I am happiest when we are all together - when we are in each other's presence.
Happiness has been a mystery to me for a long time. You have taught me so much about it, When you are happy, you are luminous and intoxicating. You are able to enchant everyone in your vicinity with your gaiety. Typically, your joy is on display when you will purposefully do something ridiculous, and then, in response to your own actions break out in to a fit of wild giggles. Your hilarity spreads to your susceptible mother and your less willing brother. And I, well I'm also swept up into all that is you.
But, these moments fill me with awe. I am awed by you and your joyous capacity.
Since the day you were born, you have exercised an incredible power over this family. You hypnotize us with incantations of your very self. The energy of your spirit flows into out lives and it energizes us. Your power is like that of the Sun, which rises even after the darkest night.
Thank you for being you, my daughter. I hope you always are.
Tonight, you were mad. I don't mean that in the emotional sense, but in the psychologically euphemistic sense. You were so upset that you were filled with madness.
You had worked so hard to earn a particular privilege, but a series of behavioral missteps resulted in the revocation of those earned privileges. Upon hearing that, you blew up. You screamed and yelled. You earned a few more revocations. This caused you to become all the more unhinged. You tore your room apart and even damaged some of your own stuff. But, this was not enough. You needed to hurt the people who had caused the injustice: your parents. So, you emerged out of your room, armed with several stuffed animals and proceeded to hurl them at me.
I was very proud of your arm accuracy. The first, some stuffed reptilian creature hit me square in the forehead. Your second toss (I think it was a small dog) also struck home. I announced that what you had just done was assault and that there would be consequences. At this, you abandoned your remaining ammunition and retreated to your wrecked room in a flood of tears and vehement condemnations.
Your mother and I have tried to be consistent disciplinarians. We take it as a point of pride and pithy philosophy that we are not raising children - we are raising responsible adults. Rules are rules and there are always consequences. In both of our professions, we see the results of parenting-gone-wrong. From time to time this dedication may result in your parents tending to overcompensate in our sternness. I can understand why you think that we are too harsh or too strict.
Once you settled down, we asked you into the dining room, sat you in a chair and announced that you were welcome to plead your case, but a punishment would be enacted. We listened as you rattled off a series of grievances about our own behaviors. We tried to understand your perspective. We attempted to apologize for misunderstandings and actual slights. But, your objections were found to be merit-less, and it was time for sentencing.
Oh... you moaned, it is going to be something horrible, and then you attempted to rehash all that we had done wrong. You had sat in that chair before and you knew that you were wrong. You knew how consistent your mom and dad were in rendering judgement for unacceptable behavior. So, you reached for every mitigating factor you could find and hurled them at us.
I interrupted you and said, "You're forgiven."
I was not even sure that you knew what that word meant because it was the first time that word had been spoken from me to you. Forgiven.
Your mom and I try so hard to raise you and your sister right. We want to prepare you for the rigors of life and create moralities and work ethics that can thrive in a world that is harsh and sometimes dangerous. But, in that quest, we may fail to prepare you for something just as important, yet antithetical - love.
As you were railing against me with your long list of problems that you had with my parenting, and while I was attempting to listen, I was horrified to realize how very little of the Christianity - that I hold so dear - I have used in my relationship with you. And I wondered - what am I doing? What is the point of this? Perhaps his madness is justified. A world without grace is indeed maddening to me, isn't it?
In response to our reprieve, you became suddenly quiet. As you got up, you softly worked it out verbally.
Forgiven? That's surprising, you mumbled and shuffled off to another room.
You were right. It was surprising. It always is. It always should be.
A world bent on justice is sometimes interrupted by grace and mercy, son. Such things leave us unsettled, and unsure - foundation-less. Forgiveness is the shocking scandal that leaves us dumbfounded and wrecked.
Someday I hope you can surprise your kids with mercy. Someday, I hope you can grant forgiveness to me.
You are everything a father could want in a son.
You're intelligence is an ocean that floods through every word. I look into your eyes and see a shocking depth and curiosity.
It is remarkable how often you use that impressive mind of yours for kindness, grace, and of course, humor.
Your're getting to the point now where you are apt to participate in adult conversations. You have startling questions, and more than a fair share of criticism. You read voraciously, remember everything, and often you use such knowledge to promulgate some new and wonderful observation.
My God! You are amazing!
Every interaction I have with you, makes me a better person, and everything you do makes this world a better place.
The last several nights I have noticed something as I prayed the blessing over you before bed. Clad in pajamas, teeth freshly brushed, you have pressed your hands together and closed your eyes while I prayed. I think that you are praying with me. But, not out of belief. No, belief is a door that few can open. Rather, it is something else - something I hope that you can teach me.
The path ahead was made by fire.
The pain of its heat, the burn of the evolving is that which churns the new.
I read about a man who pulled a 92 pound Petoskey stone out of Lake Michigan. How had that mass made its way to the surface? How many centuries had pushed it forth? What sort of conflagration pushed it upward and out?
I showed you pictures of Etna erupting. It belched fearless. We looked at the powerfully lit emanations of a tectonic mountain. We saw heat that was a tephric unguent. We saw the surface of the earth burned and singed by material that had once been beneath, and the landscape was made new. Generations flowing from depths unseen, in an intractable ascent.
Potential unearthed by explosions of change.
May I always bow beneath your fire.
May I walk the path ahead.
For over a decade, we have shared a life - a life that I cherish. I love our marriage, our children and our home. Most especially, I delight in your presence.
Sometimes I look around this crazed, spinning world and wonder how a child can hope to survive. Yet, when I look at the children borne to our care, I hope they thrive. Survive vs. Thrive? Such a divergence is not a divergence of my perspective. Rather, it is an honest evaluation of the mother of our children. I know she is exceptional. Our children will one day look back with wonder at their beloved mother and rightly so. They will know how exceptional you are and how lucky they were.
Such a woman you are, inspiring generations!