On What My Children Call Me

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In those early days, being father to my young children was assiduously challenging. I seldom felt up to the parental task. Now that they are adults, that task is even more demanding. My soft soul requites its hard expectations. St Paul of the Bible is minimally helpful. He says as much: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” and in another place, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”  The many fathers in the Bible are no help either. They habitually provoke their children to anger and discouragement. Without applied teachings, Paul’s injunction remains an abstraction. Most fathers I know in real time struggle to mimic their notion of being a good parent. Self-help books in their mostly inanity fail me more.

Without alibis, excuses or recompense, I feel like a guitarist with no musical training, or a shortstop out of position in the field. And there is no re-play, erasure or second try.  Much of my parenting is improvisation. Waiting for God to weave his grace-filled threads into the fabric of my children in spite of their father requires long patience. And waiting for my children to respond to their father’s pedantic efforts can only be longsuffering. Thank God after these many years, we still nurture a strong emotive bond. All the while, as adults, they have redefined their assumptions and expectations of their father, and revised their roles and priorities with him. There are plenty I want from, wish for, and lament with them. But my longings are not without faith, hope or love.

On this Father’s Day, my children create a warm feeling by chiming in. What they call me informs that warmth of faith, hope and love. My oldest child calls me dadLately, her shortened “dad” from “daddy” shows an endearing love and enduring regard. That simple title is analogous of her obeisance that permeates her quietude toward me. Her aging father’s comfort and joy are waning. She often gives him little trinkets of thoughtful gifts to recover his happiness. This small goodness insures that I know she is thinking of me when she is not with me. My second child calls me pop. That salutation shows a playful deference in conflict with her inserted independence. She sees an aging old man who is also her father. A while ago, during a long spell of unbearable hot and humid weather, early in the morning, before work, she texts her mother and me her filial concerns. She reminds us to take care and stay indoor when possible. “I know you don’t like to go to the bathroom too often, but drink plenty of liquid anyway,” she prompts us.

My third child’s papi has faint hints of defiance tamed only by her amenability. Her independent thinking and autonomous bent demand equality with her elderly father beyond his years. In a strange way, I welcome, and dread, our many conversations about this and that. I welcome them because she is strong, determined and convincing, and I dread them because she is strong, determined and convincing. My fourth child dances between dad and pops. Respectfully he calls me “dad” and playfully he calls me “pops.” At all times, compulsory or grudgingly, he manages mostly compliance to his aging father’s too many wishes. Implicitly gentle and affectionate, he graces this old man with a genuine presence. When actual presence is not possible, he often calls to inset his virtual presence into my life.

At sunset of my days, perched indolently in our comfortable empty nest, I find delightfully so that my children, in their own unique selves, have turned out rather well and well adjusted.