Cor Meum

heart in handIt is hard to believe, but my daughter turned a year old two weeks ago. I blinked and she had teeth, hair, and now she moves. Everyone says that the first year flies by and everyone is right.

My wife and I had a little birthday party for Claire at our home with family. Someone asked me, “How does it feel to have a kid?” I gave a simple reply, “its amazing.” It is amazing, but there is so much more to it than that.

This is what I was really thinking.

I feel like the moment my daughter was born my heart was ripped out of my chest. No anesthesia, no scalpel, no warning—ripped out. It was given arms, legs, and the ability to move. My heart was no longer secure and protected by my rib cage. It was out, exposed, and vulnerable. My heart was no longer mine. In this exposed and vulnerable state, I loved it and yet feared for it. My heart—I guess I should call it by her new name, “Claire”—is the most painful and most beautiful thing to ever happen to me.

Claire moves, falls, cries, laughs, and smiles. Each movement, action, and emotion tugs at me. It is an incredible metaphysical-like-experience. She smiles and I feel it, she cries and I experience it, she laughs and I enjoy it. The feeling of this walking, breathing, and exposed heart is much more sensitive. My heart has never felt like this before. I have never had it hurt or be filled with joy so easily.

It is something words cannot fully describe.

It doesn’t just end with Claire and me. My wife and I are united in this indescribable metaphysical-like-experience. We simultaneously feel when our heart falls and hurts herself. We can be overwhelmed by our heart’s piercing laugh and tear up at her beauty as we gaze at her. My wife and I are more vulnerable and exposed than ever before.

It is beautiful and excruciatingly frightening, but love always is.

The crazy thing is that when my wife and I have more kids this will happen all over again. As we all know we cannot give part of our heart to someone…it is all or nothing. So, if we have 3 kids, each one of them will have my heart completely. I can’t comprehend how I can possibly experience that amount of joy, pain, and beauty all at the same time, but that is what Grace is for.

If it feels like this while she is 1 year old I might just die when she is going out to the movies, is hanging out with friends, or—oh dear, God—when she goes out on her first date!

It is beautiful and excruciatingly frightening, but love always is.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, home and family, husband and wife, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty and the Beast

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My daughter Claire has a really cool relationship with our dog. I guess most kids do but since this is my first experience with the whole canine, Homo Sapien relationship it is neat to experience.

Rocky is a mutt that has ¼ Pit bull, ¼ Boxer and ½ of what we think is Rhodesian Ridgeback. A pretty unique mix if you ask me. When we first got Rocky he was all about cuddling with you and being playful. He is almost 5 and is still the same but 70lbs bigger.

We were not sure about whether or not the dog-baby relationship would work out. Growing up I never had a dog and I had heard that dogs could get jealous and sometimes attack children because they felt threatened. When we brought Claire home the first day we did the whole “introducing” thing where Rocky got to smell her and see there was a new favorite in town. Rocky was curious about her but never got territorial or jealous.

Fast forward a year later and you will find Claire rolling on top of Rocky trying to take his dog toys. Rocky will let her take it out of his mouth and then gently, get it back from her. Rocky will sit patiently by Claire’s high chair as she eats, because he knows she will toss him a scrap or two. There are benefits to this relationship on both sides. It is amazing to see that Rocky recognizes that she is fragile and that he cannot play with her the way he does with other dogs, my wife or I. Somehow this beast knows that our little beauty is to be treated with the upmost care. For example, a few months back I heard Rocky give a loud yelp. When I went into the room he was in I found him still as stone with my daughters hand in his mouth. Claire had discovered his tongue and wanted to keep it for herself. Rocky didn’t bite or do anything aggressive he just waited for her to release it and then went to the other side of the room. I guess he needed a time out after that.

There are the occasional moments when Rocky will run past her and knock her to the ground by accident, or have his iron rod tail hit her upside the head. His tail really hurts when it gets you. For the most part he is a really good dog and knows how to act with Claire. However, I’m not just going to leave her alone with him. Rocky might be a great family dog, but he is still an irrational animal and you never know what could happen.

Still Rocky surprises me.

There have also been moments when people come over and Rocky gets between them and Claire until we give him the okay. Rocky’s instincts seem to tell him that this little one needs to be protected and I appreciate that.

