I couldn’t help myself. I had to dip my toes in the waves. I had to see the white foam circle around my feet and feel the sand pull from beneath my soles as the water receded. Not quite as adventurous as my husband’s polar bear dip in the iciness of the early summer New England shore, but I felt like a kid nonetheless. I felt the carefree joy of having my perspective jolted into place by the magnificence of the Atlantic. I allowed my mind to rest and my heart to be satisfied by drinking in the beauty of God’s creation through the feeling of sand between my toes, the scent of salty wind in my hair, and the brilliance of sunshine glinting off of the ocean.
Yes, I felt like a kid, and my children could tell.
We looked for seashells together, we laughed at pesky seagulls together, we strolled the sandy seashore together. The family vacation was balm for our weary souls. It allowed us to put all of our worldly cares away for awhile and focus only on each other and this big, beautiful world that God created.
In the article “How Does Our Emotional Health Help Us to be Holy?” found at spirtualdirection.com, Catholic therapist Allison Ricciardi points out that “what we know will not necessarily lead us to do the right thing.” She further explains that the good Samaritan in Luke’s gospel not only knew the right thing to do for someone in need, but was “moved with compassion” and, therefore, inspired to act in accord with his will and intellect.
And so it is with our children. I want to train my children’s will. I want to form their consciences well. But in order to accomplish this effectively, I must build a relationship of trust and love with them. They must feel it in their hearts that I am always working for their good–that I truly want what is best for them. It is only in the framework of an emotionally healthy relationship that my lessons, disciplinary actions, and rules will make sense. It is only in the embrace of an emotionally healthy relationship that my children’s hearts will be moved to follow the path I am attempting to lay before them.
So dip your toes in the waves with your children this summer. In the midst of discipline, training, chores, and activities, be sure to set aside regular time that is just about living in the moment with those you love. Speak your children’s language of love and connection and play with them, do nothing with them, waste time with them.
When our family returned home from our vacation, we felt a greater sense of unity, of wanting to be together, and of wanting to please one another.
Have fun loving your children, and watch their hearts be moved to embrace the will of God as it is revealed by the radiance of a healthy relationship.
To read more about the importance of playing with your kids, check out this summer’s issue of the online magazine, Tender Tidings (where I am Assistant Editor!) This is a wonderful resource for any Catholic parent!