3 Seconds

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A few days ago I was playing with Claire in the living room. As  usual our dog, Rocky wants in on the action so he forces his huge head in between Claire and I in order to “play”. I usually shoo Rocky away but he is persistent and my patience fades quickly. Finally after several times of shooing Rocky away I whacked him upside the head with a book Claire and I were reading. It was a quick reaction. Whack the dog, and we are back to reading.

The whole thing took 3 seconds.

Claire saw me whack Rocky. Then, she turned and looked at me and began to whack the dog with her book. Rocky ran away and Claire chased him, laughing the entire time as she whacked him upside the head. For the next half hour I am trying to keep Claire from whacking the dog with her book, shoe and anything else she gets her hands on. I distract her, avert her attention and even try to bribe her with food and juice. Finally, Claire is able to focus on other things and leaves the dog alone. Rocky stayed downstairs the rest of that day.

You always hear people say that children are like sponges and suck up all they see and hear. I believe it and am aware of it, so I try do whatever I can to be a good example. Clearly I failed in this instance. After this incident I began to reflect on all the other things that I do that are just “reactions”. Some of my reactions are great, and others not so much. It is difficult to try and change these reactions, because they are just that—reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing them.

One thing that I discovered in all of this is that my daughter is watching and hearing all that I do. What she sees and hears isn’t filtered as a reaction that I can’t help, or as a calculated response I meant to do. Claire simply sees and hears it all. Claire sees my great moments and the moments I chose to settle; when I pray or chose not to pray; she watches when I treat her mother with respect or snap at her; when I talk well about others or criticize; when I eat well or stuff my face with junk. Claire sees, hears and she responds by doing as I do. All it takes is one example, one action or reaction and it is processed and imitated. 3 seconds and I either have a great new habit established or I’m spending half an hour telling her that she shouldn’t do that.

3 seconds…

Categories: Uncategorized, fatherhood, best self, children, being a good example, frustration, reacting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, Boy’s.

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Claire is 16 months old and my usual concerns with her range from whether or not she’s holding my hand while going outside, brushing her teeth, making sure mangos and French fries are not all that she eats, and making sure I have a paci with me at all times—the usual dad stuff. In my mind I know that in a far off distance boys will become a concern, but I never thought it would be this soon.

Most boys that are around Claire’s age are typically busy playing, running circles around their parents and not paying attention to girls in an aesthetically-pleasing-sort-of-way. However, on three separate occasions I have had boys that are around Claire’s age literally gazing at my daughter in that glassy-eyed-stupor that is common to boys 13 years old or older.

The first time it occurred we were at Mass and a boy of 3-4 years old sat in front of us. The entire time he was glued to Claire. I didn’t think anything of it—she is a cute baby. It wasn’t until the little boy turned to his mother at the end of Mass and said, “Mommy, she is beautiful.” that I thought, that’s interesting. The second time was a similar situation that ended with a little boy telling Claire and I that she was pretty. The third time was while shopping. A young family saw Claire and she waved to them. The mother approached us with her clan and shopping cart and waved back to Claire telling her how beautiful she was. This I expect from adults. This woman’s younger son looked at Claire, turned to his mother while pulling on her shirt and said in a very serious voice, “Mommy she is beautiful.”

Oh, boy!

I think my daughter is beautiful—she looks like my wife and Jess is beautiful! Yet, I have never thought of Claire as one of those stop you in your tracks kind of babies. I was telling Claire’s Godfather about these strange incidents (the three above are just a few) and he looked at me and said with a very serious and intense voice, “Dude. Claire is beautiful.”

So here we are at 16 months old and boys are checking my girl out. Sigh…

Since this boy situation seems to be creeping in a little sooner than expected it is a great opportunity for my wife and I to begin teaching Claire about her beauty. I am not speaking here primarily of her outward aesthetic beauty. I am speaking of the beauty that does not fade, is incorruptible no matter what she or someone does. This beauty is the beauty of being made in God’s image and likeness. We want Claire to recognize the gift that this beauty is and how precious she is as a person. We also want to make sure that she recognizes the power and responsibility that an aesthetically beautiful woman has. I don’t know if many fathers have these conversations with their daughters.

Outward beauty can easily be used and manipulated for all the wrong reasons, and Lord knows we don’t need more of that in this world. I want my daughter to see that her inherent, God given beauty is the most important thing and that her outward beauty should reflect the reality of that inner beauty. As a man I am well aware of the power an outwardly beautiful woman can have on me and I think that if this isn’t communicated to my daughter it could be a bad thing. With that being said, I also know the power a woman can have on a man who recognizes her inherent beauty and allows it to shine through. My wife is the perfect example. It can literally change a man.

