A couple of weeks ago my wife told me about this “Daddy-Daughter-Dance” that our local YMCA was putting together. It was going to be a two-hour event where we would dress up, get our picture taken, make crafts, eat snacks, dance and get an ice cream Sunday. I signed up for it and told my daughter about it. Claire was very excited. It is really interesting seeing how Claire was able to recognize that this was going to be a special event just for her and I. Leading up to the dance Claire would talk about going and how it would be fun.
About a week before the dance Claire got a package in the mail from her aunt. Auntie had heard that Claire was going to a dance and bought her a slick pair of black dress shoes. The shoes solidified for Claire that this dance was a big deal. Apparently a woman’s DNA is wired to respond to shoes in a way that I simply cannot quite wrap my mind around. Shoes = big deal. I guess this is a universal norm.
The day of the dance Claire was talking about it and I was busy working on the closet shelving system I was installing. As I finished my project I jumped into the shower and quickly dressed. My wife was busy getting Claire ready. At one point I walked by Claire’s room and saw her in her dress and she said, “No Papi. Not yet. I not ready.” I complied and walked away. Once my wife was done getting our daughter ready, Claire walked out with a big smile and a look that clearly sought my approval. I told Claire how beautiful she was and it was obvious that she was eating up my words, smiles and hugs.
She was stunning.
The rest of the night was great. I twirled my daughter around on the dance floor, told her how beautiful, strong and smart she was. We made a ladybug craft and ate too much ice cream. Our picture was terrible (the “picture people” were not pros) but the overall night was fantastic. Claire recognized that she captivated me; that her father genuinely desired to spend this time with her. The other fathers at the dance were equally captivated by their daughters—it was really cool to see. We all had these looks of awe and wonder as we saw these glorious little beings twirl around the room.
As Claire and I drove home I realized that these two hours had been a powerful exchange between her and I. My daughter genuinely felt love from me in the form of this Daddy-Daughter-Dance. Some of my friends have taken their daughters to dances like this in the last few weeks and I have seen social media filled with pictures of little girls twirling with their dads. It’s pretty awesome!
My favorite moment at the dance was not with my own daughter; it came about when I saw one of the other dads with his daughter and another little girl who wasn’t his child. In the exchange that the girls had with the man you could tell they were not sisters. Who knows what that one girls situation is and why her daddy wasn’t there. The beautiful thing was that someone else was “daddy” in that moment, and was twirling her. This little girl was loved and more importantly, she knew that she captivated this daddy.
Snowmaggedon 2016 has come and gone and we have survived. We have shoveled our way out of 20+ inches of snow, which depending where you are in the world may be laughable. Here in the good ole state of Virginia, 5 inches is enough to shut us down for a while; 20+ inches set a new record and may possibly have us stuck in our neighborhoods for a week.
From Friday afternoon to right about at 2:30pm this afternoon we were buried in. Our back deck had snow coming up to the window. Our dog that loves to run in snow wouldn’t go out because he needed to take a running leap to clear the 20+inch wall of snow that had collected against the French doors. Apparently relieving your bowls isn’t really worth all that trouble.
My daughter was super exited to see snow. For whatever reason, she was also excited by the fact that “Papi” was going outside to shovel the snow. I went out to clear the snow off the porch and driveway when my neighbor yelled out, “Good morning. Want some help?” “Yes. Yes I do.” The words came out of my mouth before my neighbor could complete his sentence.
For the next several hours, my neighbor and I cleared each other’s driveways and vehicles, and 3 other neighbors’ driveways. Another neighbor joined us a few hours in. It was one of those great moments where neighbors unite and make life easier on each other.
While all this snow shoveling was going on, my daughter was watching. Claire saw her “Papi” and other neighbors going around helping each other out. At one point, as Claire was playing outside with my wife, they both came over to the neighbor’s house we were helping. These neighbors had a baby recently, so we wanted to make sure their house was extra clear. My wife grabbed a shovel and Claire helped out as well. Claire’s job was to help me put salt on their steps and walkway. Claire was so excited to help.
My pastor recently wrote in his weekly letter about how important it is to let kids see parents writing checks and placing money into the collection. He speaks of this action as necessary for kids to recognize its importance. My pastor, at one point, wrote, “We watched our parents write the check every week.” The witness of seeing this act of writing a check told my then pastor-to-be that it was important. He ended up giving his whole life to the Church by becoming a priest.
