Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Shoes and Calves

As I have discussed in years past, part of the Right of Passage (into formal schooling) now turned Ritual of Confirming, along with buying school supplies, has been to go Back to School shopping. Unfortunately, a day after writing my last post I tore both my calves going off a diving board -- right before tax-free weekend. Yes, the pain was excruciating, and yes you can yell obscenities in pain beneath the water. Suffice it all to say I can not drive even, as it risks the lives of all in the car, even where I to bite through the pain. So, this year, it fell to Mom to have to take the kids shopping, which, as a night-worker, is kinda like for the rest of us going into crazy crowds at 2:30 a.m..

One thing that had been on my heart for my daughter was her getting new shoes. She is one of those kids that wear her shoes well, to the point of wearing them out quick. And, let's face it, she is ever growing, sprouting into a young woman... with bigger feet. Given that I could not go the best I could do was to want for her, along with her, and then rejoice with her over them. I think had I gone my heart would have been no different than it was in staying: her needs and her wants were my project as if they were my very needs and my very wants.

There is a bit more nuance here. My daughter's style choices were, are fully her own. Her particular expression(s) or creative fashion choices are her own, and, more saliently, are what she herself picked -- she, herself. It would not risk overstating the matter to say that (even beyond her getting clothes she wanted) I wanted for that expression to occur. This is not to say I wanted her identifying through her fashion, but rather, that I wanted a fuller, more dimensional reflection of herself, even reflecting in her clothing (wherein the clothing style choices may only partly accomplish such). I wanted her equipped, blessed, and ever more reflected in fuller and fuller ways.

So, when she came home with the Doc Martin-like Ox Blood colored boot, I think I must have squealed as she must have squealed finding them in the store. It goes without saying this is A picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and He is able: able and active and certain to bring such about.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

That Time of Year Again, or, a glue-stick is a glue-stick

It has been a summer, a summer which didn't begin for me until my father died, and a slow to start as a result, though for my children it had been in full effect since even before the last day of school. Well, here in the household, the children are counting down to the beginning of school, all of us sharing some apprehension (though not the same kind of apprehension) at the dwindling count of days. Pretty typical stuff: kids have enjoyed summer laxity, and worry what the new school year will bring. For my daughter she is concerned with what this year means in terms of the middle school years to follow it; my son merely apprehends having to deal with the same headache of knuckleheads with whom he has had to put up in the preceding years. For neither of them is it a fear of school itself, and for that I am relieved and happy.

My daughter, it seems, has formed a notion of middle school which likely is sourced in both the dramatic and negative narratives of those who have preceded her, and (sourced in) that subtly woven  mythos (throughout American culture) of struggling tween years. Simply put, it seems big and and unknown, and everyone says it's horrible, whatever will she find? Can she hope to find? And so fifth grade year is a totem both of what is ending and what is to come in her mind.

I've done my best to assuage her concerns while also being careful not to dismiss them. It seems such respects her person, and provides a foundation for her building a sense of the value of her own personhood. Somewhat to the ends of assuaging some degree of  her concerns and mooring her sense of self,  and somewhat because I wanted to revel while I still could in the unchanging facets of our relationship, we went, Saturday, to the store to purchase our yearly school supplies.

Rather than pouring salt in a wound or highlighting the scary totem this yearly ritual has always been meant to remind and confirm at least some components of her identity. The first time we bought school supplies it was a right of passage into her life as a student, and each subsequent time it has been a remembrance and a re-upping. It is the message of the repetition, however, upon which turned this experience.

I wanted my daughter grounded, moored in what is, and what is true about her, and what is certain in my love for and my protection over her; in what is true despite the changing circumstance; reminding her even of what it is that the process of becoming (and the rituals which harken to that process) is really about. I wanted this ritual to be ever deeper, ever more confirming, ever more stabilizing, all while ever more vision casting. I wanted my daughter to experience that repetition of blessing and confirming, even more so in her current moments of doubt and concern and uncertainty.

