expectant at christmas pt.2

December 27, 2006

On the birth of a child.

Peel back the tinsel and the glitter, the TV specials and the incessant sales, and you’ll find that the real message of Christmas is profoundly counter-cultural. Advent celebrates patience and waiting, in a society that values instant satisfaction and convenience. Christmas speaks peace in a world of war. Jesus was born in filth, anonymity and poverty, in a world where wealth and celebrity give us meaning.

I think that real parenthood is also counter-cultural.

It puts Another before Self, and priorities patience over frustration.

Unconditional love, in a world whose currency is performance and achievement.

Into the household comes dependency, simplicity, joy, and delighted discovery.

We all miss that. We all want it back.

expectant at christmas pt.1

December 22, 2006

Christmas next year is going to be pretty different…

Well, admittedly, a baby who hasn’t yet blown out the candle on their first birthday cake will be pushed to revel in festive traditions. But, still…from next Christmas, Scrooge-like cynicism will get a much appreciated boost in the arm, as once again, I see through the eyes of a child.

And if that sounds mushy, well, what can I say? Tis’ the season to be sentimental.

daughters

December 19, 2006

I know a girl
She puts the color inside of my world
but she’s just like a maze
Where all of the walls all continually change

And I’ve done all I can
To stand on her steps with my heart in my hand
Now I’m starting to see
Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Ooh, you see that skin?
It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now shes left
cleaning up the mess he made

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Boys, you can break
You find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on
But boys would be gone without warmth from
A woman’s good, good heart

On behalf of every man
looking out for every girl
You are the god and the weight of her world

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers be good to your daughters, too
So mothers be good to your daughters, too
So mothers be good to your daughters, too.

John Mayer, ‘Daughters’, (Heavier Things)

the past-shaped present

December 12, 2006

Right at the very beginning of this blog, I remarked on how I might at some stage look back on my own childhood. Thus far this is not something I’ve really done, but recently I’ve been thinking more about what kind of foundations for fatherhood are laid by our own experiences of being fathered.

So far, so obvious. And since this is a deeply personal matter the specifics of your own relationship with your father will almost certainly be very different from another man’s – but maybe some more general observations could be helpful.

My ‘expectant’ period to date has provoked some reflections on my own father – how he approached his relationship with his son, and even how his father in turn, will have influenced him. No man is perfect, and therefore no father will be perfect either, and I’m sure many of us can remember that time when Parents became people. When Dad went from being, well, ‘Dad’, and instead became [Insert name here]. And I’ve found that in anticipating my own fatherhood, I have become keenly aware of both the successes and mistakes made by my own father.

So I will offer two points that could prove helpful. Though I write this knowing that, sadly, for some people, their own fathers will have committed such monstrosities, that the following is really impossible to apply. With that caveat…

The first point is that the most healthy position to be in is one where the negative experiences and mistakes made by one’s own father have been accepted, forgiven, and embraced – rather than condemned or repressed. Moving beyond anger and bitterness means that the whole can be seen for what it is – an honest, loving man, who has been in many important ways a good father, and who inevitably made mistakes. Such an approach is likely to avoid the risk of an over-compensating rebalancing in one’s own fathering.

The second point is that as determined as we are to be good fathers, we too will make mistakes, even with the best intentions – often unconsciously. So let’s set about this task, this incredible privilege and joy, holding on to the best of our own fathers, giving room for our own personalities to flourish, and trusting in our children’s grace to, in turn, cherish – and forgive – us.

glimpses

December 9, 2006

father and daughter

It was some time ago that I commented on an increased sense of my own mortality, as a result of being an expectant father. Then it was in relation to being less prone to taking risks with one’s own safety, since I am now living for a child.

But there’s another way in which being expectant has made death something to think about. Permit me to quote one of my favourite contemporary lyricists, John Mayer, in his song, ‘Stop this train’ on his new album I got recently:

“Don’t know how else to say it
I don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own”

And another way of saying the same thing is that, now, I am no longer the next generation. My baby is. I am no longer separated from death (albeit ultimately delusionally) by being the youngest member of the child-parent-grandparent chain.

On a lighter note, readers noting my aforementioned CD purchase might also observe that my previous adversion to spending a single penny on unncessary luxuries has obviously slightly waned…ahem.