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.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Toy-R-Us

There is a good deal of nuance here. As I mentioned in my last post, my father is dying. He went into home-hospice / end-of-life care this morning. I've been processing now for about two weeks the fact he now has two to four weeks left. I can only describe this poorly, but it is like a big, heavy rut sack has been plopped down, and I must somehow keep marching when I am not sure how to carry the thing.The rut sack's weight takes all my attention, even as I try to focus on the cadence and the journey goal as I try to outpace the treadmill beneath me, and get past the elasticity of the rubber band-like bungee cord snapping me backwards. Yeah. Something like that.

HOWEVER, again, this is only relevant as a background feature, a contextualizing counter-weight in the spinning mobile of my current emotional moments. I am pretty emotionally and intellectually foggy as a result these days, suffice it to say, and it's like an emotional head-cold. SO, when my daughter last week asked if this past Saturday we could make a point of spending a beloved aunt's birthday gift-card (long overdue for use), it went without saying we would do so. I let her roam the large box-store, and make her decisions. My son wanted a new fad thing, and I agreed. Honestly, this decision to go to the store was made because I knew it was an affirming one for them, it was right to do so, and wanted it for them before it was ever brought up, as I have done in the past so frequently.

Despite my thrust to be making decisions on the basis of what is good for the family as a whole, it was certain in my heart I wasn't going to deny this good to my daughter in singular focus on the family-as-a-whole's good. While it was the most I could come up with doing, it was also the highest priority, sought with the highest intent. That was that, no deeper message than that.

I wanted my daughter to do with her card as she wanted, taking a back seat to the perusal of items and direction in wandering. I was just along for the ride, intentionally so. I took pains not to speed us up, or to rush the decision. And despite all that was going on in my emotional landscape, all else was tabled because i felt and wanted that she, my daughter, be allowed this autonomy and discretion. It wasn't my money, but hers; not my time, but hers. She was worthy of my serving her through the act of getting her there, even.

I think this is very much a picture of the father-heart of God, the desire to serve for the sake the other's sake, the active and intentional taking of a backseat for the child to have a sense of autonomy (as opposed to a distant and disinterested watchmaker).It is not an effortless distancing but an active and participatory following, for the sake of building up, a leading by being led (allowing myself to be led). I think the intentionality is a measure of that father-heart, attesting to a higher level of involvement, especially given the intentional effort to be present (as opposed to a lugged around piece of parental driftwood).



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Going to the Ranch

This weekend we had to take a trip out of town, a trip which took us to the town and county where at my maternal family has a roughly 500 acre ranch on a significant Texas river. The significant part denotes something to those from Texas: it is an actual flowing river that can actually be (and is) dammed along its route. Suffice it to say this makes going "to the ranch" quite enjoyable for the family. Some might call it a farm -- it had been both. We can hike, hunt, fish in the river, shoot, and generally get away from things.

It would be helpful for you as a new (first time) reader, if you are so, to read my "Good Friday" post now, then come back. In that post I discuss my estranged father, and the relational dynamic and its history.

Read it yet? Suffice it to say, my father is a stranger whom I know, but for whom there is a profound sense of respectful alterity. Maybe that's one decently  detached, descriptive, clinical way to put it. Another way is to say my estranged father is a stranger whom I know, and I can not fathom his experience. A stranger whom I know, and who has less than a month now to live. My estranged father is dying.

This post is not about that at all, but what this post is about can not really be understood, I don't feel, without knowing that contextualizing fact that my estranged father is dying, and I was going to visit him. That whole sub-narrative is relevant for the emotional subtext of my actions: it is this sub-narrative's relevancy in itself, because of the narrative concurrence with the story I am telling here,  which brings my story's point home a little bit more. Kinda like the unknown detail which characters never know, and which the audience only finds out in the epilogue, except in this case the epilogue for me came first (but not as prologue).

I took my family out to the ranch, with the intent of their having a day. It was my goal, before I would do anything else, to see to it that they were well established and "set up" at the ranch. Given it is an old ranch house with quite a number of peculiarities only I after a 40 year lifetime of visiting could account for, it was really important I get them settled. Important to me, necessary for them.

Despite all else I had in store for me personally that day, seeing to it that I provided quality family time (dog included) -- and in the process of which that I established my family in the house, as part of the rare treat of being at the ranch we were getting -- was most important. It was the one thing I was doing, in a sense, and everything else (with my estranged father) was tangential to that family (sub)narrative. Nuanced differently, the narrative of my family is the one narrative I am not only telling here, but the only one I am concerned with, and establishing them in the particular chosen experience of a day at ranch was my father-heart above all else (even above my own personal issues). That it was being done despite my personal issues underscores that heart I am trying to say.

"Anywhoo", as the modern-day bard sings, we got to the ranch, I unloaded the car, readied the house and rooms they would use, until I was satisfied they need only entertain themselves, and left for my personal errand. I made a point to return from said errand with enough daylight to ensure we would get to set Mom up for shooting practice, and set the kids up for river activities.

Now, being at the ranch is a rare occurrence for us, and if left to my druthers there were quite a number of things I would have wiled away my time doing, had I been alone. What was important to me to do, however, was that I engage the children in what was fun for them. Again, I aim with my words to underscore the importance of the time together, as oriented around what the family needed.

So we, the kids and I while Mom shot, set off "frogging" -- frog catching. Simply, it was just being with my kids, being present, in what the family was needing (in terms of family time). When Mom was done shooting she came by, and I did my level best to set up the fishing poles having forgotten the bait. My daughter, I think, would have preferred only to fish, but eventually she too participated in the frogging. It was simple, precious time, and it is what the family needed.

In a profound way this strikes me as the very father-heart of God for us, this heart to establish His children, His family, His people in bonding time together, over and around those simple activities which (in themselves) have the significance of being something all the members easily enjoy together. The emphasis of God's father-heart being the orienting the goal of bonding family time around what is important or necessary for the family.