“The Church's great liturgical tradition teaches us that fruitful participation in the liturgy requires that one be personally conformed to the mystery being celebrated… Otherwise, however carefully planned and executed our liturgies may be, they would risk falling into a certain ritualism. Hence the need to provide an education in eucharistic faith capable of enabling the faithful to live personally what they celebrate.” (Pope Benedict XVI, SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, 64)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

All Too Soon, The Clock Will Strike Midnight

A little over two years ago, my wife and I thought it would be good if each of us made moments of one-on-one time with each of our kids. Not just chance moments, but actual dates away from the home, doing something that would entertain that child and give him or her the chance to talk about whatever they want. The kids weren’t short on time with the parents – my wife homeschools and I was in between jobs. But there’s always competition for that solo attention, and that was a need that we weren’t fulfilling to our satisfaction.

I liked the idea so much that a made a date with my eldest child and only daughter. She was six at the time. We went to a donut shop first, and then a nearby neighborhood park. I don’t remember much about the date. I don’t think I even brought the camera. She liked the donuts (six-year-olds aren’t that picky) and enjoyed climbing on the slide/swing/fortress structure. She had a good time, we did talk, and that was about it.

That was the last date I had with her or any of the kids until last night. Two years. So much for great ideas and good intentions.

Much has happened since then. I have a job that requires weekend work quite often. Many 12 and sometimes 16 hour days. On top of all the hours, there has been tedious projects on the home front. I, of course, have left the blog fallow. No time to blog to oblivion when I don’t have time for much else.

I’m just not the best manager of time here at home. It’s a deadly trait – expecting time to stand still.

She is eight now. She’s not a “swings and slides” kind of girl anymore, though she still likes donuts. We go to confession together, we go to the communion rail together, and she has no trouble making conversation these days. In two years she’s changed.

I’d like to take credit for re-initiating last night’s one-on-one time, but I can’t. It was thrust upon me. There was a Daddy-Daughter dance on the calendar, and there wasn’t any question about going. She had this event set in her heart months before the big day.

And I made it as special as I could. I put on my best suit and she put on her new Christmas dress. I gave her a locket. We had dinner for two at Pizza Hut – her choice. And we also hit Dairy Queen after the dance. We had a blast.

Neither of us can dance, but after that experience I’m resolved to change that. I’m not quite sure how, but dancing is something that should be passed down through the family. It wasn’t in mine, and my wife had scant more exposure in her family. But really, that didn’t matter. She would stumble along as best she could, then light up like a Christmas tree every time I gave her a twirl.

I was concerned that the music would be in poor taste, but that fear was unfounded. It was mostly popular/dancy kind of stuff with some throwback tunes, and much of it I had a vague sense of familiarity (“two steps to the left now bring it on down, yo!”). Nothing lyrically inappropriate. Looking around the room, I think I had the inside track for the squarest father title. She didn’t mind at all. My daughter, she’s pretty square, too. (I hope there’s no video of us doing the bunny hop or the chicken dance – that would haunt us the rest of our lives, I’m sure)

She stayed close to me the entire time. No chance to have those small-talk conversations with other square dads. And she was not at all interested in socializing with her peers. She was locked to my side the entire night, save one trip to the bathroom. She gloried in being with me and trying to do this dancing stuff.

Why did I wait two years for this?

I remember three dances most from last night. The last dance was to The Load Down – not exactly what you’d expect at a dance like this, but it shines, as it always did for Jackson Browne, when it’s the last song of the night. It’s a piece that belongs with that handful of songs which always makes you stop scanning the radio dial. As it started with just Browne and his keyboard, I leisurely got her coat on and we gathered our stuff to leave, but then took her back out to the floor just in time for the percussion to begin, and we finished dancing out the door as the song faded.

We danced to one of my mom’s all-time favorites, Sweet Caroline. The DJ encouraged us to sing out our daughter’s name in place of “Caroline”, which delighted Sweet Kathleen to no end.

And then there was Cinderella by Steven Curtis Champman. This one falls into the “vaguely familiar” category. I’d heard it before, but never listened to it. But when you’re dancing with your daughter to that song, it’s impossible to miss what it’s about. I doubt she realized what the song was about – she just enjoyed the dance and liked hearing “Cinderella” in the song. Me – I was welling-up, and convicted in my heart.

I can’t go back to that jungle-gym and start again, bring a camera this time, and making two years of dates in my planner for my daughter and sons. That window has passed. What I can do, and what I’m resolved to do, is face time head-on, embracing it, and doing what is right for my state in life. Today, Lord, please! Today and not two years from now.

My Lord – thank you for the gift of time, and thank you for the broken heart to remind me of how to best use the gift.