Over the past two weeks I’ve had the remarkable experience of being a nearly full-time Dad. My wife has started a new job and has undergone an orientation process that’s taken her away from home for some time, so we’ve found ourselves switching roles.
It’s been a profound process of discovery for me. This is by no means my first time as primary caregiver–we’ve shared that role over the years as time and demands permit. Early after our first adoption, for example, I took two days home every work week to be with an infant who needed constant physical contact. Parenting has stretched me unlike any other life experience.
But these past two weeks have still been a period of growth. Primarily, this has been an experience of slowing down and really paying attention to my girls as I have not done often enough. I am certainly guilty of a tendency toward workaholism, even though I have in theory been trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The truth is that I often leave the emotional work of parenting to Sue, in large part because she is just plain better at it.
But with Sue away so much, I’ve stepped more deeply into the world my girls inhabit. And what I am realizing is that our worlds move at different speeds, with different imaginative objects that help structure our respective worlds. I live in an academic world and move freely between millenia; what captures my imagination are eternal truths I seek to understand and live by. It sounds grand, but in extremes it’s an unreal world. My girls live much more in the here and now; they live in imaginative worlds populated by figures from stories and TV and music. What’s important, though, is that I have set aside my imaginative world for a while in order to move more freely about in theirs. And I have discovered dimensions of who they are in the process, and I fall in love.
I am convinced that we become who we imagine ourselves to be. Too often I imagine myself in ways related to my work. The experience of the past two weeks has reminded me of my fundamental vocation in the world. It’s not about my work, though that does express an important dimension of how God has gifted me. It’s about my marriage and my fathering, that sacramental context which, by definition, is oriented toward eternity. I have been reminded to slow down, to be part of the world of my children, to walk with them and discover who they are and who they are becoming. It is a wonder.