Friday, June 1, 2012

Family Is An Ongoing Adventure

We had a happy celebration of John Paul's 15th birthday. He also celebrated the last day of school at Chelsea Academy, where he had an excellent freshman year of high school. We are very proud of him.

Fifteen years. It just doesn't seem possible. In my memory, I feel like I can just walk right into those days when he was born. I can close my eyes and practically inhabit that time, remembering the sights and sounds and smells: He was very late in coming. Eileen and I kept watching videos, and sitting on our old futon couch in the first house, waiting days and days for something to happen. We read our books (I was reading a Faulkner's Light in August, which I finished before he was born). We went out to Washington D.C. to the art museum, hoping that perhaps Beauty might encourage the kid to get moving (by then he was over a week late). We went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Georgetown, mainly because we loved the food, but also joking about our hope that the ancient wisdom and tangy spices of the descendents of King Solomon might be medicinal (Gosh! It's been fifteen years since we've been to an Ethiopian restaurant?? Now that just won't do at all!).

And then, finally, seeing him for the first time, crying and clenching his fists like a little boxer. It's all there in my memory, in a way that is more vital and supple than anything could be on any media device of human invention. It's internal to me, as are all the years that followed--years of being a father (a status that once seemed so strange and new, but that has become fundamental to my character as a human being).

These past fifteen years have been rich with experience and joy and suffering. John Paul has four sisters, Eileen and I have learned much about each other, and marriage, and that Jesus is worthy of our trust even in (especially in) the dark places. We have also learned that being a family is an ongoing adventure. As our kids move into adolescence, we feel like we're becoming parents again for the first time.

In a sense, John Paul is being "born" into adulthood in these years. His physical growth is obvious, but a more profound development is taking place in the soul, the mind, the heart--in his "self-awareness." We have done what we can so that John Paul could grow up knowing that he is loved. We have been far from perfect in this, and we can only trust in the mercy of God to bring good even out of our weakness.

And now we are doing our best to guide him, and to foster an environment in which he can begin to take the first steps of mature freedom.

Fr. Carron recently put it this way: "youth is the time of the You." It is the time for the person to discover that he or she belongs to Another, and to begin to hear the call of that Other. The great energy of freedom awakens to its dramatic possibilities.

For me as a father, it means learning new ways of being present for my child. It means a greater commitment to struggle against the sloth that continually creeps in and inclines me to treat my children as appendages of myself. It means growing in my own awareness of my dependence on the One who has given me this vocation. Day by day, I place my trust in His grace.