“I’m just like you, Daddy,” says my little boy Peter to me one day, looking up at me with luminous eyes, as if being like Daddy were the greatest achievement possible. I had just put on my tie for Mass, and Peter had too. We looked surprisingly similar, a fact that brought great happiness to his little heart.
As any parent knows, children are supreme imitators. They study your every word and action carefully, soaking up your way of life in the hopes of being just like you. If you hammer nails into the wall, they start banging too. If you tie your shoes, they do too, or at least pretend to. If you drink coffee, they pretend their milk is coffee too.
The imitation of children is born of admiration. Their innocent hearts really cannot imagine anyone more wonderful than Mommy or Daddy, and they see so no reason why they shouldn’t be just like these people they love so much. Of course, this can be a terrifying fact—one that prompts serious self-examination. Am I living in such a way that my children can safely imitate me? Am I treating others the way I want my children to treat them? Do I love God in the way I hope my children will?
So often parents have separate standards for themselves and their children. “Do as I say and not as I do,” they command, without realizing that it is exactly what they do that will form their children far more than what they say. Parents must live in the way that they want their children to live, for no amount of instruction is a substitute for the supreme catechesis of a life well lived.
Be Imitators of God…
Much of parenting, then, comes down to the example we set. But there is a deeper lesson to be learned from children,

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