Friday, June 14, 2013

Making a mess of things: Lessons learned for Father's Day

The following is a blog by Matt Palmer, social media strategist for the United States Conference for Catholic Bishops.

“Just don’t mess up.”

As Anna Leigh Palmer came into this world seven months ago, those were the words that came to mind. Soon, I was holding her and weeping like a, well, baby.

Becoming a father is a transformative experience, the kind that has me waking up in the middle of the night to stand over a crib to watch a sleeping human being breathe. The term “helicopter parent” is doubly applicable since, a) I make helicopter noises with my mouth to make her laugh and b) I can’t take my eyes off of her for a second.
What’s incredible about babies is that they are sponges, soaking up everything that happens around them.
Working in the Church, I’ve heard the phrase “parents are the primary educators of their children” often. That’s intimidating.

It certainly leaves me wondering what knowledge I have to impart on a child.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in the 2011 “YOUCAT” a challenge to young Gen X’ers and Millennials: “You need to know what you believe. You need to know your faith with that same precision with which an IT specialist knows the inner workings of a computer. You need to understand it like a good musician knows the piece he is playing. Yes, you need to be more deeply rooted in the faith than the generation of your parents so that you can engage the challenges and temptations of this time with strength and determination.”

I wasn’t even married when I read that, but the message sticks with me now more than ever. In raising our children in the faith, we’ve made the decision to know and understand it as well. God, and by extension the Church, is calling me to be a better father and a better Catholic each day. The future of the Church, in many ways, hinges on young Catholic parents like us.

Sunday will be my first official Father’s Day. There will be Mass in the morning and cookouts in the afternoon with family. It’ll be rewarding for sure and I might be expecting a tie or two.

The reality, though, is each day is Father’s Day. Watching Anna Leigh giggle, attempt to crawl or say “Mama” and “Dada” are the greatest gifts I will receive next to marrying my wife. Anna Leigh loves unconditionally.

There is nothing that brings more peace to my life than when she falls asleep in my arms. Her heartbeat brings a sense of calmness to my life. She’ll smile in her sleep and I wonder what she’s dreaming about when she knows so little about the world around her.

While I’m concerned about teaching Anna Leigh to survive and succeed mentally and spiritually, she’s busy showing me how wondrous the world is by simply existing.

I don’t think, “Just don’t mess up,” any longer. Instead, I seek to love like Anna Leigh and God do - unconditionally.

1 comment:

Rita Buettner said...

What a beautiful post! Have a wonderful first official Father's Day with your sweet little girl and her mommy.