A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”
Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?
Lots of questions now that she is four.
Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?
Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.
Lots of questions now that she is four.
This is one of my favorite posts. Something about this week and my interaction with my daughter reminded me of it. Hope you enjoy it, again.
A few days ago I was cleaning the house. The floor needed cleaning so I grabbed the broom and began to sweep. Claire has a toy broom and dust pan that her grandma bought her that she keeps by her toy kitchen. As soon as Claire saw me sweeping in the hall she ran over to her kitchen and grabbed her own broom. I saw her do this and thought to myself, “if only I could train her to cut the grass.”
Claire came over to the hall where I was and she began to sweep with me. At first it was cute, but then Claire began to get in the way. The pile of dirt, dog/cat hair I had collected was being knocked around. I guided Claire so that she could use her broom and collect the dirt. For the most part she understood and moved the dirt towards…
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My sweet little Claire is wonderful. Claire is kind, loving, intelligent, and as stubborn as a mule. At three years old, Claire is showing that she is her own person and will do what she wants, when she wants. This would be fine if Claire was 25 years old and living in her own place. However, at 3 years old and in my house, this isn’t going to fly.
It is quite amazing to see how strong-willed this little girl is. No matter if it’s what clothes she wants to wear, when she wants to eat, or whether playtime is over, Claire lets you know her desires without any hesitation. I find myself, at moments, wondering where the line should be drawn between letting her be this strong-willed, little person and needing to “break her in”.
I’ve been reading about strong-willed kids and the positive side is that, while early on they can be tough, they will grow to become great teenagers, capable of holding on to their integrity and not easily peer-pressured. This comes as great news to this father.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered so far about parenting a strong-willed child:
So, there you go. This is just some of what I have observed/learned so far. Nothing terribly complicated, but it’s so much easier said than done. Maybe our next kid will be willing to accept a simple, “because I said so.”
A few weeks ago I rented a moving truck to pick up a couch that was given to us. I had my daughter with me so I strapped her car seat to the passenger seat of the rental truck (I made sure the airbag was turned off—safety first). I hooked Claire up to her car seat and as I did she ‘oohed and ahhed’ as she looked around. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but Claire continued to be super excited. I got in the truck, fastened my seatbelt, and off we went to pick up the couch.
As I pulled out of the parking lot Claire said, “Wow Papi! Look at the cars on the road!” I acknowledged that cars were on the road and kept driving. “Papi, look at that (pointing to the road)! Look how fast we’re moving!” I looked down at the speedometer and thought ‘were not going that fast.’ “Papi, look at those colorful chairs on the side of the road! Wow papi!” I turned and said to Claire, “Those are always there baby.” Claire looked at me with a puzzled look and continued to be amazed by everything she was seeing.
This is the same road we take every day to go home or to visit family.
As the hamster began to pick up momentum in my head I realized why Claire was so excited about everything she saw. Claire had never seen any of this. At most Claire got partial views of this road, and heard sounds of cars passing by, or noises. In my car, Claire’s car seat sits much lower and her view is limited. In the rental truck Claire sat high up and had full access to all before her. Claire had perspective.
As I watched my daughter look around in awe and wonder I couldn’t help and think what a great analogy this experience was. Many of us, myself included, can’t always get a full picture of what’s going on or where we are going in life. We might get partial views and glimpses from time to time. We want perspective; we want to sit high up for full access to the whole picture. Claire sits low in my car and has to trust that when I tell her, “We are going home” that this is exactly where we are going even if she can’t see the way. When I say, “I’m taking you somewhere special” Claire tries to push up a little higher in her car seat to get a glimpse, but always realizes that even though she can’t see the way her father will get her there.
It is really hard to not see the full picture. We want to see so badly. We push up a little higher hopping we can sneak a peak.
May we trust that our Father is taking us on the right path. May we trust that although it isn’t always clear, and the sounds might be frightening our Father will get us exactly where we need to go.
It has been a long time since I have written. I apologize for this. I can’t stand when blogs go dead for a while and here I am doing the same thing. The truth is our family has been going through lots of stuff (whose family isn’t) and we are now coming out on the other side. So here is a snap shot of some awesome things that have happened that I will certainly be writing more about.
Here is a little taste of the blessings we are so lucky to experience. Our life has been a little crazy, but that’s what makes it fun.
More to come very soon.
My family and I are moving to a new house in the next week. Needless to say we are in full-blown packing mode. We have only lived in our current house for a little over 3 years and it is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. You would think that two adults and a 3 year old wouldn’t have so much, but man…there is a lot of stuff here!
What is crazy to me is how often in this packing process I have found things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Clothes, food, toys, random things that I cannot even remember buying, etc. Some things I just shake my head at and wonder why we ever thought it was necessary in the first place.