Categories: children, dogs, fatherhood, home and family, pets | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Her Smile

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A little something I came up with after taking this picture of my daughter. Not a Shakespeare sonnet, but its from the heart.

 

Her Smile

It is like a light that pierces my darkest parts.

A force that in its gentleness moves and awakens my heart.

Like Grace, it soothes and calms me. It seeks and finds me.

Her smile makes me smile; yet it does so much more.

It wells in me a flame of joy as in lore of old.

It is as if Gods power were manifested in the bend of lips.

Her smile makes me smile; yet it does so much more.

It helps me realize that I must grow. Grow to be a man that is strong.

To protect and see her through. So that her smile may always shine on and be true.

Her smile makes me smile; yet it does so much more.

It changes and molds. It shatters and breaks all that is false.

A small and simple gesture has the power to put a smile on my face for hours.

Her smile makes me smile; yet it does so much more.

Categories: daughters, fatherhood, poetry, smile | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Dust

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Today is the beginning of Lent and in the Catholic Church it begins with going to Mass and having ash put on your forehead with the following words said, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.  It is kind of a weird thing to say, but it is a physical symbol of death. We recognize that we were created out of the dust and that we will die and become dust again.

There is nothing like the reality of death to put things into perspective.

Death is that inevitable elephant in the room that no one really wants to talk about. Death is very real and it will come to all of us. If you have ever spoken to someone who is dying they will usually talk about things like family, friends, relationships they had. Rarely does a dying person talk about wanting to get the latest iPhone or regretting not having more stuff. Death pushes away the junk of life and prioritizes it.

Thankfully I am not dying, but I still need to prioritize, reflect on my relationships—the things that are really worth living for. Lent begins with dust—death—but more importantly Lent ends with life, new life. A life that is better than the one we have. At the end of Lent we have Easter, the empty tomb, resurrection—New Life.

Lent is an intense time of prayer, repentance, sacrifice, reflection, denial, surrender to God, acceptance of our weakness, recognition of blessings, etc. At the end of Lent I should have a new focus, a renewed desire for all that is most important: God and family. Not stuff.

My wife and daughter need a husband and father that is being purified of all that is not good. They deserve the very best of me and I can’t give them that if I don’t take stock of where I am and focus on the important things of life. It’s too easy to get distracted and knocked off course. That is why I love having Lent every year to help me refocus.

I think that if every father took these next 40 days to pray, reflect, repent, sacrifice, deny, surrender to God, accept our weakness and recognize all our blessings we would be better men. The men our families deserve, the men God has called us to be. In the end we will all face death…return to the dust. I hope that we can all face death joyfully, with the understanding that it isn’t the end but the beginning of something great, a New Life.

May this Lent transform us all!

Categories: best self, cleansing, dying to self, fatherhood, God, home and family, Parenting, surrendering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nails

Hands and feet

One of the more challenging things I do with Claire is trimming her finger and toenails. I remember the first time I did it. It was traumatic—for me. I had the clippers out and was able to get a few fingernails in a half hour. I was so scared I would take a chunk of her finger! I didn’t take a whole finger, but unfortunately I got a little bit of skin and it bled. Man talk about feeling like a bad father.

At 10 months old trimming her nails isn’t a traumatic experience anymore, but it is still challenging. I find myself giving her shinny things to look and hold with one hand, while I try and trim her nails with the other. It is a bit rough to say the least. Claire is able to twist, turn and yank her limbs away all while screaming at the top of her lungs. I guess this is why surgeons have anesthesia.

A few days ago we were at it again (I swear they grow overnight). Claire fought like a mad woman. I would try to calm her with monkey noises (one of her favorite sounds), handing her a tiny flash light we keep by her crib, and finally by trying to reason with her. The monkey sound was the only slightly successful tactic. At one point I pinned her down and tried overpowering her, but quickly realized that this would only lead to more trouble.

Force never works.

As I stood frustrated over Claire, clipper in one hand and pinning her with the other I came to the realization that Claire’s attempts to keep me from trimming her nails is something I do…with God.