Our kids witness so much in this world. A lot of it is good. A lot of it is bad. What kids witness from their parents sticks most. Your influence on your child is greater than any other. If we want our kids to do good, let them see us doing good. If we want our kids to be holy, let them see holiness in us. My neighbors thanked me for helping them today, but letting my kid see my wife and I helping others is something that I thanked them for.
Let’s show our kids all the good that they can do.
So something weird happened when I tried sharing this last week. Somehow I had a different video show than the one below. Anyways, hope you enjoy this video. It is awesome and all men should watch it.
Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!
I recently saw the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie and it was pretty cool. This is not a review, but more of an observation on the theme of fatherhood that is deeply rooted in this movie. As stated above, I am going to share some info that will spoil the movie for you if you have not watched it.
You have been warned.
We are introduced to Kylo Ren, the new Sith character, who is the son of Hans Solo and Leia, and the grandson of Darth Vader. Right away, you see that Kylo has daddy issues. These issues seem to stem from Solo not being present in Kylo’s life and it is clear that Kylo’s daddy issues have encouraged his joining of the dark side. I wasn’t surprised to see this plot in the movie. There are so many young people I interact with that fall into a, sort of, “dark side” due to a broken or absent relationship with their father. What was interesting to see is how Hollywood portrayed the devastating consequences of a young man not having a positive relationship with his father. Not only did the consequences affect the individual, but the surrounding community as well.
Kylo has a moment in the movie where he interacts with Rey, the female protagonist, and Kylo senses that she has some kind of attachment to Solo. Kylo cynically says, “He’ll disappoint you.” In this interaction you see that Kylo is very emotional when he talks about his father. At one point, Kylo is conflicted between the light and dark side of the force. He even asks for guidance from his dead grandfather as he speaks to Darth Vader’s beaten helmet in a room. I believe this struggle is driven by Kylo’s desire to know his father, yet he is angry about being deserted.
Kylo’s anger has distorted his understanding of living a good moral life. This anger has also poured into Kylo’s interactions with the world in general. Kylo murders, orders people to be murdered, and eventually murders his father. The monstrous weapon— the Death Star on crack—destroys several planets all because of this deep anger and rage.
Kylo is a wounded young man. Maybe this is a stretch, but I believe this story can be seen as a metaphor for what can happen to young men when fathers are absent. Solo may be a stand up guy in the galaxy’s eyes, but not being present in Kylo’s life seems to have done some major damage. Maybe Kylo showed great promise to be a Jedi and he was sent away to train and that’s why Solo wasn’t around. Maybe, but clearly Kylo has daddy issues.
In my line of work, young men who don’t have fathers are more likely to be angry and have emotional issues that don’t always remain in their own hearts. Usually this anger pours into all they do and say, and onto those they interact with. I unfortunately have too many stories that constantly remind me of this reality. I’m not saying these young men will grow up to be like Kylo, but it definitely wounds them. There are many reasons why fathers can be absent in a young persons life. Therefore, I cannot make any judgments. Neither can I say that a fatherless child will automatically become a bad person. Individuals with very good, holy and present fathers make bad choices too.
As my wonderful wife pointed out a distinction needs to be made between a father that leaves their child out of selfishness, versus a father that needs to leave due to a deployment, or job that demands a prolonged physical absence. The latter are still present to their children, maybe not in a physical-corporal-right-in-front-of-you sort of way, but the relationship with their child is established. Relationships between fathers and children that have prolonged absences can still communicate via phone, Internet, mail, etc. and continue to nurture those relationships. I know of many young men and women whose fathers are away on business or deployments that have solid relationships with their fathers.
Maybe J.J. Abrams is using this movie to communicate the importance of a good relationship between a son and his father. Maybe he isn’t. Whatever the case may be, the need for fathers to be present, engaged, and attentive to their sons is very important and something that, not only affects the individual, but everyone they come into contact with.
There are many young men who grow up without fathers and turn out to be great people. However, studies (this is just one site out of dozens) show how difficult it is for children—especially boys—to grow up without fathers.
As we close this year and begin a new one, let all fathers be more attentive to our relationships with our sons and our daughters. There is no greater force than the impact you will have on them.
