Husband & Wife Articles


The Healthy Ties of Kinship

The Fourth Commandment brings families closer together

By Jason Godin

Most grandparents spoil their grandchildren. It is a dynamic that assumes different forms, and a relationship that doesn’t discriminate by side of families. For example, my wife and I know that our parents have no problem buying stuff periodically for our children that the kids want but don’t really need. We know where the little, extra treats on our kids’ plates come from during particular celebrations each year. We also see no great concern on our parents’ faces for allowing our kids to stay up a bit past their normal bedtime when they visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

When we first started out as parents over five years ago, my wife and I used to think that our parents spoiling our kids would doom them to an unhealthy future. We envisioned lawlessness and selfishness on the horizon. But one day, when my mother grinned at me with an ear-to-ear smile as my son raced around the room with abandon, I learned invaluable lessons about healthy parenting, healthy families, and, ultimately, a healthy faith.

I first recalled how much I took full advantage of the very same relationship with my grandparents. Other parents my age shared similar sentiments in this regard. Looking back, we realized that our grandparents let us, as kids, get away with a great deal as our parents stared on with shock and awe. Yet, remarkably, we still turned out happy and, more importantly, healthy. I think part of the reason why that is stemmed from the infrequency of major delinquency and the fact that my grandparents stood by my parents whenever they called for the activities in question to stop.

I also discovered in that same moment how healthy parenting demands a broader perspective that faith provides. During my first days as a father, I used to think that if I didn’t immediately do something, anything, to discipline my misbehaving child that I was a bad parent. The same feeling arose when we visited my parents or, worse, my in-laws.

Amid all such feelings of not measuring up, however, I found myself over the years thankful that at least our parents were actually there, present in the lives of our children. Our kids know who their grandparents are and that they love them unconditionally. That is healthy. It is also a genuine presence rooted in real love. Together – grandparents, their children, and their children’s children – share moments and make memories in love. How many other parents can say the same today? Sadly, with the increasing breakdown of families, how many fewer parents will be able to say the same in generations to come?

Those last observations, it seems to me, are the most critical for Catholic fathers to remember as the Year of Faith continues. Most men know that the Fourth Commandment says to “honor your father and your mother,” but not many realize it is so “that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). The deepest roots of our family trees are intertwined and nourished by a healthy faith. It is a thread woven through the fabric of time by love. It is a bond that generations share, and strengthens or weakens, according to how we relate not only to our own flesh and blood but the Body of Blood of Christ and his Church (cf. CCC, 2199).

Remembering and living the Fourth Commandment must emerge as one of our first priorities today if we are to find ourselves waking up tomorrow to a world of greater peace and prosperity. The healthy ties of kinship forged by honoring our fathers and mothers can bring all generations of our families closer together. It can also lead to the authentic happiness that God wants to give us. But we must first choose to embrace them.

Married with two children, Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas.