Monday, June 3, 2013

"The Janaro Family" Turns Sixteen Years Old

John Paul at maybe three or four months old.
So do you have a little baby in the house? On June 1, 1997 we had our first little baby at three o'clock in the morning. I guess I'm supposed to say something like, "Gee, it feels like it just happened yesterday!"

Actually, no. It doesn't feel that way at all. It was, in fact, sixteen years ago. Since then, I've lived half my adult life (note, I said "adult" life, which was preceded by 18 years of "pre-adult" life... you don't need to do the math). Four daughters have come after him, and many things have happened since then.

Sometimes I'll come across a book and realize that its been 16 years since the last time I read it. That feels unusual. Light in August by William Faulkner... I just read that recently, didn't I? No, actually, I was reading it while we were waiting for John Paul to be born. That seems like "yesterday."

John Paul at the age of sixteen.
But with my son there is a relationship. There has been a certain intersubjectivity* (n.b. *large philosophical word) between father and son, and with the other members of the family. It is the history of a relationship and a larger context of relationships that has grown and changed from year to year. My own childhood years seem very long in my memory. In a way, his years seem long too, at least when I think of the time in terms of our relationship and the subsequent development of our family up until the present.

John Paul was born like a little boxer, shaking his fists and wailing but also looking me straight in the eye with what appeared to be a sense of awareness and intelligence. Smart little feller.

He was the beginning of our family. He was the one who made me look at myself for the first time and say, "I'm a father." It put fear and trembling into me.

We're all growing together. At every point, I feel a more profound sense of helplessness: "How am I going to be a father to this (these) child (children)?" Somehow, Eileen and I have found the resources for every stage thus far. We are flawed parents raising flawed children, but we are also blessed and lifted up by grace and carried all along the way.

What does a father do? I don't have a clear "formula;" its a gift that keeps unveiling itself. A father loves his wife, and is grateful for her. He spends a lot of time on his knees begging God for help. He tries to teach and love and discipline with a trust in the grace of vocation and the providence that makes a family, as well as a healthy awareness of the "organic" reality that nurtures, in time, both interrelationships and the individual uniqueness of each person in a family. He never gives up on paternal tenderness, even when he fails every day. He prays together with the family. He prays alone, for the family. He prays and works with his wife, and trusts above all in the grace of Jesus present through the sacrament they share in marriage.

He is aware of the failures of his children, he is patient, he instructs, he corrects, but always he forgives. He does his best to be a man, but doesn't try to prove his manhood in some artificial way, and doesn't get insecure about his own weaknesses, because everyone is weak... (and fathers will be confronted with their human weaknesses in so many ways). He doesn't withdraw or hide. He just keeps getting up again, and keeps working on it.