I think just about every mother has shed a few tears reading Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever. In the story, the mother secretly checks in on her son as he is sleeping every night, as an infant, a toddler, a little boy… even as he grows to a man. She says a little poem each night, reaffirming her love. In the end, he does the same when she is old and frail. It touches something primordial about the love between a mother and her children. Many of us have had a similar routine, although perhaps not making nightly in-person visits once they have gone off to college!
Instead of just checking on them, have you thought about blessing your children? One of the great privileges of parenthood is the right to give our children a blessing. Normally, blessings are given by priests, who have the authority to call upon God for His blessing, and we see this frequently at Mass and elsewhere. The authority that parents have is literally God-given and as such allows us to invoke God’s blessing on our children. That’s awesome and perhaps a little intimidating, but fear not!
There are no set formulas or rules. Some parents will trace a little cross on the child’s forehead, with or without holy water, and say something like, “May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Others may simply say, “God bless you, [child’s name].” Still others may be more elaborate – there are many beautiful blessings that can be used. The important thing is that this is another beautiful gift that God has given us as parents that we are invited to pass on to our children.
Bedtime may be the most obvious time to bless our children but we are certainly not limited to it. Why not lavish God’s grace upon them? Many parents bless their children when they leave for school and continue the practice during the teen years when the kids go out on their own, especially at night. There are times when they are sick, or anxious, or challenged in some way, and these are occasions when blessing them may be especially meaningful. People who have grown up with this practice recount how safe that made them feel, assured of God’s presence with them.
A parental blessing is a simple but profound reminder to the child that he is loved, and that his true identity comes from God. It is like a shield. The act of blessing one’s child also reminds the parents of their awesome responsibility and allows them to pause for a moment and ask for God’s grace. When a child is blessed it helps her realize that she ought to respect her parents, because her parents, however imperfect, love her and seek goodness for her. Likewise, it reminds the parent of the child’s inherent dignity and individuality; she is a gift, not a possession. (Anna Keating, The Catholic Catalogue)
Blessing our children is both efficacious and catechetical. That is, God will bless our children and our children will learn to turn to God for their needs. We would do well to do so frequently and generously.