Growing up, Expectations, and Mercy

As parents, we are striving to teach our kids right from wrong, virtue from vice, how to pursue the good, even when it is time-consuming, less comfortable, and downright hard. But how do we do this? And what sort of exceptions should we have for them?

If we expect our kids to clean up after themselves, wake up and go to bed on time, limit screen time, not be lazy around the house – we also need to follow these same rules. But most of the time we don’t.

A family friend recently passed away, and I was able to read her blog that she maintained before her death. She remarked that her son asked her for one last bit of advice for family life, and she told him: To help your children grow up, you must grow up. Simple, but profound words.

I noticed this Lent that my kids were striving so hard in their attempts at sacrifice, almsgiving and prayers. And me? I wasn’t nearly as steadfast as these little souls.

I once heard a scripture scholar remarking on the high expectations Jesus had on his followers “Be perfect, just as your Father is perfect.” I can’t imagine a higher of bar! Time and again we see Jesus placing high demands in the Gospel. He asks a lot, and provides grace for us to strive to meet them. As parents, we also set the bar high for our children. They need to know what the expectations are, and that we are available to help them achieve them.

Yet, we also see His great mercy and forgiveness for the human failures He encounters.

On the evening of the Resurrection, He meets the 10 Apostles (Thomas wasn’t there) and He gives them His peace and His blessing. He could have chided them or snapped at them for running away during His cruxifixction but he instead offers his love.

How many times a week do I chide or harshly scold my child for a (much smaller!) failure? As I reheard the Resurrection gospel, I took to heart this message of offering mercy and love instead of harshness and shame.

Children need to know the bar is high, and then then when they fail, they must be embraced with arms of love and mercy. And remember that they can’t reach limits if we as adults can’t even live them out! To help your children grow up, you must grow up. And an abundance of Jesus’ love and mercy, that he in turn gives to us first.

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