On the Thursday prior to Father's Day, upon returning home from work I walked in the front door and Elizabeth, with a huge smile on her face (exposing her two little bottom teeth!), came crawling toward me! The stress of the day immediately melted away, I put my bags down, got down on the floor with her and gave her a gigantic huge and kiss. While I received Father's Day presents on that Sunday, this momentous event would be my favorite. My little girl, so excited to see her Daddy, came crawling to me. And I, in turn, forgot everything else and met my daughter with unabashed joy.
Over the course of that weekend, as well as the past week, I reflected again and again on this occurrence. I thought about how incredible it is that Elizabeth, who can't speak or even move gracefully and with coordination, can express her emotions so clearly. What's more is that I'm even more impressed with her displays of happiness than sadness. She is so excited to see me or Emily. She'll smile. Shake. Squeak. And now come to us- the object of her desire.
Am I so quick to let others know that I love them? As teachers, do we show such emotion toward our students? What about their parents? What about our colleagues?
Another part of my reflection focused on the importance of fatherhood, and in turn parenthood and teacherhood. Elizabeth crawled to me. She'll also follow Emily and me if we move from a room with Elizabeth to a room without her. She'll make noises or movements in the same fashion (somewhat) and motion (again, somewhat) as what we model.
St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian order (who devote themselves to working, primarily in schools, with the young and the poor) in one of his famous dreams, recounts the story of the monkeys. To paraphrase his tale, a man wanders into a forest and falls asleep. As he sleeps, a group of monkeys sneak into his campsite and take all of the hats that he has packed. Upon waking in the morning, the man is astonished to see a cadre of monkeys donning his hats. Outraged, he yells and screams for them to give him back his hats. They, in turn, make loud noises. The man then proceeds to jump up and down in frustration. The monkeys do the same. Finally, out of desperation and resignation that his hats are gone forever, the man takes off his hat and throws it to the ground, sits down and pities himself. His reserve of hats then comes showering down upon him.
The Old Testament figure Judith preaches to the rulers of the people of Bethulia, saying, "Therefore, my brothers, let us set an example for our kinsmen. Their lives depend on us, and the defense of the sanctuary, the temple, and the altar rests with us" (Judith 8:24). As parents and teachers, it is imperative that we set an example for our kinsmen/children/students. Their lives truly depend on us- their salvation rests with us.
Makes you think twice about cursing or even showing frustration in front of a kid, right?
Finally, Elizabeth's first time crawling toward me, her earthly father, made me think of how many times in my life I have gone crawling back to my Heavenly Father hoping to be reconciled with Him. Like the prodigal son, I am humbled, especially considering the example I am called to set for both my own daughter and all of those students entrusted to my care at Incarnation, thinking of Elizabeth crawling toward me.
She makes me want to crawl faster, and more often, back to Him. With the strength of the Eucharist and the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I know that I have the tools, if I would just use them, to be the type of dad Elizabeth needs me to be.
She may be the one learning how to move, but in many ways, I am the one who's crawling...