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The very best

I am fond of saying that home should be a soft place to land. I believe it to the core of my being. I have always wanted to parent in such a way that my children know that when they walk through our doors they will find refuge. We’ll challenge them to live lives of virtue, but we’ll also be the place where they can ask honest questions, sort things out, and admit mistakes knowing that love is always unconditional.

The same is true for the home I intentionally make for my husband. I want him to know that he can come home and be enveloped in the tender embrace of loving acceptance. When he walks through the door, he can let down the guard he must keep in place as he navigates the business world day in and day out. Here, he can be himself and confide his heart. And so can I.

But this does mean that in our family, within the walls of our home, we are the worst version of ourselves? Not at all. Instead, home is where we grow into our best version. Four girls currently live under my roof, with one brother trying to hold his own amongst the women. Frequently, especially when the girls come home en masse after having been in the company of other teenagers for the day, their tone of voice is not one I will tolerate.

As children do so well, they mirror the worst behaviors of their peers. If I detect even the slightest hint of whining or sarcasm or even rudeness, I point it out and shut it down. I have zero tolerance. More importantly, I know that in our home, our children are afforded the best — and often most challenging — opportunity to learn to live well in the community of other people.

We can remind each other that graciousness is not something we reserve for strangers or teachers or bosses. Graciousness is to be poured out abundantly at home if we are going to grow together into the strongest and kindest of communities.

What about marriage? Isn’t marriage the place where we can let it all hang out and revel in the freedom of authenticity? Not exactly.

Sacramental marriage is the place where we help each other become the people God intended us to be all along. Actual grace opens us wide to the working of the Holy Spirit and we respond with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), even in marriage. Especially in marriage. It’s easy to fall into lazy carelessness; it’s holy to try to be something more. It’s excellent to gently call each other to be the best versions of ourselves. It’s not inauthentic to rise to the occasion instead of giving in to baser reactions. It’s actually the most authentic thing we can do.

My family knows the real me. They know I’m most likely to tackle a tough problem with patience in the quiet of the early morning, and they know that I’m frayed and worn by the end of the day, sometimes to the point where I just can’t rally for conversation. They see me cry and they see me lose my temper. They see me fail all the time. But they also see me try. The hear me ask for forgiveness when they get my worst. They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I want to give them the very best.

It’s never easy to be kind and gentle all the time. The people closest to us can press our buttons much more effectively than people in the world outside our doors, both for the good and for the bad. But our families deserve our humble, wholehearted effort at goodness. My family is my primary vocation. It deserves more than what I give everywhere else, not the leftovers after I’ve exerted all my effort elsewhere.

The people under my roof know that I want to be the mother and wife that God intended them to have. They know that I rely heavily on the grace of a savior who died for me. Together, we learn how to navigate the nuances of human friendship and community. Families are beautiful places to practice being good people, and home deserves the very best we have to offer.

Foss, whose website is takeupandread.org, is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019

@elizabethfoss