3 years ago

My Dad Handles the Paparazzi Like a Gentleman + À LA FAMILLE!

It’s true, he’s already a gentleman.
And the Paparazzi… the kind my Dad encountered are unlike any Paparazzi I’ve ever seen.

Our friends, the Langenkamps, are visiting from out of state. They and their 8 children, my family of 5, my sister’s family of 5, our little bro and his gehhhhrlfrand Jen, all crammed into my parent’s house for brunch.  Bursting kitchen, many of us ate standing up, joyfully taking in the sight of each other.  These people are who I look to as an example of cultivating a strong Catholic, family-centered culture in today’s world.

That sounds kind of hardcore Catholic-ness from the outside. But on the inside, this is a family which handmade a paisley print eyepatch for my Dad when he had a “suspicious” spot under his eye, and sent it to him in the mail with a matching tie.

My Dad’s upcoming EWTN interview with Marcus Grodi on the Journey Home television show left a window of opportunity for the Langenkamps, of course:

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Not seen: Cameralady, Mrs. Langenkamp, video taping the entire ambush.

“MR. FREDERICK, MR. FREDERICK! HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE A FAMOUS CATHOLIC?”
“WHAT WAS MARCUS GRODI LIKE? IS HIS HAIR REAL? DOES HE WEAR A TOUPÉE?

My humble Dad, blushing and laughing, replied with a sharp, witty comment, making fun of his own shiny head (which I can’t remember cause I fail at life), causing laughter to ring throughout the house.

“CAN WE HAVE YOUR AUTOGRAPH?! YOUR AUTOGRAPH, MR. FREDERICK!”

Awesome Photoshopping by the Langenkamps, even inserting the EWTN logo on the bottom left!

It was warm-hearted, hilarious, joyful fun. That’s the Langenkamps, in a sentence.

While I correspond with them via email, I always feel in a terrible rush to devour any tiny advice or stories of their family life that they share, vis-a-vis.

My epiphanies, coming away from the visit, focus on sibling dependence.

We have children, for the glory of God, fulfilling the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage; but secondly, we have children, and we give them siblings, for each other.
The way the Langenkamps have raised their children, has brought about a subtle, yet profound bond which is a rare sight these days.

Many families are estranged from each other. Many of them don’t speak.  Many of them fight during the holidays.  Many of them gather in a room,  fill it with the awkward silence of pride, afraid to speak  out of step, lest royal highnesses be offended and run off forever, and apologies aren’t good enough.

This Langenkamp family not only loves each each other despite their bickerings, but they look past them; continuing to love each other, to electively help each other without a sigh of being inconvenienced, lightening the load they bear –infact, vanquishing the thought that it’s even a burden at all.

Amongst the children, although they argue like any sibling might, there is no jealous rivalry. There is a delight in each other’s individuality, in each person’s presence. 

In a culture to which the phrase “I am second” is an offensive atrocity and a serious bummer to the selfie-lyfe, I  am seeing the billboards of the princes and princesses our world teaches us that we are entitled to be as children. It leaks into and infects our adulthood.

 Instead of being a family filled with individual Divas and All-Stars, harnessing their gifts and talents in their own separate ways, often butting heads in jealous competition of one another, the Langenkamps are an example of recognizing the special gift in each child, and expecting that child to use this gift for the greater good of the family, working as one unit.

This culture doesn’t teach about the bond of family, that we can truly “find” ourselves in the seeming mundane reality of family life, OR that honestly, we can never truly know ourselves because to truly know ourselves as a creation of God, would be to fully know the mystery that is God, and we can’t know that because we aren’t God (but that’s me going in a different direction).  Outside of it, we are taught that our family exists to encourage us to do what we want and be what we feel, and that if we find that we’re not getting the approval rating we want, go elsewhere.

But the Langenkamps are en example, that while God is the Seed Planter and Mom and Dad are the root of the family support system, siblings are an extension; to be depended upon.

I’ve always marveled at them, watching them grow up. I was always astonished that Nicholas, the oldest, would volunteer to hold or feed the youngest, would be expected to volunteer without begging or luring with sweets,  or that one of the younger siblings would rest his head on an older one’s shoulder during the Easter Vigil.
Why do they care about each other so much? Those words couldn’t even surface to my thinking because I was still trying to process what I was seeing.

