Graduation Gifts

Our firstborn son is graduating from high school this June.

I can still vividly remember the day we brought him home from the hospital in awe and wonder at the miraculous new life that we would be responsible raising and nurturing.

We had no way of predicting the joys or the challenges we would face, but we knew we would try our best. We bought the popular parenting books and started out.

Unfortunately, at the time of his birth, I wasn’t very interested in religion and certainly never in a million years dreamed that I would ever be Catholic. But within a few short years I became much more introspective. I realized that before long it was going to be our parental responsibility to provide answers to the questions our children ask about life and death the world around them.

And so the spiritual quest began in earnest which eventually led our family into the Catholic Church.

Looking back over these years, I can’t help but reflect on the parent’s role in preparing a child to go out into the world.  Every child has his own unique challenges and it is sometimes difficult to balance the various duties of parenthood.   Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if every parent received  their own report card on their child’s graduation day.

What would the criteria be for such a report card?

Most parents that I know are concerned with helping their children achieve academic competence and perhaps success in sports, music, scouts, and other activities that show that a child is cultured, educated, and well-rounded.

I believe these areas are absolutely important.  However, when I try to discern the MOST important responsibility of a parent, I believe that those things are really secondary.   Much more important is parent’s obligation in the formation of a child’s faith and character.  To some people this is obvious, but it’s sometimes easy lose sight of this as we get swept into fast pace of daily life.

Sometimes I think that parents should receive report cards every six weeks to ensure that that they are remembering to work on the most important things.

As my son goes off to college I realize that, know matter what his g.p.a. or what degree he gets,  I will have succeeded as a parent only to the extent that I have raised a responsible, confident, competent, considerate and generous person committed to living a virtuous and meaningful life.

I ask myself to what extent have I demonstrated and taught faith, hope, charity, temperance, patience, fortitude? Perhaps these are the subjects that belong on a parent’s report card.

Like most parents, I want my children to be happy, but the type of happiness that I want for my children is not the type of happiness that equates to merely temporary subjective satisfaction devoid of struggle.    Rather I seek for my children a happiness that is more transcendent and permanent, not a form of “happiness” that is contingent on wealth, looks, intelligence, professional success or any external circumstances.

This is the type of happiness that I desired for my children the moment they were born, and it was this desire that led me to learn more about the Catholic faith.  Once I began to invest the time to learn more about what the Church actually teaches  (rather than relying on what other people said) I found here the most satisfying, solid, and unyielding affirmation of the dignity of the human person the and the means for becoming the best person possible.

My first son is about to graduate high school and I have one more child to follow.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years and I pray that I have helped prepare him for his future.  And when I look back on the joys and struggles of the last eighteen years, I hope that I have a least given him what is most important in life.