And let's put a point on this one particular experience: I wanted and was thoroughly prepared for her to be equipped really really well. I wanted for her success, and to see she had everything in this moment she needed. There's not a lot of difference between gluesticks, or between composition notebooks, at the end of the day, and if that is all there is needed in order to equip her needs, I wanted it for her no less and just as much as I wanted her having a secure sense of herself. The same holds true in reverse: I want her as secure in her sense of self, and am willing to work to that end, as I do in ensuring she has the school supplies she needs. It is "unique economy" to attain to both ends in the same yearly shopping ritual.

I can say, without hesitancy, this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God for us all. God is a good father, who wants us secured in our sense of self and our sense of the immutable truths of His heart for us and the secure nature of His relationship to us.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Percy, not the medicine

This Summer has been the summer of demigods, dead bunnies, and demarcating. Bombastic thunderstorms have battered baby bunnies hearts, resulting in burials and bemoaning, and the brutal Texas heat (despite all our best efforts with frozen ice buckets) has resulted in a dead daddy bunny. Infuriating little brothers have incited ire, direly requiring personal boundaries be demarcated. The demigods dwell within the novel series by Rick Riordan, "Percy Jackson," and -- despite the deaths and the delimiting  and all the other "D's" of this summer --  are the most delightful. I could not "re-iterate" the point enough, all alliteration aside, how enthused my daughter has been in reading this particular series: she will have completed the five book series (having read several of the books in the series twice) by Summer's end.

When pressed on the matter my daughter says she loves Riordan's style, how he writes. Given my daughters own desires and interests in writing, as well as my own, and given as a writer I understand the connection between a writer's voice and the styles of other writers, I can see great merit for my daughter in indulging this interest of hers. Indeed, I have hovered in waiting for that moment when it is time to go to the local book dealers and get the next in the series.

Beyond just conveying support of her through indulging her interests, or just wanting her blessed with something she enjoys, I want to encourage her interests. It goes beyond just endorsing an interest in a book series: it is endorsing her and providing that ground from out of which will grow her unique person, especially as it involves her as an author  (if as such she seeks to become). Honestly, she came home so frequently this past year atwitter with having written new stories in class  -- stories the caliber and talent of which smacked a grin upon my daddy-proud soul -- and wanting to read them to me, that it behooves me to not take lightly at all any effort I could do to provide such enriching experience. I mean to say that, at the end of the day so to speak, I want to have done all I can to enable her development, to have made a way for her to grow into those areas she emphasizes or values.

To these ends it is really to say the I am wanting to as fully enable my daughter to be as fully herself as she can be, and I want, I am excited and waiting for the opportunity to do so. I see where she is in her unique personhood good. In every area possible. I delight in my duaghter, and who she is, and I intend that she should be all of who she is. It is nothing short of my delight to do so, and I condescend (in the positive sense of that word) to partner in this. Just as I recently talked about peeling potatoes with her, so too in this. I want her being her, and not even her limited understanding of what that is will stop me. In this is very clearly seen a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.

Realizing I personally am fallen and with limits, I have to look to where I am growing in (or even out of) my own deficiencies, and proactively seek to equip and enable her in those areas within her, that she may be more fully herself (even as I am becoming so, myself more fully me). What I am coming to learn of my daughter is that she is impressively, well, better minded than me; she has better perspectives and better attitudes, better assessments of her actions in a situation, how they mean something or should mean something. For instance (and harkening the to "demarcating") the other day her brother was of course being a little brother, and she, in annoyance, snipped at him.

Many parents would stop at parenting the behavior right there, telling the child not to act in a certain way, without enabling the child to act, much less enabling the child in acting towards a certain end (like being kindly self-controlled). That sort of behavior-parenting is what produced the deficit in me which, I hope rather, to be an area of enabled proficiency in my daughter, just as it is coming to be so in me (as I am coming to learn it).

So, what that looked like was asking my daughter what she thought of the situation, what she thought of her actions, in terms of where she wanted them to go. Then it was a matter of identifying what was happening emotionally (and physiologically) as it was happening, and how to identify the trigger, and what to do when the triggering is noticed. Essentially, while I am detailing it all rather poorly, what I did was to enable her to identify the triggering moment and how to navigate forward, averting the emotional loss of control in a productive way.

