Father’s Day has passed. My social media, as sparingly as I use it, is filled with tributes from people about the fathers in their lives. My own children made me cards and coupons for naps and video games and “no whining” days. I used the last one first, but not all outlets received word of the validity of the coupons and so did not honour them.
I think I understand why people often complain about their children and the tremendous suck on resources they can be. Whenever I talk with childless people who tell me how tired they are, I automatically think, “just wait until you have kids.” There is no exhaustion deeper than having children. But more than the loss of sleep or peace and quiet, there is the loss of self-determination, of unabashed selfishness, of the quest for self-actualization that people truly mourn, but perhaps cannot express for fear of sounding pathetic.
But I am here to say that even though there are moments when I wish I had more opportunity and edge to explore fame or wealth (or both), I am regularly surprised at how deeply I love my children.
I didn’t start out this way. I don’t know many men who do, as many of us aren’t socialized to anticipate parenthood as a crowning achievement of our lives. Many people I know seem to have had children because it is the “thing to do” in order to signify that they’ve finally “made it”, but in time begin to resent their children for hindering the satisfaction of their egos. Yet in the span since my children have been born, if there were any specks of only wanting them for the sake of being seen by others as complete, they are now worn away. Father’s Day doesn’t mean much to me because it is a privilege to me to love my children.
My wife and I have made no rules about not discussing our children when we have dates. Why would we hold back from bringing to mind the people we love most, aside from each other? Why would we stop ourselves from experiencing together the worry, the joy, and the hope of being parents?
I often think that even the mere idea of God is helpful for ordering one’s world, even though I go further than that and call for experiences of the living God to intervene with us. In the same way, the love of my children helps order my quotidian existence. The two or three things I do as “hobbies” happen to be things that benefit our family. I exercise almost daily, perhaps out of some vanity, but also because I want to be strong enough to lift my boys and have stores of endurance to run after them. I cook and bake with the thought of their delighted chortling and proclamations of “yum!” inspiring me to keep going. Even when I am alone in the garden, I strive to spoil them not with cheap thrills of lights and noise, but with the taste of golden raspberries and sun-warmed tomatoes; of the true sweetness of bok choy and the magic of rosemary, thyme, dill, sage, and basil. And in the interest of being honest, I fantasize that decades from now they will carry these acts of love forward into their future relationships and be somewhat disappointed that the people they marry cannot hug them as tightly, cannot make food as delicious, and do not have the care of growing things that their father did. Unless, of course, they marry a crossfit athlete who also happens to be a pastry chef and horticulturist. In which case, I shall be exceeded, and gladly so.
There is contemplation in all of these acts that I am only beginning to understand as the blessing of my mundane life, but today, sleep-deprived though I am, I can see that all along, they have been gifts to me and not the other way around.
What a thought to be pierced by on this day. During a session, I nearly wept as my mind wandered and considered this. What a great love that has ruined me, but more gladness I cannot imagine in the offering of my life for the wondrous creatures who have wrought in me such change.