What I saw, and what I see now, is the true definition of family, of peaceful parenting: the expectation that they should care about each other, that they should do something about it, and that they actively look for opportunities to do something about it.

This isn’t to say that they walk around in bliss, with dumb smiles on their faces and halos shining from their heads.  But it IS to say that instead of Mrs. Langenkamp following her children around the house, breaking up fights and fizzling out tantrums over toys, that she is able to sit at the table and talk with me over coffee. What I mean by “peaceful” is that in spite of their grief, their arguments, their scrambling to find matching socks, they have peace in each other. They are their people.

“You’re my people”

By the third boy, the “pajama set” became extinct.

I hope I hope I hope I prayyy that I can do this, too.  I know it’s a natural inclination to care for our own family members and it’s present at the earliest age.  But as we grow, our culture distracts us so easily with its self-centered, self-aggrandizing songs and movies and shiny toys, that we can find ourselves chasing an empty self gratification, forgetting why we’re really here in the first place.

The Langenkamps have helped me to be thankful for family on a deeper level, this Thanksgiving.

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8 comments

  1. […] SeconT: It would be useful to know I grew up admiring a family of 9 children who were members of our parish for many years until they moved far, far away. They are great friends of my parents and now with 3 children of my own, I consider myself somewhat of a long distance apprentice of Mrs. Langenkamp, as she still manages to paint her fingernails and I, with three times less the children, have not yet showered this week. Well, not really an apprentice, but mostly. I’m kind of the Mickey Mouse-Fantasia apprentice, but in my own head. –okay. I’ve written a little about them here. […]

    Reply
  2. […] SeconT: It would be useful to know I grew up admiring a family of 9 children who were members of our parish for many years until they moved far, far away. They are great friends of my parents and now with 3 children of my own, I consider myself somewhat of a long distance apprentice of Mrs. Langenkamp, as she still manages to paint her fingernails and I, with three times less the children, have not yet showered this week. Well, not really an apprentice, but mostly. I’ve written a little about them here. […]

    Reply
  3. It was wonderful seeing you during our visit. Thank you for the kind words. We are extremely blessed that your family tolerates our antics. That is a great picture of your dad with his fans. I would love a copy!

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  4. I love this and I think I know exactly what you mean. My kids have gone to a school that was founded by devout Catholic parents who were dissatisfied with diocesan schools, and wanted a school in which the faith is taught in its integrity with no watering down, etc. The school is now ten years old and growing and thriving. The thing which strikes one upon meeting it for the first time (I have heard this over and over from new parents) is how kind and courteous and friendly the students are. The faculty are friendly too, of course, but the kids are what really strike you. We knew immediately upon attending our first orientation that this was the place for our kids.

    I don’t know what the parents of these kids do that is different from what other parents do. Well, I know some things: They strictly monitor their activities, kids they associate with, movies they watch, etc. They instill in them respect for adults and for those in authority. But would this have the result of making kids genuinely kind and friendly? Couldn’t they just as easily rebel from these kinds of things?

    So no, I think it must come down simply to the fact that they are being raised by devout parents, meaning parents who have truly been converted to a love of God and of the Faith; and parents who associate with other devout Catholic families, so that they see the fruits of the faith replicated over and over.

    I don’t mean to say that there is no trouble in this school, and no “bad apples”. My kids have told me of some kids who badmouth teachers behind their backs, use foul language in secret, etc. But the dominant culture is of genuinely good kids who love their school and their friends, and love being humble and modest and kind to each other, because they intuitively know that this is the way to real happiness.

    So as to whether you will be able to “do this too”, I would say, I don’t doubt it. Of course it won’t be you “doing it”, it will be by God’s grace. But I can see from what you write that you will teach your kids the right things and have them associate with the right people — not in a snobbish way, but in the sense of people who will help to reinforce the message you are trying to instill in them. (Community, in my view, is of the utmost importance in combating the influence of the world.) And God will do the rest.

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