New spouses and new babies (when we are blessed to have either) are given a wonderful initiation during the annual beach vacation. Sometimes an important new friend joins us and later becomes one of the new spouses. This is always fun.
As you can easily imagine there was plenty of laughter and just the right amount of vacation chaos to balance lots of time relaxing, whether on the beach, the deck overlooking the ocean, or napping (my husband seemed to be an expert on the latter). Seeing the moms drench their littles in sunscreen, suit up spindly arms with water wings, cover sweet heads with hats, strap sunglasses on tiny faces and gather towels, water, sippy cups, swimmer diapers, sand toys, chairs and umbrellas before heading out to the fun makes me smile. I do remember those wonderful days when my husband and I were doing just the same. It was happy work and kept us young. And now as we watch our daughters and their husbands do just as we had done years ago, I am grateful for the reminder that all things are joy when our work is sacrificial and given over to the Lord.
I want to share with you
the best memory that I took away from this year's vacation. When I would see my adult children gathered together laughing and reminiscing about their childhood, it was as if the good Jesus was reassuring me that though we as a family have seen some very challenging times and difficult seasons, our children love looking back with great joy. Many of our family's folklore have been lovingly embellished over the years. Much to my amusement the best stories and those that get the most laughter begin with "remember the time Mom or Dad did . . ." My husband and I agree that our children have always functioned as a grand team of sorts and are deeply bonded to one another. These stories are their best memories and ones that they cherish.
One morning I awoke
to the smell of fresh coffee brewing. What a treat! I went to the kitchen and looked out through the deck doors to find my children, mugs of coffee in hand, gathered around the deck table laughing and talking. Where one sibling is found others naturally gather, as if a "sibling seeking" homing device had been implanted in each at birth.
I settled on the couch
and decided that instead of "crashing" the party I would listen in. Their conversation was about the days of homeschooling. They shared with one another the subjects or lessons that gave them challenge, etc. To hear them talk, it was wonderful to think that they did not view homeschooling as an oddity but a normal way of education complete with ups and downs. Then Jesus gave me a gift that I am forever grateful to receive that morning while listening in and having coffee.
One of our daughters remarked,
"The thing I liked best about homeschooling, besides the fact that it perfectly suited me, was that I could spend every day, all day with the people I love most in the world." Each sibling agreed, then someone said something funny, there were peals of laughter, and then the deck door opened and the beach chaos began.
Seeing the children
on the deck that morning, I recalled a time long ago when we were a younger homeschooling family. Once I took the children to our city park to just get out of the house for a bit. I sat on a park bench watching the children play while I nursed the baby of the time. A woman who was a very casual acquaintance saw me and decided to join me on the bench. After a minute or two she remarked, "Don't you think that homeschooling is making your children too dependent upon you? I mean honestly, they will never leave home."
I would like to find
that woman now and clue her in to what has become of those "overly dependent" homeschooled children. I have children working in all manner of occupations near and far. We have a phlebotomist, a PhD in math, a dental hygienist, a cardio vascular nurse practitioner, a craftsman who works with wood, a telemetry technician working in a large hospital's heart unit, an architect who is an art director in film, an optical technician, a teacher, and a production assistant in television. They live in New York City, Idaho, Alabama, and Tennessee (for now). Most have spent time abroad from Japan to Germany, France, China, Scotland, Madagascar, Budapest, and England. All are energetic, outgoing, confident, and capable of being far away from me and my husband.
Most importantly, each of the children
walks the Catholic faith as a journey. Faith is not accomplished merely by going to Mass or receiving the sacraments. Faith is an active, living part of one's being. Faith needs to be challenged, defended, protected, and nurtured in order to grow. The children feel free to bring their questions to my husband and me and are secure that we will gratefully discuss in an atmosphere of mutual respect. (This oftentimes happens during our beach vacation as there is time for one with one.)
I praise God and thank Him
every day for the gift of Catholic homeschooling. By immersing ourselves in the beauty and clarity of our rich Catholic faith we were able to approach the hardships, the work, the sorrows, and the joys from a perspective that bonded us together and helped the children see beyond today's challenges to the reward of life eternal. God has indeed honored this mother's prayer.
As we departed from one another
after the beach vacation there were long hugs and some tears (the little grands hate to see a party end). But I know that because it was activated so many years ago, that "sibling homing" device will not only urge us to gather again but will sustain us and keep us connected. Thank God for cell phones, email, and FaceTime. My dad used to say, "Families are messy with life's life, and God helps us clean up and enjoy the work."