Happy New Year! We mark today as a new beginning. We have left 2023 and are launching into 2024, likely with an abundance of intentions, feelings, and hopefully… hope. Today is the Feast of the Holy Name, marking both the naming of Jesus and his circumcision.
When we are young, our elders are the ones who have intentions for us, hope for us. We mark these moments with rites of passage and ceremony—from the religious baptism to the more cultural or worldly smash-cake at a first birthday.
Rites of passage come in many shapes and sizes, some explicit and tangible, and some pass by without much acknowledgement at all. A few from childhood and adolescence come to mind, many which introduce new emotions, the reckoning with a new emotion often being the predominant memory of growing into our humanness:
Receiving our name
Learning to walk
Learning to talk
Death of a pet
The ability to think in the abstract
Joining a new team or a new school
Puberty offers a handful
Death of a loved one
Losing one’s virginity
Leaving a sport or musical instrument behind
Going off to college
We can mark these major experiences alongside our children, help them process the emotions inherent in leaving one part of our lives behind and advancing into new territory. Why wouldn’t we? Especially in a world with record cases of loneliness reported. But how?
For our sacramental rites of passage, we mark them at church, with a liturgy, and cake. (Always cake.) Also common, in our social media era, are posts. Those with access post pictures, memories, heartfelt outpourings of emotion. But as parents, 1) Is posting on social media where we want to model processing and celebrating? 2) How do we make space for our children to have a tangible human connection in these times of transition? Time to talk, hug, feel, engage IRL – time for intimacy. There are plenty of obstacles to this time together, but let’s talk about opportunities.
As long as we’re traveling to and from extra-curricular practices, there is time in the car for these chats. We can normalize the sharing of feelings or the process of checking in on a loved one by starting these conversations early (but it’s never too late). What about tuck-ins at night? “I noticed ___, and I was wondering if ____,” is one of my go tos for these conversations. We can model curiosity and care.
We may *think* our kiddos are more interested in time with their friends than with us. And, that’s true *some* of the time. But often, time with friends is full of competition, leveraging for position, and a constant need for energy. A family movie night, an hour at Top Golf, a hike nearby—these are opportunities to be together and create protected time boundaries for our kids. Let them know we prioritize them—that marking their milestones is worth our time.
Are we making time to mark these moments for ourselves? Adulthood is full of rites of passage too:
Death of a loved one
A new job
An emptying nest
The end of a relationship
A new city
A new marriag
Paul writes to the Corinthians about putting away childish things; leaving behind our less mature ways and taking on the responsibility of perpetuating the gifts of the spirit because we know better now. Do we know better? Are we practiced in a mature reckoning with our own emotions? Human development is anything but linear, and maybe some of these emotions are new at 32, 42, 52…
Not everything we go through is appropriate to share with our children. And, I wonder if we sometimes hide emotions and struggle and joy and pride in such a way that we are setting up unrealistic expectations for adulthood. How do we live and model love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in our own lives, amidst these guideposts in life? Kids are great little eavesdroppers. What are they hearing as you process some of life’s biggest moments? When we care for ourselves, we are in a better place to care for our children.
Remember that you were named. Your passage into the world was marked by love. Your passage through the world is marked by an unending, ever-present love. Even as we move through dark times, and we feel alone, we are known and loved. When we accomplish great things or everyday things that feel big, we are seen and loved. In the midst of these heavy times for our growing kiddos, remind them of this profound truth.
How does your household mark milestones?