Feeding my daughter is possibly one of the worst things ever! Maybe I’m over reacting since a few minutes ago I was “reasoning” with her to eat the plate of food in front of her.
I honestly do not understand why it is so incredibly difficult for her to eat her food. I use to think that maybe what I cooked for her was gross, too spicy, too bland or maybe too green. However, the more I interact with my daughter the more I realize that Bill Cosby was correct: children have brain damage.
Proof one: Daughter begs for a PB+J sandwich. Begs! I lovingly prepare the sandwich. It isn’t just a PB+J; it is a PB+J+L (‘L’ is for the love). I present the sandwich to my daughter. Daughter rejects the sandwich, “I no-wan-it!”
I stare in absolute shock as confusion and rejection seep into my being.
“What do you mean you don’t want it? You just begged for one?!” Claire crosses her arms in front of her and says once again, “I no-wan-it!” I take the sandwich and eat it myself. I hate to waste food. Less than 5 minutes have passed and Claire comes back to the dinning room asking for her sandwich. Asking is too nice. Demanding for her sandwich is more like it. I tell her that I ate it. Claire begins to cry because I ate her “favorite sandwich”.
Scenario two: Claire has a friend over the house for a play date. Claire asks for a PB+J (believe it or not she does eat them). I proceed to make a PB+J with some of that ‘L’. Surprisingly, Claire doesn’t want it anymore. I offer carrots and tomatoes (two of her other favorite snacks). Claire rejects my alternate snack and walks away. I turn to her friend Bennett and ask if he would like a PB+J with carrots and tomatoes. Bennett says, “Yes please”. I gladly begin to hand him the plate when suddenly Claire returns with and inexplicable hunger. She is ravenous and needs a PB+J with carrots and tomatoes. Bennett is willing to share and Claire devours the food—she asks for a second sandwich and eats…all…of…it.
Whenever we take Claire to the babysitters and ask, “Did she eat well?” I hear, “Oh yeah! She ate everything!” It seems that at every other place except her home, my daughter is cooperative and a vacuum cleaner towards food. I honestly don’t get it. It hurts my brain to try and process. What is even more ridiculous is the fact that my wife and I could cook the same thing that a neighbor, friend or hobo would make and 99.9% of the time Claire would chose their meals.
Ok, I’m done. Rant over.
We’re getting ready to cross over the threshold of the holiday season. I wanted to share this post from last year this time. I know it was something that really centered me during the craziness of running around, shopping and family life. I hope you enjoy–again.
My daughter never seizes to amaze me.
As a father I recognize that my duty is to help my daughter grow emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. I, as well as my wife, spend many of our hours in the day helping our daughter to grow and learn. Recently Claire learned how to pray. As Catholic Christians, all of our prayers begin with the sign of the cross. It is a simple, yet powerful gesture that sums up the faith and the power of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Claire kind of sort of can do it. Usually she lifts her hand towards her forehead and then brings it down towards her chin in a circular motion. Wax on, wax off sort of thing. We’re working on it.
Our prayer time with Claire is short. After Claire attempts the sign of the cross she places her palms together…
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Horse costume. Check. Flag with fleurs-de-lis. Check. Sword. Check. Home made Saint cards. Check. Fifteenth century French-like soldiers helmet and armor.
Umm…we may have to improvise.
All Hallows’ Eve, also know as Halloween is right around the corner and my wife and I are preparing our daughters costume. We have started a tradition in our household where each year we dress our daughter up as a particular Catholic saint. Last year she was St. Clare of Assisi after her namesake. This year she will be St. Joan of Arc. One of the things we are adding to this years Halloween tradition is that we will have our daughter give each home she visits a homemade card with a picture of St. Joan of Arc on the front and a little bio of her life on the back.
There are many Christians who have various thoughts on the matter of whether or not to celebrate Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve is literally the eve of All Saints Day (November 1st) in which we celebrate the life of all the amazing Saints that have lived their lives for Christ in an exemplary way. All Saints is part of our Christian history and therefore a big deal. I am a Youth Minister and I believe that God uses young people to change the world. If you don’t believe me, pick up a bible and read it. Many of the stories in the scriptures where God calls someone to do something amazing, involve a young person (i.e. David, Mary, the Apostles, etc.). I find Halloween to be an incredible opportunity to go and share those stories and the stories of the saints with people who may never get a chance to hear them. Also, it gives my daughter and opportunity to be one of those young people God uses to change the world. More on that later.
