Hopes For My Children

Today, our son Gabriel turned three months old. 

The week before he was born, I wrote this post. It is a little… raw, but, here it is nonetheless.

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Soon, my wife and I will be welcoming a second child into the world. Our family will grow; in size, in complexity, and hopefully in love as well.

I have been thinking about the hopes I have for my children and their character.

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I hope my kids are kinder than me, gentler than me. I hope they show a grace to others that many will not understand, even find maddening. I hope they have compassion in their hearts, and demonstrate it through their actions.

I hope my kids find thrill in learning, and are eager to try new things.

I hope my kids are stunningly, terrifyingly smart. I hope they are utterly brilliant. But when the times come that they get a sinking, bittersweet feeling, that feeling that they are the smartest person in the room — I hope they have the sense to know it’s time to find a new room.

I hope my kids find value in hard work and leisure alike. I hope they recognize the relationship between effort and reward, while also acknowledging systems that spread rewards with massive unfairness. I hope they can truly relax. I hope they can be comfortable with silence and solitude.

I hope my kids can ignore harsh words. But I also hope that if they are provoked in a physical way, they are able to respond with an efficient brutality.

Selfishly, I hope I have something in common with my kids. I hope I can teach my son a good head fake on the basketball court, or share with my daughter in the joy of a good science-fiction story.

But I also hope my kids develop really weird passions of their own, stuff I know nothing about nor where their interest even stemmed from. I hope they become really talented in fields that I did not even know exist. I would love to see one of my kids get a huge YouTube following for making weird jokes I do not understand.

I hope they can appreciate old things as well. I hope my kids can stand in front of a war memorial and consider sincerely a frame of mind and time they may never comprehend in their own lives. I hope they can still themselves in ancient places, feel the weight of centuries around them.

I hope my children have friends they can confide in, goals they can look forward to achieving, and a vision for things invisible.

I hope their faith forms a solid bedrock for their lives. I hope they look at the Gospel and decide to dive into it — face-first and full-bodied. I hope their prayer is a constant conversation. I hope they practice carving scripture into the roots of their soul. I hope they acknowledge both their sin and their Savior. I hope they serve well and faithfully.

I hope to hear them profess their faith in Jesus Christ publicly. I hope I then have the pleasure of watching them live out this faith in real ways.

I hope they’re just really cool people, and I hope to be overcome with emotion in moments of considering how much they have grown and learned and loved and lived.

Reading With My Daughter

Charlotte is 20 months old. Tomorrow, in fact, marks 21 months out of the womb.

camping_trip_sept_17_2016

She is in a phase right now where she loves reading; or, at least, being read to. She certainly takes active participation, though. She will point at familiar objects and name them, such as “baby” or “doggy.”

With some items, there is even an element of make-believe at play, in which we physically interact with the book’s representation of an item. For example, in the classic Good Night Moon, there is a “bowl of mush” referenced a couple times. On one page, it is featured prominently, large and centered. She will smirk at me and point to the bowl of mush, indicating that she wants me to ‘eat’ it.

So I bring the book to my face, and playfully gobble at the mush. Then Charlotte wants her turn. She will lean her little head in, and make a quiet gobbling noise at the mush.

If a book has a baby in it, she may want to lean in and kiss the baby.

She may want me or her mom to name multiple animals, or she may want to consistently find the same animal across different pages. If the book has dancing in it, she may want to dance along, in her own way.

She enjoys reading, yes. Not only will she bring me or her mother a book to read, but she will usually want it to be read a second time. And a third. And a fourth. And…

But her daddy very much enjoys these sessions as well. If she wants me to read Good Night Moon eight times in a row, then darn it, I will savor every second. Well, ideally I will, anyway. Her daddy is not always a perfect, patient daddy.

Really, I do want to savor these moments. I sense the value in them. Having fun is great, but doing so while truly bonding is even better. And the formative aspects are wonderful as well.

If it is a book I know fairly well (which can happen, when your kid has made you read the same book four dozen times this week, right?), I will sometimes say the words on the page — but watch her face as I ‘read.’

I like to see what catches her gaze, whether she is focusing intensely on something or letting her eyes flicker about, whether she is looking towards a general area or for a specific subject.

I like to consider the associations she is already forming, both positive and negative. I like to think about the chemistry in her brain, the nerves, and what connections are already being strengthened through repetition into what will one day hopefully form healthy habits.

I know you cannot hinge all your hopes on a session of reading children’s books. Yet, there is a hope there nonetheless, a quiet-yet-mighty force in her person.

I hope our mutual love of reading, as a family, will remain a mighty force for years to come.

The Curious Case of Small Children

Kids are generally curious, right? Like, that’s an accepted fact as to how they naturally are? I’m still learning this stuff.

I suppose it makes sense, with an amount of inevitability: Although the world around them does not really change in size, their abilities to comprehend it grow continually, thus lending an increasing sense of scale and pleasant wonder to it all, which serves as self-incentive for further discovery.

As they see more, they want to see even more.

eyes

Seeing this wide-eyed wonder in my 16-month-old daughter, Charlotte, has been awesome. She seems to be so curious in all situations. I got to spend some quality Daddy Time with her recently and, even just in our own backyard, it was a delight to see how she explores the environment around her.

The sandbox is serious business.
The sandbox is serious business.

I didn’t think I’d be fond of this age. The joke with Molly about our kids was always, “Hey, you’re good with little kids, you can have ’em when they’re babies, I’ll come back into their life when they’re about 12 or so.”

Part of it, I think, was simply that I enjoy words — and I thought, if I can’t have a conversation with my child, I won’t be able to form as earnest of a connection.

That was dumb. I have a lot to learn, clearly, because even though Charlotte isn’t quite talking yet (she can sure babble, at least), she expresses herself quite well; not only in her vocalizations, but in her body language, her expressions, even the choices she makes. The same way we all do, I guess.

A partner in crime!
A partner in crime!

 

"A girl and her dog."
“A girl and her dog.”

She’s growing up too fast.

Rather, I guess the rate at which she is growing up is perfectly fine and appropriate, but I wish I could savor these years a bit longer. That’s normal too, right? Every week we notice new steps she is taking developmentally, new things she is trying and enjoying, new syllables she figures out and new ways she can throw a whiny fit.

daddy_time

Seriously, I was anxious about trying to be a father at this age. I was nervous. I still don’t think I’m doing super well, maybe in some areas, but on a simple level, I definitely like it a lot more than I thought I would.

Charlotte is old enough now to approach me with a book, and make it clear that she wants me to read it to her, and climb into my lap when I sit down to do so. And that sort of interaction means the world to me, already.

Little girl, big world.
Little girl, big world.

In a way, I get to be the curious one, the wide-eyed child again, learning an entire universe of New Stuff that other people (hi there, veteran parents) already find very basic. Of course it means a lot to you when your kid says “Daddy!” and wants to spend time with you. Duh.

So, yeah, the time passes too quickly, but I will savor what I can now, and I truly do look forward to future steps taken together.

Parenting is pretty awesome.

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
— Matthew 18:3

cute