The point here, really, is not that my parenting is so grand, but that even in my parenting which involves behaviors of which I am being parented through I am wanting and looking to equipping and enabling her. It is not enabling my betterment in and through her, but enabling her being better. I think, with God, that is why it is said we are being made by Him to be more like Him -- because He is not fallen as we are, limited as we are, broken and wounded and hurt as we are, but "perfect". But this point is for those who hold to Christ, and not so much for those readers who don't.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Fireworks like Bunnies

Recently I have sought to make the point that, despite my own issues with my father's dying or death, my father-heart for my children remained ever present and ever intentional. Indeed, the relevancy of the undaunted caliber of my father-heart underscored the value of my children in my eyes. I love them, and my heart is for them. I could indeed continue that tack into emotional winds, as the experience of being a fatherless son is very much an ever-present contrast to all I experience of life. I will not do so, however, except to draw the point: my electing to no longer discuss my state as a fatherless son is for the sake of turning to focus ever increasingly in my thoughts on my children, even in spite of any outlying and contrasting emotional contexts. And that point is made simply because I am ever plumbing new depths of appreciation for my children, and that crowds out to the point of irrelevancy all matters for which Hope (in the purest biblical sense) does not disappoint.

We of the household have been looking (with varying and relative degrees of apprehension and expectation) to the birth of new baby bunnies. Those bunnies happened to have been born round about midday on Fourth of July.


 Leading up to this celebratory event my daughter had run the gamut of possible worries, from it being a potential false pregnancy to it being a litter of stillborns to our utterly and completely misidentifying the signs. Being fairly certain either birth or impregnating were imminent I suggested the idea of separating the male from the female, and aided my daughter in the "creative" use of a large dog kennel (a once-gift from the beloved San Antonio aunt) turned upside down in which to house that male. We made efforts, even, to purchase yet another water bottle late one night from the store, despite my reservations that the kids were getting to bed later than desired.

With my daughter vacillating between worrying and merely trying to stay abreast of the situation, I figured it was good to help her with searching more thoroughly for information on rabbit behavior to deduce the meaning of the signs which we clearly were seeing. It is not that she hadn't tried, at my urging, to so search, but she didn't have near the luck I knew I would, knowing better how to more generally phrase a specific question. Sure enough it turned out the signs we were seeing were a mixture of behaviors, but still very clear indicators of one hormonally-supercharged, preggers bunny. Pulling fur, for instance, out of herself with which to line the nest is a sure sign of pregnancy hormones, but pulling the fur out of the other hutch-mates is not. Let that be a life lesson: "things" are never simply reducible down to one singular thing.

Well, the Fourth of July found us doing or regular neighborhood festivities put on by the MUD, and
when we got home my anxiously expectant bunny-momma trotted outside to visit the hutch and check on the momma bunny. The mother bunny had given birth to five babies, four of whom were alive. My daughter asked, like a proud godmother, if we would like to come see the bunnies, and it was with great intentionality I went with her.

You see, the bunnies were always meant to be her project, to learn the effort and expense of keeping an animal. There are other lessons therein, but explicating them here is unnecessary. All that the bunnies were meant to be for my daughter they were meant to be for her to assume the effort in. But honestly, I love my daughter, and I am not going to ask her to do anything that I find good for her and then abandon her to the project. Nor am I going to fail to humble myself and rejoice in her successes or matters of rejoicing. Indeed, it is tantamount, as it was that midday with the newborn bunnies, to rejoice with my daughter, and "look in on" the matter(s) in appreciation and joy.

To put a finer edge in that sentiment: when it came to appreciating along with my daughter the moment of her joys and fruits of her labors (in this case the fruits of her enthused caretaking of the bunnies), aye the appreciation of the very substance of her life activities of late, well, it was both my honor and my very serious (war-like serious) intent. Not even the heaviness of my father's death then a month long weight on my soul was enough to buffet me from my love and bent towards my daughter in her project.

That condescending humility for being with us in the projects to which He has called us is very much a picture of the father-heart of God. He doesn't call us to a project and abandon us to it, but very actively and intentionally desires to be a part of it with us, even as we assume its leadership and responsibility.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bunnies, and Father's Day

Saturday of Father's Day weekend I buried my father. He had died the Thursday before.