I’m excited at the opportunity to help my daughter discover all of her beauty and to be the gift that she is called to be in this world. But boys, seriously. Can we wait till she is at least out of diapers? Or 16 years old? Better yet, let’s wait till she graduates college. Oh, boy!

Categories: boys and girls, Crush, daughters, dignity, fatherhood, growing up, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Fragile

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Recently at my church a young pregnant woman passed away. I won’t say how or names in order to keep their personal information private. I did not know this woman or her family, but they are a part of my faith family so it hurts all the same. My wife and I have been praying for them as have hundreds of others. I can’t help but keep thinking of the husband and what is now before him in raising the kids while dealing with the loss of his wife and unborn daughter.

In a moment life ended…

It stopped…

Gone…

When I was growing up I went to a rough school and kids died due to violence there, and in that area. I have experience death before but never as a father. Fatherhood adds a whole other dimension to death. The solidarity that I am experiencing with this families pain is tangible, and I don’t even know them. I think of the husband and my stomach gets tight and I feel sorrow. I keep thinking about how fragile life is. Sacred Scripture says our lives are like a vapor: here for a while and then gone.

I take so much for granted! Why? I do not know. Especially since life is a vapor. As the news of this families struggle has been shared via our Church family I have been holding on to my wife and daughter a little longer and a little tighter. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Today—now is all we have. Yet I take it for granted. We all do. Then death comes and reminds us. Someone else’s tragedy speaks to us and we come out of our delirium and appreciate what we have a little more.

But how long until that fades? How long till we go back to taking for granted?

A vapor. Here one moment and gone the next.

Categories: complacency, death, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fully alive, living, living in the moment, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fitting Them In

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Recently I heard someone say that today’s generation of parents are trying to fit their children into their lives as opposed to changing their lives for their children. I had never heard it put this way, but as I have been thinking about it I realize it is true. It has always been understood that children change your life and that you therefore must make adjustments for that change.

Children require us to live differently.

We see this on TV and movies every now and then. A man finds out his spouse is pregnant and he states, “Well I guess I have to change my ways.” The man will tend to stop staying out late with friends, be more responsible about financial expenses, and change habits that are not conducive to being a father. Obviously, it isn’t that simple but the idea is that things need to change due to this new life entering the world. Unfortunately this isn’t really happening with many new parents.

More and more we see that my generation and the ones that follow are not willing to transform their lives so that their children can benefit from it. Instead we are attempting to fit our children into the lifestyles we currently have. Square block into a round hole kind of thing.

A few years ago I had a friend that was into the nightclub scene. This friend would go dancing Thursday through Saturday nights because she loved dancing and that was her thing. Baby came along and after a few months of being a mom she attempted to pick up the nightclub life again. My friend would get frustrated because her baby would keep her from going dancing. Thankfully, reason set in and she realized that she needed to change because a nightclub lifestyle is not conducive to a new born.

Another example.

I have an acquaintance who loves hip-hop. He listens to it all the time on his way to work. One day he gave his mother a ride to the grocery store and he had his music blasting on the stereo as usual. His mom turned the stereo off and smacked him on the chest (while driving). “What was that for?!” he asked. The mother began to chew her son out because listening to the cursing, ill reference to women, etc. that this particular hip-hop song had was not okay with a 9 month old in the back seat. Unfortunately my friend didn’t take his moms advice seriously and continues to play his “dirty hip-hop” as his mom calls it, and now has a 3 year old with a seriously messed up vocabulary, lack of respect for his mother and a bad attitude.

When I first heard about this “fitting them in” style of parenting I thought to myself, “those selfish people, how dare they do such a thing”. However, the more I reflect on this I realize I too am guilty of trying to “fit them in”. I have this fence that we have had up for a few months now and I have been attempting to stain it. Part of it is done and the other part isn’t. My goal has been to stain the fence and fit Claire in when it isn’t interrupting the fence project. I’m sure I can come up with more examples, but you don’t need a 6-page post of my ridiculousness.

Clearly we all have things we enjoy doing and things that we need to do that demand our time and attention. This fitting them in thing is more of an overall mentality that seems to be dominating my generation and the ones following. I personally think it all stems from the selfish-its-all-about-me way that most of us in the U.S.A have been led to believe is part of our Constitution. Entitlement I believe is the word. It is scary to have a “fitting them in” mentality about our children because they become just one more thing. The gym, mowing the lawn, and chores around the house—these are all things that are okay to fit into our lives, but not our children.

