Freshman move-in day marked a new chapter in the parenting lives of many of my friends. They are proud of their children, and at the same time they wrestle with anxieties and concerns for their safety. Young parents delivering their kindergarteners to school have the same mixed feelings. They hope they have prepared them well. All these parents are feeling deeply their responsibility and love for their children, no matter their ages. They take seriously their stewardship of their children.
Parents steward their children in many ways. For example, parents are responsible for keeping their children safe, not only by keeping them away from danger but by gradually teaching them to make safe and healthy choices and to recognize danger for themselves. Another example, parents teach prayers to their children and seek to build up a habit in the child of turning to God with trust and love when faced with a worry or concern. Parents’ goal should be to build self-mastery and personal initiative for Christian virtues in the child so that he or she will become an adult steward of himself.
The tradition of viewing parents as stewards of their children goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. The famous bishop and preacher St. John Chrysostom (340-407 CE) insisted that the family’s mission is to be a force in society to cultivate the kingdom of God. He explained his expectations for the work of the Christian home: “When we teach our children to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous, and to love their fellow men…we instill virtue in their souls and reveal the image of God within them. This, then, is our task: to educate both ourselves and our children in godliness; otherwise what answer will we have before Christ’s judgment seat?”
In our families, we are stewards of our children but also of each other, husband and wife. Husbands and wives are called to “die to themselves” every day so that the marriage may flourish. Married couples are called to grow in generosity towards their spouse and others. They nourish their relationship by making time for one another, serving one another, listening to one another and always seeking the good of the other. In other words, as stewards of each other, husbands and wives are called to help each other grow in holiness. We are preparing for an eternal home.