God is constantly speaking to us—even to those of us who believe He isn’t there. God is constantly trying to steer us towards Him and all that is good. God does all He can to help us to see that what He has to offer is what we need. I’m sure God has His own monkey noises for us; shinny things to attract our attention and heaven forbid He would try to reason with us. I know I fight Him just as much as Claire fights nail trimming.  Claire’s nails must be trimmed so she doesn’t hurt herself, but she will fight it. There are things in my life that must be “trimmed” yet I fight it.  I kick and scream and in the end the only thing I’ve done is cut myself with my own nails.

I often wonder how incredibly frustrating it must be to be God. To have a bunch of whinny, difficult and crazy children that reject every good and perfect thing He offers. It must be exhausting and infuriating. As I think these things Claire smiles as she lies pinned down by my hand.  I smile back and realize that even in Claire’s fighting and whining I love her beyond her fighting me. I know this is a lesson for me. In all my fighting, whining and rebellion God still loves me.

 

Categories: children, dying to self, fatherhood, God, Parenting, surrendering | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s My Fault

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I have been wanting to write a post like this in the last few weeks and then I read this post from a fellow blogger named Matthew Warner. He says it way better than I could. Enjoy! Here is a link to his awesome blog: The Radical Life.

Being a father is a radical responsibility. One that’s been neutered of its uniqueness and weight and reduced to a mere luxury of the human economy. Well, we may have produced an economy of hard working men (and women), but we’ve also enabled a generation of slacker dads. Even the “good dads” are slackers. And I’m intent on not being one of them.

If my family is not praying enough or doesn’t know how to pray together, it’s my fault.

If my family lacks direction and inspiration and vision, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know what generosity and selflessness look like, it’s my fault.

If my children do not know God, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know what a hard working, faithful, loving, disciplined, kind, holy, gentle, patient, strong man looks like, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t feel secure about who they are, it’s my fault.

If my son doesn’t know how to be a real man, it’s my fault.

If my daughter doesn’t know how she’s supposed to be treated, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know what it feels like to be loved and what real, sacrificial love looks like, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know what forgiveness and mercy look like, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know how to respect authority, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know that the hard stuff in life is the stuff most worth doing, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know to pursue truth over comfort and faithfulness over success, it’s my fault.

If my children don’t know what humility and honesty look like, it’s my fault.

If my house does not serve the Lord, it’s my fault.

If I, as their father, don’t do these things, who will? Who will? If it’s not my responsibility, whose is it? My wife has unique responsibilities of her own and many of these others we fulfill together. But ultimately, in my family, if these things don’t happen, it’s my fault.

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, God, home and family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This World

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In the Christian Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition there are two ways that the world is referred to. First, as Gods creation that He gave to humanity as their place to dwell, and be stewards of. In this sense the world is good and part of Gods plan. In the second sense the world is referred to as an active, aggressive system of structures, values, principles and relationships that are evil and opposed to God and His people. In this negative sense we are not speaking of the physical earth itself, instead, it is the spirit or culture of the world.

The last few weeks I have seen things online, read articles, etc. that have made my heart heavy. Whether it’s some of the things from the 2014 Grammy’s or something as simple as what I see in commercials or Facebook. I find myself wondering why is this world so messed up? I don’t mean like natural disasters messed up. I’m talking about the complete and total lack of morality and doing good. The lack of striving for virtue and those things that are righteous and holy. It seems like all we see is the complete opposite of virtue. That everything the world tells us to strive for is directly opposed to holiness. It’s sickening.

I recently heard someone say that they don’t ever want to have kids, because the world is so corrupt. Can you really argue with that? It is corrupt. It is aggressively corrupt. Yet, not having kids because of the potential that this world will devour them and turn them into another cog in the corruption wheel doesn’t seem right. You can’t really pack up and go into the wilderness to flea the world either.

I sit here thinking of my next thought. As I do this I stare at my daughter in her innocence, waving and smiling at me. All that is pure and beautiful is in my daughter, untouched by the spirit of this world. Claire is a manifestation of Gods love and grace in a 23lb package.

However, will the spirit of this world eventually devour her?

Will Claire become part of this second way of understanding the world? Will she become another tainted person who falls to the lies of the world and goes against Gods way? I hope not. I think that my wife and I are doing everything we can to make sure that Claire is a virtuous, holy woman. We surround ourselves with people that try to live virtuous, moral lives. This is something that I think is at the heart of many parents’ desires for their children. I wrote about my desire for Claire to be a Saint in one of my original blog posts. Yet in all we do, say and show to her the world has a million more ways of conveying its immoral garbage.

