Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Presence of Parents: Always a Gift, Even for Teenagers

Toward the end of my daily commute to work, as I head 40 miles an hour down a state highway,  I have often seen a white Volvo parked at the edge of a driveway, its motor running and lights on. I often wondered if it was a unmarked police car. But then again, what police officers do you know who drive Volvo cruisers? Then, one day I was running late and a school bus stopped just before the driveway. I stopped too. A little girl got out of the Volvo, the bus drove off and then her father drove out the driveway.

Mystery revealed. Dad waits with his daughter in the car until the bus comes, then heads off to work.

These family rituals are so important.

Our family now consists of two working parents and two busy teenagers. (Boys who do not like their pictures taken) Long gone are the days when my husband and I would load our sons, in their pajamas, into the double stroller and walk to the ice cream parlor for an evening treat. Gone too, are the days when our sons and I would pretend to be asleep in the family room as their dad came in the door from work. The contest was who could be the last one to burst out laughing.

We've tried to find new routines for the young men are boys are becoming. A new tradition - I guess I can all it that because it is three weeks old - is picking up our younger son from the turf field after soccer practice Saturday afternoons and the four of us heading to Sunday vigil mass together. That gives us time Sunday mornings to eat chocolate chip pancakes with slab bacon - a new Lenten tradition.

We're not the only ones scrambling to find family time. 

In his January 1 message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict XVI outlined the many factors that eat into family life, including working conditions, worries about the future and the frenetic pace of life. "All this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents."

Sometimes I think the kind of family time we need must be attached to some domestic art, like baking bread or planting a vegetable garden together. I know plenty of folks who do these activities with their children. But I haven't baked bread in a few years and, despite my annual intentions, never have had a vegetable garden.

Still, in the end, what our children need are parents who meet them where they are right now, whether on the turf field or at the bus stop. Our children need us to spend time with them, sharing our journey with theirs.


  1. Wonderful message for us busy parents. I make the most of our time in the car to be present to my preteen son.

  2. Amen and VERY well written! My *baby* is 22 and he still likes to find me burning the midnight oil (blog-surfing) when he comes home. He will come in, throw himself on the futon, and share his life with me and ask about mine. I am blessed! I suppose that one of the reasons that he talks to me now is that I always made time to listen when he was younger.

  3. My mom used to work really hard to find time to spend with me. I’m 30 now so it’s not as hard. We enjoy spending time together. I have to admit, as my husband and I are about to have our first child, I worry about what we’ll do when our son is older.