One of the traditions in our household--and in many other Mormon homes--is to have the father bless each child at the start of the school year. My father did this with my siblings and me, and now I continue the tradition with my children, who I hope will one day carry it on in their homes.
Taken simply as a sociological exercise and divorcing it of any religious belief, I like this image. The father is showing his children that they are important to him, that their lives are important to him. A father who does this--who prays to God for his child to have a good year is going to be far more likely to help with homework or enforce study routines and so forth. He's far more likely to keep an eye on what his children are learning and help provide support in a variety of ways. He sends the message that school is important.
If anyone doubts that an involved father is important to a child's life, try this thought experiment. Think of places where there are low numbers of involved fathers and look around to see what kind of a world that is. Try, for example, urban inner cities where the numbers of children living without a father can reach 80%. Anyone want to move there? I know one could argue I'm talking about possible correlation as opposed to causation, but I don't buy that. There are an increasing number of studies that point to how important a strong father is to both boys and girls. But the studies just affirm what I think is common sense.
From a spiritual level, this tradition is a beautiful thing on so many levels. Engaging in this practice blurs the millenia and for a moment, father and child stand before God in the same way that Abraham and Isaac or Isaac and Jacob did. It reminds us that while much has changed in the world, certain elemental relationships remain constant. It removes us for a moment from the bias we have for the rightness of our own time and connects us with the accumulated wisdom of the ages.
This practice also bonds father and child. It establishes a feeling of reverence for the sacred in the home. It reinforces healthy and loving patterns of parental authority and provides an incentive to be the best father possible. After all, no child is likely to give much value to the words of a blessing spoken by a mouth that yells or demeans or believe that the same hands that strike or hit can reach up to heaven and pull down God's blessings.
I believe in my faith, literally. I believe it is true. But if I didn't, I think I would still value the external benefits. The longer I live, the more I think that having a religious tradition in a family is a beautiful thing because it gives form and shape to good impulses. It provides a scaffold on which to hang family traditions and it provides a body for good intentions. I understand that some people had very negative experiences, where religion was used as a tool to manipulate or punish. That makes me so sad because when I think of what it has been to me--the comfort and peace and motivation it provides--I ache that others have had the opposite experience.
What back to school traditions to you all have?
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