Tag Archives: daughter

My first Father’s Day gift came years before I was a Dad

I’ve been given a lot of Father’s Day gifts over the years.  I’ve gotten shoes, books, a basketball, shirts, and pictures.  When I was in eighth grade, I got a phone for my room.  This might sound strange.  Not many eighth graders get Father’s Day presents.  I remember once telling a friend about the gift my Dad gave me for Father’s Day, and he was confused.  My Dad always gave my sister and brother and me gifts for Father’s Day.

“Being a Father is the best thing that ever happened to me,” he would explain to us.  “And I couldn’t be a Father if it wasn’t for you.”  Although that was only technically true of my sister (his first born), I never argued the point.  The message was clear, and it was one that I don’t think I truly grasped until I was a father myself.  Becoming a father is the best thing that ever happened to me.

I am the father of two girls, and I adore them.  Their laughter is beautiful music.  Their smiles are the greatest of masterpieces.  Their imagination is mind-boggling.  Their dance is breath-taking.  I savor every moment that we are together.  They make me want to be a better person.  I want to give them everything.  On this Father’s Day, I want to give them a gift.

This year though, I’m not going to give them a doll or a toy.  I’m not going to give them a book or a Blackhawks t-shirt.  I’m going to give their gift to someone else, and they are compassionate enough to understand.  Instead of giving to them, I am going to give to other daughters, because everytime I look at my daughters, I can’t help but see the future.

I dream of my daughters growing up in safety and health.  I dream of them getting educated, finding their talents, discovering their gifts.  I dream of them making lasting friendships and falling in love.  I see tremendous giftedness in both of them, and my most important role as a father is to help them see and develop these gifts for themselves.  My dream for them is to fulfill who they were created to be.  My dreams for their future are a luxury that I will never take for granted.

My dreams for their futures are a luxury that most fathers in the world cannot afford.  For most daughters of the world, safety, dignity, education, and health are unattainable dreams.  So my gift to my daughters on this Father’s Day is to the daughters of the world.  My gift this Father’s Day is a word of encouragement.  It is a word of awareness.  It is a call to action.

Maternal health is not a women’s issue.  It is a global concern.  For millions of women, giving birth is the most dangerous thing they will ever do.  Motherhood should be a gift of life, but far too often it is a death sentence.  In many places in the world, women are valued for little more than giving birth.  They are treated as a walking uterus, to be valued if they give birth, and thrown away when or if they cannot.  Girls are forced into motherhood too soon, when it is biologically possible but anatomically dangerous.  They are not allowed to rest and heal between pregnancies.  They have little access to contraception.  If pregnant, health care is difficult to find, and often impossible to afford.  And postpartum care is not even on the RADAR for most.

My faith does not let me standby and allow this to happen.  Jesus raised the widow’s son because he had compassion for her.  He healed the woman that was bleeding for 12 years, returning her to a life fully integrated into the community.  He invited the women to learn at his feet, alongside the men.  He debated a foreign woman at the well, and exulted her faith.  Jesus believed that crazy notion that women are to be valued and treated with dignity and respect.

I believe the same, and so I am called by that same Jesus to do something.  I am called to give my daughters – and all daughters – a gift.

no woman no cry posterThings you can do:

  • Go to Healthy Families, Healthy Planet.  This initiative is funded by the United Nations Foundation, and housed by the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society.  On this useful website, there are fact sheets,  resources for worship, tips for hosting a panel discussion, and instructions on how to host a screening of the film, No Woman, No Cry.
  • Find or host a screening of the incredible film No Woman, No Cry, which tells the story of four women with at-risk pregnancies.  This is a touching, emotionally charged movie.  It is documentary film-making at its best.
  • Write to your Senators and Representatives, and tell them to support aid for international maternal health and family planning.  Supporting women’s health is the single most cost-effective form of aid that we can give.  Remember, Family Planning does not equal abortions.  Increased access and education about contraception can reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and reduce the demand for abortions. US Aid to International family planning efforts in 2012 provided contraception to 31 million families.  This helped prevent an estimated 9 million unintended pregnancies, and 4 million abortions.  Maternal health and family planning is Pro-Life. (source: the Guttmacher Institute)
  • Men, stand up and be heard.  Too many believe that maternal health is a woman’s issue.  In most of the world, men’s voices are the most influential in determining public policy and education.  If more men demanded that their daughters were taken care of, it would happen.  There are education programs being set up through developing nations teaching men about their role in family planning.  Stand up men, for your sisters, your mothers, and your daughters.  Do no take the dreams you have for them for granted.

Dads, give someone a Father’s Day gift.  Give a daughter hope for a future where she is not sold into slavery for her uterus.  Give a daughter hope for an education.  Give a daughter a dream for her future.  Give a daughter the gift of life, and life abundant.