Thus ends a narrative which is both not-mine, and was Me -- that part of me who was that man's estranged son. In some ways, the sub-narrative of his month-long decline, and his 3 year-long bout of stage 4 cancer, has merely been an irrelevant narrative, against which the narrative(s) of my fathering of my children have (in contrast) stood out. This is to say, despite his dying, my father-heart for my children has remained and cohered, unfettered and undimmed, ever increasingly trenchant, shining beyond the pale of looming loss. 

Now, oddly, in my conscious thoughts this ended narrative seems overshadowing, in a sort of irrelevant relevance, as oxymoronic and self-contradictory as that may seem. On another level, I know that that narrative element of me as a fatherless son -- which, honestly and arguably, has been the case for most of my life -- is nowhere nor in any manner defining of anything about me and who I am, about my being. This is definitely a new emotional dynamic, and one the light thereof (or shadow thereof perhaps) in which my own fathering of my children is to be seen.

Let's just say it thus: before burying (leaving to bury) my father on Saturday it was important to me to help my daughter feed her rabbits. We had been out of pelleted food for a few days, the news on Thursday of my father's death and the immediate trip up to gather round my stepmother having thrown off all plans and opportunities to visit the grocery store. My daughter's efforts to solve her own problem by pulling the long native Texas grasses in our yard were laudable, but I knew we had stores of vegetables in our lauder which could be used. Broccoli. Carrots. I elected the cost to the family was something effectively negligible, being willing to make it up in later moments once home from the day trip, with its 4 hours driving and several hours of ... soul-draining activity.

Tending the rabbits is something I had given my daughter to do, something she had chosen and embraced. But it was also something which, especially in that moment, I wanted to enable her to do, in a way which "broke open the bounds" -- that is, expensive organic food "meant" for the family (and which in her mind was not allowed for so common a purpose). More so, her project, because it was her's and involved her, was important to me, and I could make that happen.

Tending the rabbits, feeding them organic broccoli, is a little thing, but it was my desire to do so for my daughter which was important, in light on what was emotionally in my face. What I am really wanting to be driving at, however, and which I have only intimated, was that it was a choice for the family, on behalf of the family, to support her in my daughter's project; a choice for the family to esteem her projects needs valuable enough to contribute to. Because she is valuable to the family it is valuable for the family to esteem her worthy and worthy to partner with. I made that assessment in that way, with those feelings for her, almost in spite of what was staring me emotionally in the face (that is, burying my own father).

There is in this a picture of the father-heart of God for us all, and may the Spirit of God and you suss that out together.

With my son, well, he is ever the empathy-filled little 7 1/2 year old man, and he would come sit on my lap during the funeral and whisper into my ear, "I am sad, dad, for you, because your dad died." You know, it was vitally important to me to receive that heart from him, and more so to honor it and acknowledge the profound attribute of it in him. Vitally important, but the best I really managed to do was embrace him, and thank him, and tell him in paltry ways how proud of him I was for doing so.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Has Started

We have had 12 days of Summer Break now, with this past Saturday being my and my wife's 11th wedding anniversary. I awake each morning wondering, has my father died in his sleep or is today the day. This is not a morose speculation on my part. It is merely that circumstance which is something of an emotional setting, or (actually) more a backdrop of an emotional setting. It is by no means a defining element, except perhaps by virtue of its irrelevancy in defining how I perceive my role and my calling as a father. Said differently, it is important only because it can't be seen as important: I will be a father to my children, I will father them, despite my morning questions.

When in school my daughter would come home telling me of her successes in the regular soccer game played during recess. It are these experiences which inclines m daughter to consider playing soccer as a recreational activity. So, we went and bought her a soccer ball, and make a regular activity of kicking it around now that Summer affords us so much time.

Along with such activity I have also acquired a pool pass to the community pool system for our family. There are a total of four different pools in the system, all connected with the community center through which we have played recreational volleyball. I didn't get the pool passes just for the children's sakes. I got the passes for the family's sake. It was not about exorbitant blessing of individuals but about that which builds the family unit together.

