My kids and I rediscovered the joy of reading together this summer. We learned new words, gained knowledge about unfamiliar topics, and felt a sense of accomplishment as each page was turned. But there is one hidden benefit of reading that surpasses all of the others; one benefit that occurs naturally but is still surprising; one benefit that makes reading “Elmo’s Favorite Things” for the hundredth time completely worth it.
The transformation is almost magical. I open a book and four crazy, distracted, bouncy kids refocus their energy on the story that is unfolding. They start to gravitate closer to me, and even my older children can’t help but be interested in what they thought was a “baby” book. Suddenly, their desire to see the pictures on the pages become a good excuse. An excuse to sit a little closer to me; an excuse to lean their heads on my shoulder; an excuse to snuggle into the crook of my arm.
Before I know it, we are one big pile of Mommy, books, and kids, all enjoying the excuse to be physically close to one another as we fill up our stores of love just by reading a good book together.
Whether eight or eighteen, our children need our physical affection to survive in this world. They need to feel pure, authentic, physical love often so they will know immediately when they are tempted by false affection and perverted notions of intimacy.
Observe the genius of our heavenly Father. Did He not create “excuses” for us to physically lean into His love when He established the Seven Sacraments? It is by taking advantage of these wonderful gifts of the Church that we can see God’s welcoming arms as His love flows over us in Baptism, cry on His shoulder in Reconciliation, and literally experience a taste of union with God through the Holy Eucharist. We feel His comforting embrace lift us to a new level of grace and inspiration through Confirmation, our hearts are united to His in Matrimony and Holy Orders, and we feel Him take our hand to lead us home through the Anointing of the Sick. We can’t help but fill up our hearts with God’s love by embracing the fullness of these sacraments. And when we participate in these physical signs of God’s affection for us regularly, that love overflows into our souls, minds, and bodies. We truly become temples of God and feel as close to the fulfillment of heaven as we possibly can while still on earth.
In his book, Beyond the Birds and the Bees, Dr. Greg Popcak says, “For both boys and girls, a disordered sexuality has its roots in emotionally stingy homes. Boys and girls of every age have deep needs for touch and affirmation, needs given to them by God.”
So what’s your excuse to get close to your kids? A good book, a piano duet, or a playful wrestling match? Playing a video game while seated next to each other on the couch? A pat on the back as you pass each other in the kitchen? Get creative, especially with your older children. Give them opportunities to fill up their hearts with your love and affection and encourage them to take advantage of them. Fill their hearts until they overflow, so that instead of seeking superfluous physical fulfillment in the dark corners of the world, their hearts, minds, and bodies will be capable of enlightening the shadows with the purity of God’s love.
Recommended Resource for Parents:
Beyond the Birds and the Bees by Dr. Greg Popcak
Books I’m enjoying reading with my preschool through elementary school-aged kids:
Hooray! I’m Catholic! by Hana Cole
The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity by Jennie Bishop
The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart by Jennie Bishop
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