It is a bit overwhelming.

I guess that it is easy to despair by how aggressive this world is in trying to derail all of us—especially when we think of our children. Yet in those same Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Traditions I referred to above we have stories of men and women who lived contagious examples of morality, virtue and holiness. Men and women who stood firm against this aggressive system of structures, values and principles and overcame it by Gods grace. Men and women who inspired others to “wake up” so to speak from the worlds grasp and seek the good.

Maybe you and I are supposed to be those people today? Maybe our kids are the new saints to combat the world’s loss of virtue and morality? I am deeply afraid of what the spirit and culture of this world could do to my daughter, but I am also excited at the thought of what my daughter could do for this world.  God raises up saints through every generation, men and women who are beacons of light in a dark and desolate land. I pray that our children may be these beacons, that with the grace of God they can reveal all that is true and beautiful, all that is holy and all that is virtuous.

Categories: children, fatherhood, God, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Help, I stood up & can’t get down!

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Here at DiscoveringFatherhood.com I love seen new developments in my daughter’s life: crawling, waving, and pooping only twice a day—it’s exciting. As a new dad everything is pretty much new. However, every now and then I experience or hear about something baby related that leaves me scratching my head.

This is one of those blogs.

Claire recently started standing up by grabbing on to things. It first happened in our living room as she grabbed on to the ottoman. My wife warned me of what was going on with a scream and some jumbled words, “bab-stand-stop!” I was amazed to see that even though Claire wasn’t crawling at the time, somehow she managed to stand. Claire has now mastered crawling and standing has become a new thing to do. I found her standing up in her crib (above photo) a few days ago. However, prior to being welcomed with that gorgeous smile the baby monitor greeted me with blood curdling screams. I thought Claire had fallen out of the crib.

This habit of standing and holding on to the crib rail has continued and unfortunately has occurred several times during the early hours of the morning. Screams come through the baby monitor, we open her door and she is standing, holding on to her crib. At least she has a cute smile to welcome us. My wife finally noticed that Claire would fall asleep as soon as we either laid her back down, or picked her up from her crib. Naturally we Googled, “baby cant sit down after standing up in crib” to see if this was something other babies did. It turns out our daughter isn’t that weird.

Apparently there is this phenomena, habit, lack of motor-skill-function—whatever you want to call it—that causes kids to stand up in their cribs, but not be able to get back down. What happens is that kids pull themselves up, but they have not developed the gross motor skills to bend their knees and sit back down. Claire has developed plenty of other gross skills, but we’ll leave that for another blog entry. Anyways, kids lock their knees and so instead of naturally bending them to sit down they tend to just fall either on their butts, or if they get rigid, end up falling like a surfboard, which never ends well. Some kids apparently fall asleep standing up and eventually fall down which naturally scares them to death hence blood-curdling screams from the baby monitor. I’m not going to lie, I laughed out loud when I thought of a poor kid holding on to dear life and falling asleep on the crib rail. Anyways, here is a video that explained this pretty well.

So now my wife and I are teaching Claire how to bend her knees. It isn’t working so well. Claire is really good at locking her knees. It’s like prying an alligator’s jaws open whenever I try to get her to bend them. Apparently, karate chopping the back of her knees is not an acceptable method of teaching her.  So discovering fatherhood is also about doing trust falls with my 10 month old kid. Ha! Who would’ve thought it?

Categories: cribs, fatherhood, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Cardboard Box Phenomenon

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A few friends that have kids have shared the following experience with me and are just as perplexed as I am.

It seems that after hundreds of dollars were spent on toys for their children’s Christmas the kids don’t really care much for them. Sure it lights up and speaks French, English and Spanish but it isn’t that exciting. After a few minutes of playing with said toy these kids say, “au revoir” and move on. The interesting thing—hence why we are so perplexed—is what they are moving on to.

The cardboard box.

The cardboard box that the really cool rocking horse with flames on its side came from, or the cardboard box that the scooter that speaks, French, English and Spanish came from.

