Sarah Reinhard is a genius.
When she approached me about reading her new book, Catholic Family Fun: A Guide for the Adventurous, Overwhelmed, Creative, or Clueless, I thought, “Wow, she wrote a book just for me. I’m clueless.”
Yes, I’m a husband and father of eight kids. But family fun doesn’t always come naturally – even (or perhaps especially) in what is often thought of as a “large family.” I dispute that eight kids is a large family, but that’s not the point. My role is too often that of dispute mediator, grievance adjudicator, and apologist for reality (“No, it’s not worth $1,000 for you to clean the basement.”)
Even worse, I fear that perhaps… I’ve become too detached from fun. It’s my own fault, really. I refer to my wife in jest as my “social director” and far too often defer to her in matters that might be construed as “family fun.” Maybe it’s my professional upbringing. I’m a CPA, for crying out loud.
I mean, seriously. Catholic family fun? I really am clueless.
So it was with some trepidation that I picked up Sarah’s new book. Happily, the foreword was from Greg Willits. As a recent guest of The Catholics Next Door on Sirius/XM, I thought Greg was a super guy. And he’s a guy. And a dad. And we want the same thing for our kids: “I want them to want God. Not because their mother and I want them to, but because they have chosen to make God a part of their lives.”
Greg goes on to make a compelling case that Sarah’s book equips dads (and all parents, for that matter) along the path of helping our families to heaven. Better still, it can be fun to do so.
I have a deep and resounding love for my kids, but this won’t help if I don’t invest in them. My love takes the form of time, talent, and sure – treasure. But the ideas in this book don’t require much of the latter. Here are just a couple of the ideas from the book that I’m itching to try:
- The Unbirthday – my family loves birthday parties, and who doesn’t love a little pizza, cake and ice cream? For whatever reason, the distribution of birthdays in our family is concentrated around a couple times of year. In May, for example, we have no birthdays. Zero. Nada. It’s the perfect time for an unbirthday party!
- Dinner with a Twist – certain members of my family like dessert, to the point of eating it before dinner. I love the notion of us all doing this together, or eating breakfast for dinner (we’re all about french toast.) Super idea.
- Water fights – Who doesn’t like a good water fight in the summer? I like the specific activities Sarah suggests too, such as the water balloon toss.
- Horseback riding – this one’s on the list simply because we’ve never done it as a family. I like the thought of breaking out of the normal routine every now and again, and doing something different. It’s these types of outings that often make for lasting memories.
- Ora et Labora – prayer and work go hand in hand, and if done properly, work can be a form of prayer. I like the thought of the family working together while listening to the Divine Mercy chaplet in song or perhaps some good praise music. It’s important to me that the kids get a visceral sense that work isn’t just drudgery we need to get through – it actually brings us closer to the Lord. It’s like a Faith at Work theme in a family fun book!
So many of the ideas in Sarah’s book are terrific, and although you won’t use them all, you’ll use one here and there, or reach for this book when you need a new idea or two. By tapping into the “Faith Angle,” “Wider Angle,” and “Make It Your Own” sections, you’ll also be invited to look at character qualities (or deficiencies) in your family as opportunities for certain types of activities.
I agree with the inimitable Jen Fulwiler, whose opening blurb line says it all: “Every Catholic family needs this book on its bookshelf.” Amen!