I personal think there is something encouraging said to, some encouragement built into my daughter and my son by seeking the family's good -- the family of which they inextricably are a part. If nothing else my daughter will feel she is a part of something, and her identity will have the dynamic of being part of something which is the family. She will feel, hopefully, that is she is brought into decisions for the family, brought into work and into blessing which is sought for something great, a part of which she very much is. My choice for the family, in that sense, is also a choice for her. It is creative, and she is brought into that: creative of something she very much is a part of.

Cue this blog's refrain: I do very much feel this seeking to build up the family unit is a picture of the father heart of God for all of us. He is concerned with our individual interests but seeks that blessing of the greater body -- a blessing necessarily profitable to the individuals absolutely. Necessarily blessing the individual through choosing to bless the whole, the unit doesn't preclude either engaging in the individual interests, as taking the time to kick around the ball -- it just doesn't take the precedence.

Making a jarring left turn here in the flow, my son wanted to go get the mail yesterday -- mail which was being kept in bulk at the post office (kept because we had not been collecting it for some time). He was looking expectantly to some hoped-for and unsolicited package to have arrived, and who doesn't like such things? Getting the mail hadn't been a priority for me, simply because, well, it's just not a relevant thing to me these days. But it was relevant to my son. His older sister is entering a new phase of life where, soon, she will undergo physiological and cognitive changes and start to develop a social identity, whereas he is more fully coming into that place where his older sister has been: needing to see me making him a priority.

As I have frequently said, if I were to be writing this blog about him it would likely be more of a blogging of my failures. My son is so very much more than I feel I properly maintain awareness of in my actions towards him, and resultantly, so very much more than I adequately bless. In that dearth I can say I see a picture of the father-heart of God, if only a picture in contrast: God's blessings come to us in full awareness of our persons and our value, awareness ever present in the fore of His mind. Knowing my deficit here I have taken pains to sow into my son his building up; or, said differently, I speak into him identity and true statements about him himself when I can. If nothing else this willingness to recognize the different emotional places occupied by my children at the same time (and the willingness to act relative each in their respective places) is a picture of the father-heart of God for us all.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Making The Lunches

My daughter frequently asks me if she may perform some chore around the house, like doing dishes or cleaning a bathroom. Not only is my daughter being very proactive, not only is she seeking responsibility, not only is she respecting place and asking permission, but she is doing so out of who she is. As a ten year old this is rather admirable, and suggests to me (along with frequently proven other facets of character, so proven over many repeated instances) she might reasonably be relied upon for babysitting her younger brother.

I said she could be relied upon, but I intentionally have chosen for her not to perform such a task. See, it is not just a matter of trustworthiness, and definitely more than her being too young to be left unattended. I have more faith in her character (not to "get into stuff") than I do in some much older children that I know, older children of babysitting age and whom are frequently left unattended.

No, for me the salient issue is that I want for her to have the fuller experience of being her age, unencumbered by the weight of responsibilities that naturally go along with the tasks she has rather demonstrably proven capable. I know she is capable, like I said: she has, with my supervision, fixed dinners for the family, and assisted in my efforts to fix dinners; she has been "put in charge" (again, in my presence) of younger children; allowed to operate laundry and dishwasher machines. Thus she has been allowed the experience, but only and intentionally under the auspices of my responsibility. Yeah, some fine nuance there.

I allowed her those experiences because I wanted for her to have a sense of doing, a sense of ability, a sense of experience. All of that (and more) I wanted for her as the child she is, with all the freedom (and release from responsibility) that she, as a child, should have. Her experiences of those things should be equipping, ever and only, at this age. I don't want a weight upon her shoulders she shouldn't have to bear: the weight of being depended upon, the responsibility of being depended upon.

Last night my daughter asked me for permission to make her and her brother's lunches for the school day. This morning I decided to grant this request. My daughter is quickly coming to that age when it is more equipping of her sense of self to actually allow her the responsibility that comes with being depended upon for something. I already know she can, and already trust she will do an admirable job. But this is paving the way for her increased role within the family unit, and folds her into the functioning of the hole (the whole which is the family). And I definitely and definitively want for that expansion of her person, and blessing to her sense of self.

Cue the historic refrain of this blog: I definitely see a picture of the father-heart of God in this for us all. His timing, unlike ours, is perfect and infinitely loving, His plans even more so.