It’s a cardboard box…

My own daughter has done this several times. We have a box that is big enough for her to climb into and that’s exactly what she does. Claire plays in this box, laughs, falls out of it and I’m sure she uses it as her own personal bathroom.

I remember playing with my little brother when we were kids in our own boxes. We were astronauts, racecar drivers, and a million other things. I remember coloring with crayons on the outside to personalize them. I’ve seen that some folks are starting to capitalize on this box phenomenon by providing kids with premade boxes to suit their imagination. See here for the simpler house model.

I can’t help but marvel at the simplicity of my daughter playing in this box. It’s a cardboard box, but I guess it is so much more than that. To me it is a reminder that I need to use my imagination more. That having fancy things do not really make me happier—some times they make things more complicated!

I am envious (in a good way) at the manner in which my daughter can find joy in such a simple thing as a cardboard box. Maybe I’m putting too much into this thought, but what has happen to us adults that a cardboard box isn’t enough anymore? When was the last time we found joy in something so simple?

It is something worth pondering. At least I think.

 

 

 

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Old Days

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There are moments like today where I miss the calm, ordered, predictable life I once had. I had an apartment that was clean. Everything was placed in a particular way that made logical sense. I got up at a certain time. Went to sleep at a certain time. All was calm, ordered and clean.

Life is not like this anymore and there are moments where I miss the old days.

I miss it because it was easy. When you are alone you can set your own pace. Do what you want and have no one disrupt that. It’s nice because it’s predictable, constant and oh, so comfortable.

Life is anything but predictable, constant and comfortable with a family. Everyday has something in it that you were not expecting that frustrates you, changes your plans, leaves a mess, etc. I currently stand in the mist of toy shrapnel in my living room. It looks like Fisher Price sent bombers and toys blew up everywhere. There are socks (none matching) all over the place. Food is smeared on the baby chair and dinning room table. My wife’s school books are sprawled out on the kitchen table, her own socks lie before the grown and there are at least 2 cups of water lying around in precarious places. Dishes peek over the sink and there is a particularly yellow stain on the kitchen counter that I think just winked at me.

Not predictable…not constant…not comfortable and certainly not clean…

Seven years ago I left the Catholic seminary. I was studying to be a Catholic priest; something I had felt a calling in my heart for a long time. After a few years in the seminary I was hooked and thought this was where I belonged. It was predictable, constant and comfortable. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. Yet, God had other plans. During my second year I began to get a sense from God that this was a pit stop and not my final destination. I was not comfortable with that. I liked seminary and what it was. Needless to say I left the seminary. Not because I didn’t like it, or had a bad experience or any of the sorts. God had made it clear, that for me, this was too easy. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Being a seminarian and eventually becoming a priest is not easy. Priests have very demanding and difficult lives. Ask to shadow your local priest and you’ll see how not easy it is. However for me, and the way I am wired it was going to be too easy.

This may seem confusing to people. Why not do what feels predictable, constant and comfortable? I thought the same thing until I got married. Pope Benedict 16 has a quote that I love, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” In my life that which is comfortable and easy never helps me to grow. Sure, it’s predictable, constant and comfortable—all things I love. However, these things only help me to live a life that is comfortable and not great. Comfort in this sense is not the comfort one looks for in their couch after a long day of work. Comfort here refers to someone seeking to do that, which is less arduous, and doesn’t demand as much. Comfort in this sense is a lack of living to our full potential—half-assing if you will.

You and me are made for greatness, but a lot of the time we settle for comfort. It’s predictable and constant. But to be who we are meant to be requires effort, pain, sweat and tears—none of which are comfortable.

I stand before a room that is messy; a life that is no longer done “my way”; a life that demands that others be first and myself to be last. There are moments like this one where I miss the old days. Yet, I know that this new life is turning me into the man I am called to be. The lack of predictability, constancy and comfort makes me a better man, a better father, a better husband and a better person all around. It’s like going to the gym and working out. If I only lift weight that my body is comfortable with I will never breakdown the muscle fibbers that will in turn rebuild stronger and bigger muscles, which will make me a stronger and bigger person.

There are moments when I reminisce on the old days, but these new days are better. I have a loving wife and daughter that make life so much better. We can all look to the old days and say they were good. There was a lot of good stuff there that made life predictable, constant and comfortable, “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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