Think about it this way.
When else do we have an opportunity to go to a stranger’s home and be greeted with a genuine desire to see us? Sure it’s about candy and maybe we can say it’s expected of people to open their doors and greet us. Regardless of why people open the door the reality is: they are opening their doors to us. My daughter is very cute. Put her in a horse costume, with a sword in hand and people will listen and do anything she says. Claire is learning about St. Joan of Arc and my hope is that by the time we go out trick-or-treating she will be able to say, “I’m St. Joan of Arc. Thank you (in reference to the candy she’s receiving), here’s a present for you (as she hands the Saint card).”
We’re working on the enunciation.
Will people read the Saint card? I think they will at least look at it since a cute toddler is giving it to them, and maybe later that night they will read it. Will this card change their lives? Probably not, but it is hard to say. We don’t know how a person may react to a mixture of the Holy Spirit, our family’s prayers and a cute child dressed as a Saint.
Here is the other thing.
The reaction of the person who is receiving the Saint card is only part of the equation. My daughter learning to creatively share her Catholic faith is the other part. Claire needs to learn at a young age that her faith is not hers to keep. Claire (she’s 2 and a half) needs to be able to experience evangelization (aka sharing the faith) at this early age so that she realizes that this is normal, and what all Christians are called to do. Experts say that at this age kids absorb everything they hear and see, so it makes sense that we would want them absorbing how to share the faith as well. Evangelizing is not limited to special holidays and seasons, but Halloween gives our family an opportunity to do this together in a safe, and easy way with people we may never get another chance to connect with.
Discovering fatherhood requires that I take every opportunity I can to help my daughter grow and become who God is calling her to be. It also requires that I help my daughter learn that the gift of faith we have is so precious, so awesome and so needed in our world. Halloween will come and go, but the opportunity my daughter has to share the life of St. Joan of Arc will help her be a better follower of Jesus and with a little luck, some prayers and a cute costume we may just touch someone’s heart.
Toddlers have a ton of energy. I know—understatement of the year. My daughter is no exception. Friends of ours that have toddler boys tell me all the time that Claire has the energy of a boy. My wife and I have realized that Claire is definitely the most energetic girl in our group of friends. Actually, Claire is the most energetic out of the girls and boys. Don’t get me wrong; I love my daughter’s energy and enthusiasm for life. It’s just that her energy takes so much of mine.
We have found that if Claire doesn’t do something that can use up her energy, life will get stupid real fast for all of us. So here is this father’s recommendation for wearing your toddler out:
Season Passes: Amusement parks are not the only places that offer season passes. We have a children’s museum, a local farm, and one of those fall plantation type places that all offer season passes very close to our home. I recommend getting one for each season. Ask for them as birthday, or Christmas presents to lessen the financial burden on you. My daughter loves going to the farm in the summer and early fall. Claire literally chases chickens, plays in a tree house and builds sandcastles (giant pile of sand provided). In the winter months the children’s museum is a place to run around away from the elements and still burn energy. We literally just got back from a plantation farm that’s open only during the fall and Claire ran, jumped, chased animals, saw pigs race and is now in deep sleep.
Malls: My daughter and I have made it a tradition now of going to Costco for a hot dog, soda and slice of pizza. The Costco is connected to the local mall, which allows for us on rainy days to get lunch and also walk around the mall. The mall has an indoor play place that she can go and play with other kids. My neighbor and I did this a few weeks ago and it was great. The play place is enclosed and offers comfortable seating for worn our parents to sit and watch their child’s batteries drain. If there isn’t a play place in the mall you can play chase, I spy, and many more games that have your kids moving and running around.
Classes: Claire has taken a ballet class and now is doing a gymnastics class. Again, this could be something you ask for as birthday or Christmas presents since it can be expensive. My wife recently took Claire to a gymnastics class and texted me after saying, “Claire is sweating from class.” At first I didn’t really know why she was texting that to me, but later that day I found out that all that energy burned resulted in an epic nap and some quiet study time for mommy.
