Thursday, June 23, 2011

Me and the Kids, After Two Weeks!

Mommy is coming home for the weekend again tomorrow. She'll bring a box of homework with her, but I hope that she and I will be able to sneak out at least for a nice dessert to belatedly celebrate our anniversary. Meanwhile, "me and the kids" have made it through another week of "Daddy Time," and no one seems too sad. We've had our share of fun, I would say.

The fact is, we have the easy part. Eileen has three courses condensed into four weeks, with assignments, and exams at the end, and then a paper that she will have to write by October 1. It's quite difficult. We even discussed last weekend whether it was worth doing. But we both have the feeling that it is important to take on this opportunity, even with the sacrifices it entails. It is an additional credential that the university offers, and it is included in the tuition already paid.

Eileen is fully qualified as a Montessori teacher, and does not need this additional Master's degree. Yet it could conceivably be useful at some point in the future, in some way. After all, we don't know where the Lord will take us in the next two, five, ten or twenty years. We do not know what other kinds of educational work may engage us, and it's always helpful to have qualifications.

Where will our lives go, in the next fifteen years? We've been through too much to project into the future. We try to take hold, in the present, of the opportunities that God gives to us to prepare for the future. And then we live and address the problems that confront us.

Still, I am frustrated by my own slow and uncertain progress. What does God have in mind for me?

I know that I am a husband and a father, and that I must fight to stay alive in these relationships. I must support my wife. She needs my presence as a person who stands with her and helps her to be secure in what she is doing. That is what it means, right now, for me to be a man. And the children need me; they need the person who is their father. They need my example, my conversation, my instruction, my affection, the environment of my personality as a big tree under which they grow.

There have been times in my life when I have felt very worthless to my children, because I was so unproductive. I was just here like a lump. My livelihood was taken away from me by illness. I think any father who is unemployed can probably relate to how this feels. You are tempted to feel that you are useless as a father. But our circumstances enter into the personal dynamics of family life and can be lived in a meaningful way. My Dad--whose father died when he was 9 years old--has constantly encouraged me to be with my children. "You have no idea," he says, "how much that means to them."

What matters is that these are the circumstances that I am called to live. I struggle with them, I have failure and frustration, and I continue to struggle. This is my work. This is what I give to my family as a father. This is what my children see.

And I hope they see that Eileen and I trust in God. I hope they see how much we rely on His mercy and how aware we are of our own weakness. I hope they experience mercy from us, and learn how to give it to us. The future, finally, is not an unknown. Whatever its circumstances, we know that the presence of Christ and His merciful love will be there.