Posted by: cmittermeier | November 17, 2011

A Sage I Met Along The Way

The other day I met up with my troop at church, my husband was going over some details with the altar servers who would be serving the Special Needs Mass that Sunday.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Special Needs is the euphemism for individuals who are greater than one standard deviation from the norm.  Still confused?  Maybe some examples will help… I am an adult with special needs, I have dyslexia, adhd.  My child has special needs, he has autism, adhd, hearing issues.  We live in a politically correct world, so I won’t use any examples beyond my family.

As my husband was practising with several individuals who have various identifications, I caught a glimpse of one of the Dads.  He was sitting watching his son, and I had to look away.  If I didn’t, I knew I would cry or do something silly and embarrassing.  I was tired, and though I know the mother quite well, I’ve only briefly met the Dad and didn’t want our second how-do-you-do to involve me gushing…

You see, in that moment, I knew I was in the presence of a sage.  There aren’t many men who let that level of tenderness, of pride without bravado show.  Many men love to do the whoop-whoop Look at MY son THE {doctor, athlete, lawyer…}.  The kids get embarrassed and often wonder if their Dad would still love them if they knew they weren’t this perfect person their father just promised to the world.  But that was not the look this Dad had.  This Dad got it.

Yes, he’s an older father.  This is his second son, and there is a very doting older sister too.   Age only means you’ve passed a set amount of time, I’ve met men in their eighties who still lack wisdom.  No folks, it is not the years that have helped this Dad to show that tender pride, it is what he has done with those years.

It is not simply that his son has special needs.  I have far too many examples of husbands who still choose to ignore the obvious issues with their children.  Though my husband went through that phase too, he didn’t choose to stay in it.  From the smile that father had, he obviously is not one of those Dads who does not engage.  Though I’m sure it has not been an easy road (what parent has an easy road?), he has certainly chosen to enjoy the ride.

I have spent a lot of time thinking of the fathers in my parish.  You see, I run a mother’s group in our church.  One of the pastoral assistants who reviewed my program with me wanted me to include Dads.  It was hard saying no to him because there isn’t much to offer Dads With Small Children… I’ve thought a bit too much about how young Dads just don’t have great mentors.  It is said that the Father is the Spiritual Anchor in a family, but what does that mean, practically speaking?  What does it mean to love as Christ loves far a Dad?  In my opinion, that sage knows… His pride was not based on how many touchdowns, or A+’s on the report card – in fact – I betcha it isn’t linked to any of his sons many triumphs.   I betcha it just was.

When I think of all the young fathers I’ve come across in the parish, how I wish they could know my sage.  Young men are caught up, understandably so, in getting their careers in order, paying down mortgages… sitting in a church watching their kids practice carrying a cruet likely doesn’t rank highly on their list.  They need those men to challenge them!  They need to see those Dads in action!    No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, what matters to your kids is knowing that you are on it!  So many Dads think it best to be silent, let the schools or their mother’s teach them… Boys follow footsteps, and I’m not talking their mother’s.

When a child is interested in the faith, I think its probably a bit scary for Dads.  We don’t exactly have many role models of how to father in the faith.   Yes, we have King Solomon, King David.  More current examples I’m hard pressed to suggest.   You can support your child’s interests without being an expert, especially true with the faith.  I don’t want to count the number of times I’ve had to answer with, “let me go check that”.  I’m sure my sage doesn’t have all the answers either (though for all I know he could), but what matters is his presence.  He has much to offer other Dads, he is a sage.

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