Backyard: We were blessed to have received a free swing and slide play set for our backyard. I actually built the beam enclosure for Claire to be able to play in it. For us, the backyard is a simple way to burn some energy—especially on those days where you don’t have the desire to go anywhere. Whether Claire plays on her play set, or chases the dog we are always able to wear her out this way. Having different games that require thinking, skill and exercise are perfect for backyard fun.
Chores: So I do a lot of chores around our home since my wife is spending most of her time studying for her nurse practitioner degree. Getting Claire to help me with chores is another way to burn some energy. I will sweep our floor and then have Claire take her little toddler broom and sweep up behind me. Claire helps with the laundry, whether it’s putting it in or taking it out. Claire also helps with prepping meals (as best a 2 year old can). These things take more time when my daughter is helping, but it gives her the satisfaction of having helped me. Plus it helps her burn energy.
Special Events: Check your towns website, or newspaper for special events that may be taking place. It is not uncommon for fairs, shows, etc. to come into town. Although these are not things you can consistently do with the kiddos, it may be a one-time thing that really excites them and more importantly wears them out.
Hope these are some helpful ideas to help wear the kiddos out.
The picture above is from one of our bathrooms. We have a crucifix in every room in our home to help us remember that God is always present. In the bathroom where this photo is from, I placed the crucifix in this basket. It wasn’t that I ran out of nails, or that there wasn’t a good spot on the wall. I remember putting it in this basket because it felt natural—Jesus amongst the normal everyday mundane stuff.
St. Josemaria Escriva has an amazing quote that has always stuck with me, “Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him.” This crucifix in the bathroom reminds me of this reality: that our lives are always filled with the mundane and the sacred.
So my wife, daughter and I were at Mass like any normal Sunday afternoon. We were praying and trying to keep the 2-year-old from crawling under the pew. My wife and I take turns holding Claire and helping her to experience Church as best a 2-year-old can. Sometimes it is easy. Most times it is challenging.
After communion I’ve made it a habit of having Claire sit on my lap to pray with my wife and I as a family so that she recognizes the sacredness of this moment. For Catholics, when we receive the consecrated bread and wine we believe that it is the true, real and total presence of Jesus (the same Christ that walked on earth 2000 years ago). So it’s a big deal for us to emphasize this moment with Claire. Claire will normally sit on me, close her eyes and put her hands together to pray. On this particular Sunday she did the same. As we sat enjoying this moment of grace it was interrupted by the mundane reality of a full bladder.
As I realized that Claire had completely unloaded on me I stood up and sure enough it was dead smack on the middle of my pants crotch region. I sighed out loud, picked Claire up and headed to the bathroom while holding her a little lower than normal to shield myself. In the bathroom I laughed out loud. The urine spot on my khakis’ looked as if I was the one who peed on myself. I laughed out louder at the irony of it and Claire asked, “What’s funny Papi?” I responded, “Life baby. Life is funny.”
Claire and I bolted through the main door of the Church and headed to the car. Claire was maintained at crotch level in case we bumped into anyone. We made it to the car and waited for my wife to meet us. As I sat in the car I smiled and thought of Escriva’s quote, “Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him.” It is so true.
Claire peeing on me did cause us to get up and leave the Church, but what I realized is that it hadn’t changed the moment of grace we were experiencing. Grace came with us to the bathroom and was with us as we laughed. The sacred was with us as I cleaned myself, as I thought of how embarrassing it would be to have to explain this to someone as we left the Church. The bathroom was not the typical place we experience prayer and grace, but it was this Sunday.
The things we consider mundane and ordinary typically dominate our lives. These ordinary, mundane things are not bad; they are good and certainly necessary. More importantly I believe God is present in these ordinary moments. Maybe for you its experiencing God while cleaning up a mess your kid made, or dealing with the chaos of a work situation, maybe its experiencing a moment of grace in traffic when you are bumper to bumper on the interstate. Rarely do we have experiences of the sacred in perfect, extraordinary situations. Not too many of us can say that an angel appeared, or a light shone down on us, and a voice from heaven spoke. Most of the time the sacred presents itself in the ordinary everyday situation. Thank God for that because I personally don’t find myself in many extraordinary situations.
When I stare at the crucifix in our bathroom I am reminded that all moments are sacred. That whatever is happening right now is a moment of grace if I can see it. Do you see God in your mundane, everyday ordinary moments? Look again. You might just find Him in the most extraordinarily ordinary of places.