I believe we have to live differently when we have children. We can’t be selfish about our lives because our children suffer and we also suffer. It isn’t easy. I struggle with this all the time. So from this newbie dad to those who bother to read this blog lets keep praying for each other and keep each other accountable. Lets not fit our children in like we do client meetings, phone conversations or fence staining. Our children are our priority and they should get first dibs.

Categories: children, dying to self, fatherhood, Parenting, selfishness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Willing to Watch

 

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This a post from a fellow blogger Matthew Warner from his blog the Radical Life: http://theradicallife.org/willing-to-watch. This is a great post and one I’ve been wanting to write about.

Enjoy!

I have the privilege of taking my son to his Taekwondo class every week. It happens to be during the normal work day, so I build my work schedule around it.

But when I go, and he’s out there practicing, it’s always tempting to pull out my phone and “be productive.” Especially when he’s waiting in line for his turn to do something, listening to the instructor, etc.

But how does my son see it all? For the most part, he’s too caught up in the moment out on the floor to notice me. He’s usually focused on kicking a target, learning a new block or watching a more advanced student.

But every once in awhile he looks up for me, over to my spot on the sideline. And not just to make sure I’m still there, but to make sure I’m watching. He’s excited about something he’s doing and he instinctively wants me to share in that moment with him. He’ll have this look on his face that says, “See what I just did, Dad!? Are you proud of me? Do you care? Are you with me!?”

These are important moments, and I’m convinced that the summation of these seemingly trivial moments will contribute more to my relationship with my son and who he becomes than almost anything else. They help determine whether *he* cares about what he’s doing, how much he values himself and how proud he feels.

And the thing is, these moments are unpredictable. They can happen at any moment. And if every time he looks over to connect with me I’m looking at my phone or my work or somebody else instead, I’ve missed that important moment. And I’ve given the impression to him – rightly or wrongly – that I’m not watching him at all.

It’s simply not worth missing those moments. Whatever extra work I would have gotten done. Whatever entertainment I could have engaged on my phone or in conversation with another parent won’t have been worth it.

I even used to spend time during his class typing reminders on my phone of things to work with him on after class — advice on a particular technique or how he needs to bow more deeply or say “yes sir” more loudly. But even that, if all he sees when he looks over is me on my phone, I won’t be giving him what he needs most in that moment.

Now, instead, I watch the whole time as best I can. I try not to take my eyes off him, just at the small chance I’ll get to give him another smile that says, “I’m with you, son!”

I watch him run. I watch him listen. I watch him help others. I watch others help him. I watch his eyes light up when he breaks a board with a single kick, as he realizes just how powerful he is. In that moment, how could there possibly be a more “productive” way to spend my time?

Sure, when he’s older he’ll appreciate a dad who loved him by putting a roof over his head, worked hard all his life, carted him around to his various activities, celebrated with him and encouraged him to be his best. But I think what he needs even more than that is a dad who’s willing to watch.

Categories: children, distractions, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daddy’s Lap

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Claire is on my lap. We are in an doctor’s waiting room. She cries and screams because she is in pain. I hold her on my lap soothing her, living with her pain. It hurts me more emotionally and spiritually than it does her physically, that I know for sure. I rub her legs and run my fingers through her curly hair. I hold her tight against my chest and whisper, “Daddy is here. It’s going to be okay.” Claire calms down and then moves away from me as if trying to deal with the pain on her own. She stops, cries, and runs back to me. I begin the comforting process again.

While Claire is on my lap I am able to soothe her. The pain is still present and will not go away. However, I am with her through the pain. Somehow this makes a difference.

Her father is present in a very real way and going through this pain with her.

This isn’t the first time you have encountered this story. This is your story. Our story. You have had pain: emotional, spiritual, and physical. You have hurt, been upset, maybe even cried. As I held Claire in that room I recognized very clearly that the pain we experience often doesn’t make sense, at least not right away and maybe never on this side of heaven. The pain is there but so is our Father. In my imperfect fatherhood I am able to recognize God’s Fatherhood. My fatherhood is an image of His. My love for Claire is powerful because it is based on His Fatherhood.

