My daughter is approaching that age when boys mistake her for being older than she actually is. She’s smart, witty, way too social, and loves getting on with the college age crowd. She’s only fifteen …
For a long time now, my wife and I have observed from the sidelines as our friends’ and relatives’ marriages have struggled over the years. Some have struggled immensely at one time, but have heroically remained together through it all. Some struggles had ended in divorce.
In the early years of our marriage we saw three of our good friends' parents go through divorces. What had happened to them? Maybe it was a little unconventional of us, but we met up with these parents to ask their advice—what mistakes had they made so that we wouldn’t make them too?
For parents who want a community to raise their children in, they must put in the hard work of building relationships.
A common theme between all three was that they, as people, had nothing in common. They had no shared interests after their children grew up, or they didn’t take vacations and make memories while the children were growing up—they didn’t create a shared story that they could one day look back on and remember. They had also grown apart in their beliefs and couldn’t even share these.
One thing that has really stuck out to us is the warning from St. Paul to the Corinthians (II Cor. 6:14), that we should not be unequally yoked. By unequally yoked, St. Paul is referring to marrying someone that doesn’t share the same Faith. The difficulty that this presents, and we've seen it first hand, is that there is an entire, very important part of your life that you cannot share or be intimate about. Add children to the equation and occasions for conflict continue to grow.
The problem is that we as parents can't control who our children fall in love with. I know, this is awful! But our authority is pedagogical and if our children still need us to make decisions for them when they are adults, then we have failed greatly in raising them.
As I see it, we have a couple options:
The most obvious (to a dad) might be to purchase a rocking chair, build a porch, and sit there with your shotgun running off any riffraff that tries to step onto your property to date your daughter.
The second option is to build a community of like-minded families so that your children are surrounded with great families and great potential spouses.
The first option, though my favourite, doesn't fly so well with my overly energetic and social daughter. So, I'll focus on the second.
We want our children to be surrounded by, playing with, exploring and having adventures with children from great Catholic families that share the same values as our own. Unfortunately, this doesn't just happen. We find there has to be a deliberate choice and targeted action to bring such a community into existence. For parents who want a community to raise their children in, they must put in the hard work of building relationships. This takes a lot of time, a lot of dinners together, weekend trips, and afternoons at the beach. Despite how busy we may be, and how many extracurriculars we may be involved in, I have come to firmly believe that choosing our community and developing it is key to our daughter's dating prospects.
Now, I know there are no guarantees and one can't just force love, but at least I can try to increase the chances of our daughter picking a great spouse simply because there are some great Catholic guys with great Catholic Dads in our circle of friends.
Truth be told, and please don't tell my daughter this, I did offer a dowry to arrange a marriage between her and another young man … but that fell through.
Here's to the next stage of raising children. (Insert wine glass emoji.)
Kenton E. Biffert
Kenton is a writer and speaker, and works at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College as an adjunct professor and the Dean of Students. Together with his wife, they homeschool their 8 children, explore the wilds of Ontario in the canoe, and read voraciously. To learn more about the art of fatherhood, visit Kenton's personal page.