Can the art of perfecting our virtues be attained in a cereal bowl? I have become convinced that it can after watching my 6-year-old eat breakfast over the last few days. Sometimes as adults we overlook some of the simplest and easiest ways of obtaining a virtuous life while our kids embrace every opportunity.
Each moment we are presented with a choice of how to act and how to best offer that moment to perfecting our lives while unifying our actions to Christ. Most of us speak before we even think, though, leading us to miss out of what we would see if we could just keep our mouths closed for a few more seconds and witness the imperfect life evolving around us. So even though I believe that all conquests both big and small in childhood and even in adulthood must be noted and sometimes even loudly celebrated, most times I speak too soon and ruin the best visible attempts at the virtues that are slowly developing in my children.
Children celebrate with wonder the most simplistic things that at times leave an adult’s heads spinning as to why all the excitement and happiness is present over such a little accomplishment. The joy of a father’s return after only a few hours away from the home for work, a mother’s surprise treat snuck into the grocery cart for the trip home for a well-behaved little child, a surprise dessert after dinner — all these things that adults pass off as simplistic are celebrated loudly by our under-10 population. Each child is born with some amazing virtues that come naturally which, if noticed and harnessed early on, can leave adults questioning how these tiny human beings are so strong in their individual strengths.
I came across an article a few years back that was written by a mother with 8 children. In it, she stated that each of her children helped her become a better person in their own special way. Individually each of them taught her how to strengthen her own self in the virtues she felt she was lacking. At the time I thought that was amazing and even quoted her exact words in my book, though with only 3 children at the time, I thought that it wouldn’t be until I possibly had 8 myself that I would begin to learn from my children. That was in my own early 20’s with the “I know everything” pride; I can now see how very wrong I actually was.
Prudence, perseverance, patience, kindness, and humility are just a small portion of the virtues that my children have helped me learn since the day they came into this world, and they continue to help me seek perfection. Although I am not to any extent of what I believe is a saintly level, I know that as long as these children are on this earth they will always be there to remind and push me (at times to the very edge) of making a choice of reacting in the virtue that I wish to show them or the vice I succumb to in times of overstimulation.
It is in the simple ways, such as when we are eating breakfast and I glance over to my left and see a bowl of Lucky Charms with only the marshmallows floating about, that I realize how wonderful these little children are that God has gifted me in my life. Each of their inborn qualities amaze me: how can a child eat all of the plain cereal first and leave the best-tasting part for last? I truly know nothing else to call it other than true childhood perseverance.
May we all harness the inborn virtues in our children and let their actions motivate us each and every day. Most days it can seem impossible to find the good in a house full of noise, messes, disrespectful attitudes, and the stresses of a full house during the summer. However, I must admit there are so many moments of wonderfully perfect virtues developing under our own roof IF we just take a moment to slow down and look over at a cereal bowl full of floating marshmallows.