Bonnie Thom is the new director for the Respect Life office. (Catholic Herald photo by Janelle Roe)

Earlier this year, we were looking through our old photos, trying to pick out Cub Scout- and Boy Scout-related photos for a collage of our son’s scouting years to display at his Eagle Scout Ceremony. As I looked through the photos and back at all the years, I found myself thinking about the different “ages and stages” of each of my children. My first thought was, “Oh, I sure miss those days.” After thinking a little more, my thoughts turned more toward the time, energy, patience, and planning that went into those years. Now with our oldest being 25 and our youngest 16, I really miss those days, but I really love these days.

When we had our first child, I read many books on parenting, as I wanted to be a really good mom. I’m not sure at what age I finally listened to my own mom, who gently reminded me, “Bonnie, just love your children.” Oh, how simple that advice was, yet at times it seemed like the hardest thing to do. The common theme throughout the years of being a mother has been “just love your children.” Each age and stage has its joyful times, and yet each age and stage is sprinkled with its challenges as well.

I can’t really say which age or stage was/is most difficult or most enjoyable. I really loved spending the majority of my days just holding my newborn children, admiring their peacefulness, smiles, giggles and the smell of baby lotion, baby shampoo, baby bath; however, the sleepless nights … ahhhh … not so much. I remember some of the books I read to them when they were a bit older, such as “Hugs,” by Alice McLerran (My husband can still recite the book from memory); “The Real Mother Goose” (a book I grew up reading); and “Angel in the Water,” by Regina Doman, about a child and their relationship with their guardian angel.

I enjoyed watching them learn to crawl, walk, run, play games and develop. Their hugs, snuggles and kisses could cheer me up on my most tired of days. However, there was also potty training and a few trips to the ER. Those were interesting times … Soon they are growing up, becoming more active, developing interests and hobbies, going to school, becoming more independent, becoming the unique and amazing person they were created to be, and forming their own opinions. Yeah, that can be good … or not so good at times.

At every age and stage, I remember telling myself things like, “This will be a good thing when they are an adult,” or when my last nerve was being tested, “Lord, they are your children, too.” Often, I would call upon friends and favorite saints for their help and intercession during challenging times. (St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, and St. Joseph, the patron saint of families, have been, and still are, favorite saints.)

To be perfectly honest, I love being a mom, and though I am no expert, I do know we all learn from one another (even the youngest of us has something to offer), and we all have value and purpose (though our purpose may change at different stages of life). Sometimes we as adults think we have much to teach our children; however, I think the reverse is also true. Our children teach us parents many good things as well. They can teach us to slow down and enjoy the sunshine, flowers, stars and moon; to laugh at ourselves occasionally; that relationships are important; to be in the moment; that we need one another; and the list goes on.

The Catholic Church teaches us the family is the domestic church and the foundation of our society. I believe we need to place importance on the relationships formed in our family and lessons that are taught in our homes. We may not always be the perfect parent, we may not always know what to do, or we may not always behave as we should; however, we always have the help and support of saints, angels and our God. Let us call on them for the grace and wisdom we need to love others, and may we teach our children to do the same.

I ask our Blessed Mother, Mary, to pray for us as we strive to raise healthy, happy and holy families.

Bonita Thom is the director of the Office of Respect Life.