Sunday, January 6, 2008

Father love, part 1: Gratitude

Saturday afternoon, my fears about parenting kids were on the brain, but this week I'm going to work through a list of what I love most about my children, so far. (That way those of you who haven't had the chance to fall in love with them yet will have some good reasons to start.)

First of all, I love the way they're learning to be thankful. Yesterday Melía was playing "birthday" with us, bringing gift bags stuffed with random stuff carefully hand-picked from the back of the house. When her twin, Ashlyn, received the gift, she drew in her breath with delight, and exclaimed, "Oh, a [whatever it was]! And a BEAUTIFUL [whatever else was in the bag]! And a [fill in with some other broken, used toy]! It's my favorite! Thank you, Melía!"

Today we did a belated Christmas gift exchange with my parents and brothers and their wives. Everyone was generous and thoughtful with their gifts, but it takes no genius to discern that kids are more excited about some presents than others. But it didn't matter--whether it was the little wedding dresses complete with garter, gloves and veil (8.9 on the excitement scale) or the pajamas (over which Mommy and Daddy were possibly more stoked than the girls), they called out, "Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!" in crescendos till they could be heard over the Christmassy chaos, following up with tight hugs to the giver.

Like I said, any fool could see that the pajama thank-you's began differently than the bridal gown ones, a little more Superego than Id. But by the time the little girls were shouting their thanks and jumping into the the arms of the giver, the distinction blurred. By then all that mattered was this dance: giver gives joyfully, recipient expresses thanks, giver is more joyful than ever, recipient senses this joy and realizes her thanks has been a gift too. In the best case, both parties are more present to the magic between them than to the gift itself.

I'm hoping to pick up some of my children's gratitude in the new year, seeking to practice what I've been preaching so hard to them. I want to be just as faithful about thanking God, my wife, my coworkers, my children, total strangers, for whatever gifts they share. I want to put my heart into expressing gratitude for the wedding gown kind of gifts and the pajamas, even for the broken, used toys. Because it isn't about the gift, but about the dance, the magic that can happen when generosity meets gratitude.

The band Sixpence None the Richer takes its name from Mere Christianity, where C.S. Lewis tells a story about a boy asking his dad for a sixpence to go and buy him a gift. Of course, after receiving the gift, the father--by some measures--is no richer than before the child gave. (See lead singer Leigh Nash explain this to David Letterman on YouTube.) I'm thinking this father was grateful anyway, if not for the gift, for the magic that swelled between generous Father and eager-to-please son. Something tells me our True Father is grateful too, for whatever broken gifts we return to Him. Maybe He really does feel richer.

That's the kind of daddy I want to be.


Lynne said...

What a delightful picture. I can just see those blonde locks bouncing up and down with twinkling eyes and squeals of happiness. How blessed you are! I will enjoy pondering these thoughts on thankfulness.

Michael J. Bennie said...

I should clarify that the pictures I'm putting up are random pics from the web that kind of illustrate the theme...BUT NOT MY KIDS. It is a cute shot though, huh? I'll post some pics of my little ones soon...

Lynne said...

Oh, I knew the pic was not your daughter. What I meant by "delightful picture" was the picture you painted with your description of the Christmas present opening. Your writing style helps create great visual images in my mind!

Michael J. Bennie said...

You are too kind. Thanks so much for your encouragement, Lynne. It really makes this even more fun than a private journal in many ways.