Sunday, June 21, 2015

Reflections on Father's Day

This is now my third father's day.  Being called "daddy" by my soon-to-be-three-year old is something that 15, 10 or 6 years I would have deemed highly unlikely to impossible. Whenever my son says "daddy", it is at times difficult to hold back tears.  Here is a little boy who depends upon me and his mother for basically everything in his little life.  He is starting to assert some independence, but when it comes to the basics, he still needs me and will probably need me for a few more years before it becomes "uncool" or "embarrassing."  But, for the time being, I'll take every utterance of "daddy" with great joy.

My reasons for thinking that I would never become a father, let alone married, were myriad.  Chief among them was that I thought I was pre-declined for any possible date considering that when I started (very late when compared to most people), I was consistently rejected.  Then there was the possibility that I thought I would join the monastic life.  But, like I tell my students who think that they too will never have kids, things always change.

And what changes that being married and having a kid have made.  Perhaps to people who only know me on a very limited basis, I don't appear to have changed very much.  To those who are on more intimate terms, they see the change far more profoundly.  However, in self-examination, I tend to dwell on those areas I need to change but have not, for whatever reason.  But the changes that I and others have noticed were for the better.  Here are some general things I have learned over these past few years.

Parenting does change you because it requires sacrifice of self.  It requires you to forget about your own needs and wants and put the kid first above all.  Even though my wife and I were told by my priest during our premarital counseling sessions that we should not put our kids above our marriage, I find it difficult to impossible to do that.  My wife and I do spend a lot of time together in the presence of our son.  When we do get some time to ourselves, it's mainly to recharge or rest or sleep or get caught up on things that we simply need to do.  Date nights are scarce but they do happen.  But our kid always comes first.

Parenting is tough.  Duh!  I think the only people who would say otherwise are not parents themselves or just produced the kid and didn't do anything to raise him.  No more explanation needed.

Parenting requires you to be inventive.  I've found out just about every free thing a toddler can do around this town so he's entertained and we are not scrapping by.  

Parenting can also be low tech.  Do you want to know how far a tickle session can last?  I don't know what the record is but for the past 30 minutes before he went upstairs for his nighttime routine, I chased my son around and tickled him which he kept asking me to do!  It can grow tiresome, except for him.

When you get past one hurdle, another gets in the way immediately.  Our son has made great progress in his speech and vocabulary acquisition this year.  Now, we're on to another fun chapter:  Potty training.

Kids aren't going to sit still even at church.  I have to admit that I get frustrated taking my son to church because I spend a great deal of the Divine Liturgy out of the church tending to him and chasing him down.  He wants to get around and explore and play.  Sometimes this causes groans and moans from others in the nave who, I think, have forgotten what i is like to have young children.  As much as I try to prepare him to sit still and emphasize the importance of being quiet, when we get there, nothing of the sort happens. 

The faith resonates with him.  He doesn't understand the whys, the hows, the whats and the wheres, etc.  But, at home, he honors his icons, even saying "Pray for me" before his icon of St. Eleftherios and "have mercy" before his Christ icon.  He can make his sign of the cross (though in the Roman Catholic manner; nothing wrong with that. We can change later).  And he knows to say "Amen" after prayers in the evening and at meals. 

I've learned much over these past three years.  I've still much more to learn.  There is one thing, however, that I have only started to being to think to understand. This is something I would have had a hard time of doing without being married and having kids.  That thing is compassion.  I don't think that anyone can really even define compassion before they have kids.  And I don't think we can even begin to understand just how hard John 3:16 hits home until we have kids. 

To all the fathers out there, Happy Fathers Day.  To my father, in particular, thanks for showing me what I need to do to be maybe half as good a father to my son as you were to me.

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