Maybe it is tough as a man to picture yourself as a child on the lap of God the Father. Think of the times you have held your child on your lap. You can’t take the pain away but you can live in the pain with them. Our Father does the same thing. He isn’t taking the pain away, but He will endure it with you. Most of the time you and I jump out of the Father’s lap and try to deal with the pain on our own terms. Instead of coming back to Him like my daughter did we run away and find other ways to cope with the pain. Some of these ways lead to more pain. I think God the Father is waiting for us to run back to Him so that he can rub our legs, run His fingers through our hair, hold us tight against His chest, and whisper, “Daddy is here. It’s going to be okay.”

May we have the humility, wisdom, and desire to let Him take care of us in the deepest of pains.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, God, humility, Pain, Sick kids, Suffering | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Metamorphosis

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I am changing.

I am not the same person I use to be.

There is a change. It is gradual, but noticeable.

When my wife and I first got married sometimes we would have different days off. My normal response was to rent a new video game and play it for an ungodly amount of time, or watch movies, or binge on TV shows. It was ok. I enjoy video games, movies and TV shows.

Every now and then I get a day where my wife and daughter will be away from the house. Sometimes I spend time watching TV or a movie, but most of the time I am thinking about things like house projects: staining the fence, painting the rooms I never got around to, dry walling the basement we had to gut, etc. More often than not it’s smaller things like taking the trash out or going grocery shopping or cleaning the house.

A few weeks ago I notice that I had a four hour window of time to myself and my immediate reaction was to do something for my family. It was strange in a sense. I think most of the time in a situation like this I would want to do my own thing, relax and let it be a easy day. Yet, there is stuff that needs to get done for our family. I recognize that my wife and daughter probably would say, “chill out and enjoy those four hours.”

However, there is this change in me that desires to serve.

“People that know about these type of things” say that most modern men don’t really mature now a days until they are in their mid to late twenties. Maybe I am maturing. Maybe this desire to serve is proof that this man has reached full manhood status. My response: about freaking time! I am 32.

In discovering fatherhood I am discovering who I am called to be – a servant. Not someone that aims to please himself, because although it is okay to use four hours for R-and-R I much rather use them to make my wife and daughters life better. I don’t know if I would have said the same thing a year ago or six months ago.

But today there is this change in me. It is gradual, but noticeable.

Categories: best self, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, husband and wife, Transformation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pacifier

 

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If you have had a child for more than a few days you will know about the awesome power of the pacifier. Whether you call it a paci, binkie or dummy (the British apparently call it that) it rocks. It is a simple thing, really. A piece of plastic that goes into the mouth of a child. Yet to parents this piece of plastic is essential, dare I say one cannot fully parent without it. We’ll…maybe I can’t. The paci calms the frightened child, it soothes the tired, it makes parents relax and praise God for this most wonderful creation.

The history of the paci is one that isn’t very clear. Some say there is evidence for pacifiers going back to ancient Egypt. Some say that farmers would give the tips of corn husks to their children as a way to calm them. Personally, I believe God almighty brought it down on a golden plate to parents with a host of angels surrounding it while the Halo soundtrack played in the background. “Here is my gift to you my child. Use it wisely.”

There are not many things that cause me to be upset. However, when I have a screaming child in the backseat and I have 20 minutes to go before I get home due to traffic; not having packed the paci is an epic fail that leaves me…let’s just say upset. Needless to say I always check the bag for the paci. I’m ok with not having an extra change of clothes, or missing dippers, but the paci is a must.

Honestly, I don’t get why my daughter can be calmed almost instantly by a paci, but I don’t need to. As long as it works it is all good! There is comfort in knowing the such a awesome tool exists in the arsenal of desperate dads everywhere.

As I was showing my wife this post prior to publishing she brought it to my attention that our daughter will have to be weened off the paci soon. I started to freak out and get upset. The wife put a paci in my mouth…all is good now.

Praise God for the gift of the  paci!

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, Pacifiers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fall

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A few nights ago my wife and I had dinner with friends. We came home looking forward to settling down and getting ready for bed. My settling down was interrupted by my wife’s screaming voice raised in alarm and panic, “Claire fell down the stairs!”

I flew down the steps. Actually I think I teleported because I don’t remember actually going down any steps. Claire was wailing as loud as she could, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Our hearts were instantly in pain. I picked Claire up and held her close to my chest as if trying to absorb the pain. Jess’ nurse training kicked in and told me to gently put her down so that she could check her. Jess checked for broken bones, bruising and other important things. Claire looked fine. I picked Claire up after her medical exam was done and held on tight…well sort of. I didn’t want to squeeze too hard just in case.

