A father muses on his frailty

The recent birth of his son, Cormac got Joseph Susanka musing about fatherhood, but I think his sentiments can be easily understood by all parents:

For a father, there are few moments filled with more deeply conflicting emotions than when he holds his newborn child for the first time. To that tiny little infant, mewing and squirming in his arms, he is the ultimate, a godlike power. In the coming years, this child will trust him absolutely, love him unreservedly, and rely on him completely for everything it needs. Yet at that same moment, rejoicing over this new, priceless life that has been given to him for safekeeping, the father knows all too well that he is not God, and that he never can be—that a time will come when the child realizes his father’s limitations; when the child is hurt and damaged by the father’s selfishness and lack of affection; when the fragile, inestimable trust he holds as gently in his hands as this newborn babe will be broken. Sadly, fallen human nature will invade this seemingly perfect scene, tainting it with harsh realities. And this precious moment, a microcosm of the extraordinary bond between father and child, will be lost forever.

As a mother, I read that and was instantly able to recall those moments where I blew it; where my kids had to deal with the realities of their all-too-imperfect mother. A lifelong ache. But Joseph brings the film “Bicycle Thieves” into the mix, and this becomes a very wise, insightful, moving and ultimately hopeful read.

Ashamed and irretrievably damaged in his son’s eyes, Antonio stumbles away, a broken, defeated man. His son follows behind, rubbing at his tear-stained face with a grubby handkerchief. Slowly, sorrowfully, they make their way down the street, but as Bruno catches up to his father, he reaches up and quietly takes Antonio’s hand. Too overwhelmed to fully appreciate the magnanimity of his son’s gesture, Antonio grasps Bruno to him more and more tightly as they vanish into the surging crowds around them.

If you are a parent, do yourself a favor and read this; it will encourage you. If you have a parent, read it, too. It might help you forgive them.

Everyone just read this, okay?

UPDATE:
On the other side of parenting, When a child is autistic, a mother’s heart must open new pathways in order to understand his strange and elusive realities. Shana Buck writes of her son, Nicholas, and how Dinosaurs, St. Nicholas, John Paul II and the Mystery of God resonate with him, in another touching piece:

I have spent a lot of time wondering why he has never asked me if God was real, and I have spent most of that wondering trying to decide how I would handle that when we got to it. He seems quite content that Jesus is both the baby in the manger and the dead man on the Cross, and he is not dead anymore because God the Father made Him alive again. He never questions that Jesus can hear us when we say that we love Him when we pray. But wasn’t it only a matter of time before he uttered the one question I had no real concrete reply for? And yet the question never came. And I finally learned why.

Parenting rends the heart. It is a ponderous gift.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Anchoress | A First Things Blog -- Topsy.com

  • Nerina

    Great reads, both of them and I can relate to them too.

    My oldest son, now 15, has Asperger’s Syndrome (which for those who don’t know is on the autism spectrum). Going into 9th grade he had to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and then write an essay about an event that was a “coming of age” moment for him. He wrote about the first time he realized his parents couldn’t make everything better and that I (his mother) was not as strong as he always thought and sometimes adults just can’t handle every situation thrown at them. The event he shared was watching me grieve the miscarriage of our 5th child. At the time, I had no idea what an impression it made on him (he was only 8 at the time), but 6 years later he wrote about it. I found the essay while cleaning out one of his notebooks at the end of the year and it was then that I learned my son now knew my secret – I am not perfect, I am not always strong and sometimes I simply make mistakes. As hard as it is to reach that point, it is almost a relief when your child sees you as human.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X