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Growing, Grown, Gone

This is a poem that my Dad used to read every team party.  A more personalized version hangs on the walls in my sister’s, brother’s, and my rooms.  I haven’t read the original in years.  I do not know the author.  Spme have suggested that it was Erma Bombeck, who was an author writing about parenthood in the era my Dad would have found the poem, but I’ve never found this particular piece attributed to any one. Today a nephew turns 15.  Tomorrow my oldest turns six.  I try to savor every moment.

ImageOne of these days you’ll shout: “Why don’t you kids grow up and act your age!”
And they will.

Or: “You guys get outside and find yourselves something to do . . . and don’t slam the door!”
And they won’t.

You’ll straighten up the boys’ bedroom neat and tidy . . . bumper stickers discarded . . . spread tucked in and smooth . . . toys displayed on the shelves. Hangers in the closets. Animals caged. And you’ll say out loud: “Now I want it to stay this way.”
And it will.

You’ll prepare a perfect dinner with a salad that hasn’t been picked to death and a cake with no finger traces in the icing and you’ll say: “Now there’s a meal for company.”
And you’ll eat it alone.

You’ll say: “I want complete privacy on the phone. No dancing around. No pantomimes. No demolition crews. Silence! Do you hear?”
And you’ll have it.

No more plastic tablecloths stained with spaghetti.
No more bedspreads to protect the sofa from damp bottoms.
No more gates to stumble over at the top of the basement steps.
No more clothespins under the sofa.
No more playpens to arrange a room around.
No more anxious nights under a vaporizer tent.
No more sand on the sheets or Popeye movies in the bathrooms.
No more iron-on patches; wet knotted shoestrings; tight boots, or rubber bands for ponytails.
Imagine. A lipstick with a point on it. No baby-sitter for New Year’s Eve. Washing only once a week.
Seeing a steak that isn’t ground. Having your teeth cleaned without a baby on your lap.
No PTA meetings. No car pools. No blaring radios. No one washing her hair at 11 o’clock at night.
Having your own roll of tape.

Think about it. No more Christmas presents out of toothpicks and library paste.
No more sloppy oatmeal kisses. No more tooth fairy. No giggles in the dark.
No knees to heal, no responsibility.

Only a voice crying, “Why don’t you grow up,” and the silence echoing,

“I did.”

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Three year old theologian

My daughter has a little Bible that she loves to “read.”  It is a little copy of New Testament and Psalms that is about four inches long.  She was sitting on my wifes lap the other day “reading” from her Bible, and said this:

“On the way to the cross, Jesus saw his disciples and said come with me to die and have peace.”

I thought that was pretty good.  Actually, I was pretty much blown away by what she said, but then she read from another passage.  I wrote it down as she was speaking, so this is what she said, word for word:

“Jesus went to the cross and died.  But he came back, and he was happy.  And they were all happy.  And the nails were gone and his tummy was fine.  And his body was awesome.  And he didn’t whine.  He was happy.”

This is where I am tempted to add my reflection, but I have a feeling that I couldn’t possibly be as poignant as her.

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Happy 40th Birthday, Big Bird and friends!

Big-bird

Today was the beginning of the 40th season of Sesame Street.

My daughter and I were watching Sesame Street together today.  This show, after 40 years, remains far and away my favorite kids show.  I loved it when I was a kid, and I actually enjoy watching it with my daughter now.

My strongest memory from the Street as a kid was when the grownups finally saw Snuffy.  I felt so bad for Big Bird for years as no one took him seriously.  He knew that snuffleupagus was real.  I knew he was real, and I felt Big Bird’s pain when no one believed him.  Today my daughter and I watched as Big Bird decided he was going to migrate to the rain forest.  As he was walking down the street, he started saying goodbye to everyone.  All of his friends were shocked that he was leaving, but he decided that the rain forest would be the perfect place for him to live.  As the “goodbyes” continued, I felt myself getting a little sad. Saying goodbye to Big Bird is like saying goodbye to a longtime friend.  Wondering if this was effecting Ellie like it was effecting me, I called her name.  She turned around, and the tears were streaked down her face.  I called her to me, and she crawled up on my lap.   “Are you sad?” I asked her. “No,” she said through her tears. “It will be okay,” she said and forced out a chuckle that sounded a lot like a sob.In the end Big Bird decided to stay.  He decided that the rain forest would be a neat place to visit, but he hadn’t realized that moving there would mean he couldn’t have playdates with Elmo, or have Cream of Birdseed soup at Hoopers whenever he wanted.  When he announced that he would stay, Ellie burried her head in my chest and gave me a huge hug.  Her hug left a wet spot on my shirt. I doubt that episode will be Ellie’s lasting memory of Sesame Street, but so many have one (the death of Mr. Hooper, the marriage of Luis and Maria are a couple – I’d love to hear yours). For forty years Sesame Street has educated kids about numbers, letters, friendship, vocabulary, shapes, and many other things while never talking down to them.  It has been entertaining and, with the possible exception of Elmo’s World, never annoying.  It is a show I loved when I was little, and a show I continue to love as an adult. Happy Birthday Sesame Street.  Share with me your memories – favorite characters – favorite sketches – favorite songs.