A few months back there was a smell coming out of one of our lower kitchen cabinets. My wife thought it was the smell of the fish I had cooked the night before that had embedded itself into the cabinet. I figured, like most food smells, it would go away or be overcome by the next thing we cooked. The smell remained. Neither my wife nor I really paid too much attention to it. One day (sadly to say, this was about three weeks ago) I reached deep into the cabinet to get the food processor and amongst the movement of stuff I released a foul smell. I was immediately repelled back by the stank that came out. I recovered myself, took a deep breath and went in to investigate. I pulled the food processor out, some pans, and pots and finally there it was: a really old, really decomposed red onion. Thankfully it was in a bag and I was able to pick it up and throw it outside.
We threw the onion out and right away we could smell the difference in the kitchen. My wife and I laughed about the whole thing, but it got me thinking about how often the same type of thing happens inside of us. We can accumulate so much stuff inside our mind, heart and soul. Things we should’ve let go a long time ago. Regret, doubt, failures, what someone said, what someone didn’t say…the list goes on. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this stuff is affecting us.
Kind of like a decomposing red onion.
At some point I bought that onion and placed it in that cabinet. For some crazy reason I forgot about it but it affected me—it affected the whole household. As a man I recognize the desire to push things that are bothering me away. The “get over it” mind set may lead this, or maybe I convince myself that it really isn’t that big of a deal. The reality is that the serious stuff, the things that bother us do need to be dealt with or else they rot inside and whom are we kidding—it affects everyone we encounter: especially our family.
There is a lot of stuff—red onions—that I have stored up over the years deep inside the “kitchen cabinet of my being”. Some are based on old situations with my dad. Some are insecurities that are common to many men. Some are silly, but for whatever reason have a hold of me. As I continue to find random things in my house that we don’t need to carry on with us I am challenged to reflect on what I need to let go of so that I am not carrying it within me anymore.
Who knew moving to a new house would be such an existential exercise.
Last year I wrote about my discernment on whether or not to conceal carry. Here is the post if you are interested: Babies, Guns and Jesus. After the experience mentioned in that post I did a lot of thinking, praying and discussing with my wife. I spoke to lots of people about this subject. Some were experts in weapons training, police officers, military, priests, friends, neighbors, etc. My wife and I made our decision and I spent quite a bit of time training, learning and familiarizing myself with the safety and use of firearms. I still have a long way to go. On average I train every month or two with live fire and do dry fire drills at least 3 times a week. I know that many people do not feel the same way about guns and that’s fine.
This post is really not about guns.
Most of the guys I do weapons training with are very much convinced that they are doing this for the safety and welfare of their families. I wholeheartedly believe that. One guy got teary eyed as he shared how much he loved his family and how he wanted to be ready for anything that could potentially harm them. So do I.
I try really hard to listen, read, and follow the guidance of men and woman who are wiser and holier than I am. I especially try and study how to be a better man, husband and father. I find it so easy to want to be selfish and focus on my own desires and ignore my family—individualism is all about that. I have to constantly check myself and refocus. There is a certain discipline, training if you will, that I have to take on for this.
A few weeks ago I bumped into this video that really spoke to me about the importance of men training to defend their families. The video was not about weapons or hand-to-hand combat. The video was about prayer.
Prayer is the ultimate training that all men must take on. St. Padre Pio once said, “Prayer is the best weapon we posses.” Prayer isn’t something a weak man does. Prayer is something that a man who understands his place in the world does; a man who knows his limits, capacity, and potential; a man who recognizes that ultimately God is the one we need to turn to for our families protection and for them to become what they are meant to be.
Real men pray.
So here is the challenge I put to myself, and the men who read this blog. Pray. If you want to defend your family there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Here are some suggestions:
I really enjoy shooting my guns at targets and training for scenarios, but lets be honest; there is a small chance that I will ever need to draw my weapon on anyone (thank God for that). However, if I am ever in that situation I’ve done all I can to be ready. I am more likely though to be tempted sexually, to be greedy, selfish, to be dishonest: insert your potential situation here. Praying for God to transform you and to guide you when those situations come (they will come) is important training. How will you respond to those situations if you have not prepared yourself?
Praying for and with our families is absolutely necessary. This world is filled with situations that if we are not actively “training” for we will get eaten alive. I pray every single day. Sometimes it’s short and rushed due to my daughter or other things outside of my control. More often than not I spend quality time in prayer. I need it. I cannot become whom God intends me to be if I am not communicating with Him. Communicate with Him. Encounter Him.
I want to protect my family and myself. I want to be ready for whatever this world is going to throw at us. I am whole heartedly convinced that there is no better training for a man than to seek the face of God in prayer and to ask the most important question we could ever inquire of Him: God, what do you ask of me?