Liguori Publications, Liguori, Mo., 2012; $12.99.
“This short book is for imperfect parents who want to do their best at loving each other and raising healthy, happy and holy kids,” Matthew Beck writes. His book includes prayers for occasions of all kinds in family life, along with observations and suggestions for parents.
I suspect new parents will welcome this prayerful writer’s confession of imperfection, since most of them readily acknowledge their own inexperience and recognize how much in parenthood is surprising or unexpected.
In an entry titled “A Prayer for Imperfect Parents,” Beck writes: “We are created in the image of God who is perfect, yet we are not. … May our imperfections give us humility and help us take matters in stride as they arise.”
Beck and his wife Teresa are parents of three daughters. He is a parish life director in Palmer, Alaska.
Over the years he has been a father, Beck says he learned that “seeking the gift of patience” is something he needs “to do all the time.” His guess – mine too – “is that all parents can relate.” He prays to “be filled with inspiration when surprises come my way.”
Parents, indeed, learn on the job. Beck finds that “learning to be a parent is kind of like learning to be an athlete.”
He explains that while a person can exercise and prepare diligently for a particular sport, until that person “actually participates in the sport he cannot become an expert in that activity. Likewise, learning to be a good parent comes from actually doing it.”
In an observation I find true, Beck says: “Many activities in life begin and end, such as high school, college or a job. But parenthood is an activity that has no end. Once we become parents, we will never be the same.”
One entry in Beck’s book that I enjoyed greatly is titled “A Prayer for Families of Newborns as They Leave the Hospital.” I know through my adult children how essential it is these days that an infant’s car seat be installed properly before the family leaves for home. As I read Beck’s prayer, I recalled one son-in-law in a hospital parking lot diligently installing the infant seat. Beck wrote:
“Lord, our new child is in her car seat, and we are ready to take her home. May this be the first of many safe journeys that we take together as a family.We are anxious as we face this new adventure. Our home will never be the same.”
There are prayers here for infants, toddlers and children as they grow somewhat older. Take a look at just a few of Beck’s prayer titles:
— “A Blessing When Your Child Is in the Emergency Room.”
— “A Blessing When Unexpected Circumstances Arise.”
— “A Prayer for Openness and Strength.”
— “A Prayer for Family Time.”
I marveled at one entry titled “A Prayer for Letting Go,” which relates to an aspect of parenthood that can be worrisome as children grow older, since sometimes they are not as “older” as they think. This prayer poignantly petitions the Lord for “the wisdom to recognize when our children are ready to try things on their own.”
In ongoing ways throughout the book, Beck relates the virtues to the needs of parents. He tells why the virtue of hope was necessary in his home. “We had waited for what seemed like an abnormally long time to conceive our first child,” he says.
Mentioning the virtue of justice, Beck says he and Teresa found “that the goal is not to love one child more than another, but to love each child based on his or her personality and gifts.”
And “we practice the virtue of fortitude,” Beck says, “so that we can react reasonably to circumstances as they arise.”
It helps that this is a bright, attractive and readable book. Might it be a gift for new parents?
Probably it is not a book to read straight through, however. Rather, keep it close at hand, get familiar with the areas it covers and pick it up when needed, which could be often.