“Look, Maria!” he said.
They watched the segment together, but Ted wasn’t satisfied with its educational value, so he found an online video of another hot air balloon, kicking off our week with a physics lesson for the 2-year-old.
Earlier this month he pulled over on a remote Iowa highway to give Maria an up-close view of a wind turbine, and my heart swelled as they squinted their eyes, craned their necks and studied the gargantuan propellers.
This is the guy who showed her the 1969 moon landing when she was 18 months, who opened a flashlight handle to reveal its batteries and drove her in the tractor to watch Grandpa harvest corn.
“Do you know what windows are made of?” he asked during dinner a few months ago. “Plastic?” Maria guessed.
“You can ask me anything,” he often tells her. “You can point to something and say, ‘What’s that, Daddy?’” And she does.
My husband enjoys explaining things, and our toddler enjoys learning. She recognizes when she’s being given a lesson and she leans in; there’s a heightened alertness and time seems to slow.
The Catholic Church describes parents as their children’s primary teachers, which feels like both an affirmation and a challenge:
“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church states in its article on the Fourth Commandment and the duties of family members. “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. …Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.”
Did you catch that? The matter is grave.
“Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage,” the Catechism continues, “parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children.”
I love the image of “first heralds,” which makes me think of angels giving witness to history-making moments through a loving presence and simple words. “Do not be afraid!”
Ours is the privilege and responsibility to witness to that light. We declare the mysteries and miracles of our faith. We continue the traditions of our Church. We recount the stories of Jesus. And all the while, we try to love as he loved.
To begin, the Catechism suggests, we bear witness by creating a home marked by tenderness and service, where we build children up as we calm them down – kisses and hugs and gentle strength as we slather on the sunscreen and wriggle them into shoes.
There is so much to cover as primary teachers of the faith, but day by day we stack the building blocks. A baby born. His mama, Mary. Love incarnate.
Prayer before food. Hands folded in thanksgiving. Bless us, O Lord.
Piece by piece, we build a structure of faith that we pray will last a lifetime.
Reprinted with permission from FathersForGood.org.