George and Pricilla (not real names) were parents of two children—Jose, four years old and Anita, seven years old. George and Pricilla were budding professionals in multinational companies. They were earning handsome salaries and were very ambitious to claim the ladders of promotions. They lived very busy lives throughout the week and hardly had time for each other and their growing children. Even during the weekend they were preoccupied with their company matters. Their minds were hooked to their companies through laptop computers and iphones. But they always found time to go for extravagant shopping, health clubs, gym and the like.
George and Pricilla were victims of modern life of “busyness” and “better life”. As they had no time for each other and children they had no time for church matters, academic follow of their children, and events and happenings in the families of their close relatives. In order to have time for themselves they kept minimum ties with their in-laws and other relatives. Thus they built a world for themselves.
Those who suffered most in this circumstance were the little children—Jose and Anita. They longed for their parents’ attention and closeness. As they were little they could not express their need for intimacy and warmth. This deep longing was clearly seen in their eyes and timid behaviour.
Jose was attending a Nursery School in the neighbourhood. One day his nursery school teacher asked the class to draw pictures of household objects. Kids drew pictures of tables, chairs, windows, doors, bed, etc. Jose was the smartest of all kids in the class. He drew a picture of Television and coloured it beautifully. Amused by the choice of the object and beauty of the drawing, the teacher asked Jose to explain to the class why he chose to draw a TV. Jose with all his innocence and intuitiveness explained his choice thus:
…I wish I am a TV at home. It is the most revered object at home. My parents care for it with much love and care. They can spend long hours at home watching it. They do not want any interruption when they are watching it. They tell me to keep quiet when they are busy with TV viewing. They send me and my sister away so that they can watch freely… I wish I was born a TV… then I would be listened to and care for in a better way…
Often we consider parenting as taking them to good schools, paying school fees, buying things for them. But parenting is much more than that. It is understanding them, listening to them—the words spoken and unspoken, knowing and meeting their spiritual, emotional and social needs. It involves spending quality time with them and being a friend, brother, sister, guide and teacher and not only a “giving-things-parent”.
Perhaps this is the greatest of all sacrifices a father and a mother can do for their children. Indeed it is greatest of all the mortifications and martyrdom. In doing this parents attain their own holiness and grow spiritually. This sacrificing life could be more difficult than our work and professional career. Our children will remember the quality time we spend with them than all the other sacrifices we have made for them. Our love and affection for them is easily expressed through our physical and emotional closeness with them.
Though we do not know much about Jesus’ growing as a teenager and as a young adult, St. Luke beautifully summaries Jesus’ growing up in few words: “Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favour with God and people… Mary treasured all these things in her heart and pondered over them. ” (Lk. 2: 51-52). These words tell us that Jesus was given physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions of education. It was possible because, his parents paid attention to him, pondered about him, and were preoccupied about him. Indeed their sacrifices made them model and holy parents.