Here is a video of Snuffy being discovered by the adults:

And here is why this show is still great:

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Fish Funeral

I am preparing to do another funeral, but I’m struggling because I have been flipping through the UM Book of Worship and have not found a liturgy for fish. My daughter will be three in January. She has a pet fish named Dorothy (I think 95% of fish owned by kids under 5 are named either Dorothy or Nemo). It is sick.

It is a Beta. Once it was a brilliant red, with flowing fins and a swatch of glowing blue. Once it swam around her tank, eager for a couple of little pellets. We swore that she would come out from behind her rock whenever our daughter entered the room. We had some adventures with Dorothy. There was the time our daughter, while we thought she was napping, got the can of fish food.

She somehow unscrewed the top and gave Dorothy enough food to last about six years. Then she spilled the other half of the can in her bed. That was our first call to poison control (Beta food is okay for toddlers).

Our daughter was so excited when we brought Dorothy home. For months she kissed the tank good night and was very good about feeding her. Eventually, the novelty wore off, but she never stopped loving Dorothy. Over the last few weeks Dorothy has not looked so good. Ellie has been very concerned, and we have prepared her for the worst.

“Dorothy is very sick,” I told her. “She might die soon.”

Ellie knows a little about death. She has been to funerals. We have allowed her to see bodies laying in state. We talk to her about death. I’m not sure what she understands, but we haven’t hidden it from her. We feel that society does enough death-denying. We don’t have to participate in it too. Sometimes she asks questions or says things that give us pause. But we try to be consistent in telling her that eveything dies. Even Dorothy, even our dog, even Mommy and Daddy.

“Will I die?” she asks.

“Yes. Someday.”

“When I die, we can die together,” she says as she looks in my eye. Inside I agree. If she dies before me, there is no question that I will die too. Every parent that has seen their child die has died a little too.

“Ellie,” I say as I take her hands and look her in the eye. “We will all die someday, hopefully not for a very long time. And if you die, I’ll be so sad, but I know that you’ll be with God. But right now we are living, and I love you, and we can enjoy living every day and be thankful that we are alive.”

I don’t know if we have done the right thing in talking with our two-year-old about death, but I’m not afraid to talk to her about important things – big things – things she might not understand. The thing is, talking to a two-year-old about things makes you boil things down a little.

We live. We die. In between we do everything we can to love and laugh and and share and dance and sing and play. Through it all, God is with us. God is in our creation. God celebrates our triumphs, mourns our tragedies, and in the end, God is ready to take us home.

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I love you one

Today I after breakfast I rose from the table to go to church, and I looked at my wife and two year old daughter and said, “I love you two.”  My daughter said, “What about Basil? [our dog]”

So I replied, “You’re right, I love you three.”

My daughter smiled and said, “I love you one.”

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For her

Today at the gym my 2 1/2 year-old daughter gave me a reminder, as if the top view of my belly wasn’t enough, of why I was there.  She came with me and my wife today, and she sat in a desingated corner of the room for children.  She watched PBS kids and read books and played with some toys while we worked out.  We can usually see her, but she is really good at staying in her area.

At the end of the workout I was doing sit-ups on the incline bench.  I could see her off in her area watching “Super Why.”  Usually during my sit-ups I pull out my phone and do them while holding a picture of her smiling at me.  Then when I count them off, instead of numbers I use the letters in her name.  Since my return to working out, the most I’ve done in one set was 30.

This time, as I was getting to 30, I started struggling.  When I got to 28, I was thinking, “almost to 30, then I’ll stop.”  Then I heard my daughter’s voice calling out “One, two, three” in time with my sit-ups.  She was counting them for me.  I’ve never cried and done sit-ups at the same time, but I was close this afternoon.  I got to 40.  When I was done, she shouted in glee, “Daddy!”  I walked over to her, bent down to give her a kiss, and she reached up to oblige.

Then at the last second she pulled away, crinkled her nose and said, “You’re all wet.”  I was.  For her.

Weigh-in: 316 (up four pounds in two days – that sucks)
Treadmill: .75 mile (.25 walking, .25 jogging, another .25 jogging after lifting)
Rowing machine: 1 km in 5 minutes
Bench: 135 3 sets of 10, 185 4x
Incline situps: 40 (1 set of40, afterwards my whole abdominen cramped)
Other: curls, triceps, back

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