Friday, June 15, 2007

Making Boys Interested in the Church

An article at Crisis Magazine by Anthony Esolen explores three ways to make (and keep) boys interested in the Church. Excerpt:

Insofar, then, as the liturgy is seen as a feminine enterprise, so will it fail to interest boys. I don’t mean that they will reject it consciously. We are not talking about something bad that happens, so much as about something good and necessary that does not happen. They will not say, “I don’t like holding hands, I don’t like the soprano at the piano bar, I don’t like the cutesy slogans on the banners.” It’s simply that their minds and hearts will wander. They will not be inspired to devotion.

How, then, to win the hearts of the boys? I have three recommendations.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Lawyer's Guide to Fatherhood

Fun article in USA Today about the "legality" of fatherhood. Excerpt:

...all children are born with an innate sense of the law. Indeed, when the Framers spoke of natural rights, they might have hit on the same discovery in their own children. You can actually track your kids' development by the legal arguments they make. Take it from me, the best way to prepare for parenting is to take a law course at your community college.

Takings. The Constitution prohibits the taking of property without compensation by the government. Within their first two years, all children embrace this principle with a vengeance. Parents learn they must compensate for any item removed: a toy for the car keys; a cracker for the 12-inch butcher knife.

Contracts. By 3, negotiating with kids is like working with little Teamsters on a labor contract. Bring a sandwich truck to the site; it becomes part of the contract. Likewise, once a parent buys a scone at Starbucks or allows cartoons in the morning, it is part of an unwritten but enforceable contract. This develops into a form of collective bargaining with the addition of another sibling: Any benefit to one is instantly an expected benefit to the other. Break the contract and you'll face work stoppages, unending protests and even sabotage that ranges from spilled milk to items in the trash can.

Cruel and unusual punishment. By 3, children have defined what they view as cruel and unusual punishment. Denials of favorite foods or toys are considered to be measures that "shock the conscience" and require immediate redress.

Privacy. As soon as a child goes through potty training, privacy becomes an increasingly important right - reaching its apex in the teen years. The same parents who spent two years changing them and bathing them must now sequester themselves in a distant room to avoid the "chilling effect" of surveillance.

Equal protection. By 6, all children put themselves in what the Supreme Court calls "a suspect class" - any different treatment based on their identity as a sibling can be enforced only after parents show a compelling reason that they are using "the least restrictive means." Otherwise, a difference of only 10 minutes in television time is enough to unleash demonstrations reminiscent of the march on Selma.

Due process. By 6, kids will insist on full due process in adjudicating their claims. Major penalties such as loss of Game Boys require something close to a full trial with two days of arraignment, jury selection and sequestration - and inexhaustible appeals.


10 Pardoxes of Fatherhood

Jay at Catholic-Dads posted a great article from Donald DeMarco in the National Catholic Register on the "10 Paradoxes of Fatherhood".

...Fatherhood means being:

1. A leader without being a frontrunner.
Our prevailing notion of leader comes from the worlds of sports and from politics. In this sense, in accordance with the “leader board” in golf, the leader is the one who is ahead of the rest of the field. Or he is the one who is leading in the political polls by outpacing his rivals. But a father is not a leader in this way. He does not try to remove himself from his family. Nor does he regard the members of his family as rivals. On the contrary, he leads in a manner that fulfills each member. His leadership is inseparable from those he leads. What he leads and “fathers” into being is the good of those whom he loves.In other words, fatherhood requires that a father leads by being there, rather than being “ahead of the pack.”

2. A visionary without being arrogant.
Every home must have a hearth and a horizon. The father is a visionary in the sense that he has an eye on the future. He has a keen sense of the importance of time. But he has this without presumption or arrogance. He is providential in his fathering. He knows instinctively that his children will grow up and lead independent lives. He provides for them a future vision of themselves.

3. A servant without being servile.
The expression servus servorum Dei (servant of the servants of God) adopted by John Paul II, comes from Pope Gregory the Great. Paradoxically, this servant of the servants of God earned the appellation “Great.” He who humbles himself shall be exalted. The father serves all the members of his family without being in any sense inferior. One might say, in this respect, that a father is like a tennis player: When they serve, they both enjoy an advantage.

4. An authority without being authoritarian.
The father, like God, shares in the authorship of life. He is an authority and therefore someone to learn from and be guided by. But his authority does not restrict the liberty of others. In fact, fatherly authority is to cultivate and enhance liberty. St. Thomas Aquinas wisely pointed out that “the respect that one has for the rule flows naturally from the respect one has for the person who gave it” (Ex reverentia praecipientis procedere debet reverentia praecepti). A person best understands fatherhood by knowing someone who is a good father. One must begin with the real experience and not the inadequate abstraction.

5. A lover without being sentimental.
The love of a father is strong and unwavering. Love is not bound by a feeling, and hence prone to sentimentality. It is strengthened by principles that always focus on the good of others. Love means doing what is in the best interest of others. Sentimentality means always being nice because one is fearful of opposition.

6. A supporter without being subordinate.
A father is supportive. He holds people up, keeps them going when they are inclined to be discouraged. His encouraging role does not imply subordination, but reliability and trustworthiness from someone who is strong. He is not supportive in the Hollywood sense of being a “supporting actor.” His supportive role is played out as the leading man.

7. A disciplinarian without being punitive.
A good father knows the value of rules and the consequences of disregarding them. He wants his children to be strong in virtue. Therefore, he knows the importance of discipline, restraint and self-possession. He is not punitive, nor is he overbearing. He makes it clear to his children that there is no true freedom without discipline, that discipleship requires training. He is wary of punishment as such, since it can strike fear in the heart of a child.

8. Merciful without being spineless.
Mercy must be grounded in justice. Otherwise it is dissipation and weakness. In fact, it is unjust. A father, because he recognizes the uncompromisable importance of justice is anything but spineless. He is merciful, but his mercy perfects his justice. Mercy without justice, is mere capitulation to the desires of others. Justice without mercy is cold legalism.

9. Humble without being self-deprecating.
Humility is based on the honest recognition of who one is. It takes into account one’s limitations and weaknesses. The humble father, when he encounters difficulties, has enough humility to ask for help, even at times from his own children. Yet, he never gets down on himself. He knows that remaining self-deprecating at a time of crisis is utterly futile.

10. Courageous without being foolhardy.
Courage is not fearlessness, but the ability to rise above fear so that one can do what needs to be done in a time of danger or difficulty. A father does not fall apart when he begins to feel the pressure. Foolhardiness is not courage but an unfocused and unhelpful recklessness. Moreover, courage, as its etymology suggests, requires heart. The father, above all, is a man of heart...


Monday, June 04, 2007

Marriage Makes You Happy?

Science has once again confirmed what we common-folk have long known: marriage is good for your well-being. A study from an Ohio State grad student reveals that "marriage provides a greater psychological boost to depressed people than to happy people, even if the marriage is so-so. "
The big remaining question, she says, is why depressed people benefit more from marriage than happy people. It could be that marriage provides the companionship and emotional support needed to help alleviate depression, she said.

Could be. But not sure. Probably take some more grant dollars to settle it.

Avoiding sports burnout for our kids

A new report states the obvious: kids need a break from sports. I think most parents intuitively know this, even if they don't practice it. But I thought this line at the end was revealing.
The pediatricians who wrote the report said aiming for the Olympics or a career in professional sports was unrealistic for most children. Less than 1 percent of high school athletes make it to the pros, the report said.

Of course, a lot of them just know that their special prodigy is a part of that extreme minority. I think it's amazing how many kids say they just want to have fun playing and not be tied to a schedule.