Claire started laughing and moving around almost instantly. Jess and I—after some intense observation and speaking to an on call nurse at the local hospital decided Claire was okay and did not require further medical care (there are great benefits to being married to a nurse). Claire walked around laughing for the next two hours as we kept her up in case of a concussion.

Holy crap that was scary!

I can’t begin to explain how helpless I felt not being able to protect my little girl. The worst part of it is that it was my fault that I didn’t check the stair gate before putting Claire down on the ground. Jess and I didn’t really ever settle down that night. We were tense from the fall and the thought of Claire tumbling down the stairs was worse than any nightmare we could ever have. Our neighbors comforted us by stating that their young son had fallen down the stairs several times and was fine. In a weird way it is comforting to know that we are not the only people who have had their children fall down a flight of stairs. Luckily they were carpeted stairs.

Claire is okay and she is running around like normal. Every now and then she walks pass the stairs and points at them. A healthy fear of the stairs will go a long way for her. This fall has me thinking of all the potential falls Claire has yet to encounter. Not necessarily down the stairs, but in life. Her first betrayal by a friend, her first encounter with a bully, her first fight with the ugliness of evil, her first heartbreak. As much as I want to protect Claire from these falls some will be unavoidable. As I held Claire after her fall down the stairs all I wanted to do was absorb her pain. I think every parent wishes they had this ability. It would bring so much comfort to us.

Falls will continue to happen and this dad will continue to wish for the ability of his hugs to absorb his little girl’s pain. The hugs wont absorb the pain, but they will introduce a new feeling—love—and maybe that will be enough to combat the pain from these falls. Maybe my little girl after falling will recognize that daddy’s hugs can have the power to bring comfort and safety amongst falls, and maybe bring a smile to a once frowning face.

Categories: children, daughters, falling, fatherhood, home and family, keeping kids safe at home, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Power of a Child

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There is this couple at my church that when I look at them I think ‘sophisticated’. The wife has a certain elegance that is natural to her. The husband is someone that you can tell is very educated and commands authority. This couple is always well dressed. Wife, in expensive 5th Avenue type dress and the husband in Armani suits and shoes that cost more than my entire wore drove combined.

This couple has two young boys very close in age. The boys are good kids, but they are two and three years old, so the idea of being still in Church does not compute. There have been numerous times in which the mom tries to get the boys to sit still with no success. The father, whose strong stare probably makes his employees straighten up to attention, does little to these boys in Church.

So 5th Avenue mom will get down on the ground inside the Cry Room and sit with the boys as they eat Cheerios on the floor. Armani dad whose authority, importance and rank is unmatched at work finds himself getting on his knees, begging his kids to be quiet and eventually succumbs to playing trucks with his boys because this is the only way to calm them down. The 5th Avenue dress and Armani suit are covered in slobber, cheerios and what looks like snot.

Children have a unique power.

For those of us who wear 5th Avenue Dresses or Armani suits we would never crawl on the ground with them, have people rub their dirty hands on them or noses for that manner. Yet our children have a unique power over our lives that grant them top-level clearance on us. No one else could ever get away with the things our children do or ask of us. This couple also marvels at the power their children have over them to do things that in all other circumstances would be unacceptable.

I once heard it said that if you had the President, Congress and a crying child in the room together the child would have the most power out of these three. Presidents and Congress have authority conferred on them which gives them great power, but a crying child could stop all of them dead on their tracks in order to do whatever it takes to make the child stop crying.

Our children change us. They need to. Things like 5th Avenue dresses and Armani suits matter little when our flesh and blood needs us. Rank and authority seem silly when our child is hungry and must be fed. Power is ridiculous when a child cries and needs to be picked up.

I think about these things and realize that to exercise true power and authority there must be openness to humility. 5th Avenue mom and Armani dad are humble enough to get on their knees in their expensive clothes to take care of their children. This humility is something we need to embrace. We will need to get on our knees to take care of our kids. We will need to accept that they will spill, puke and poop on us. To some this may seem like weakness, but it isn’t. Humility is a great companion to power, without it there is only cruelty. Humility allows mercy, and love to enter in. Power with mercy is justice. Power with love is grace.

I look at my daughter and the power she has over me. At times I do not want her to have that kind of hold on me, but that power humbles me. It changes me. That power helps me to be a man that recognizes the importance of exercising my power over her with great love and mercy.

Categories: children, fatherhood, humility, Parenting, patience, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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