Weak for Those We Love
Reflecting on my daughter's second birthday.
Tomorrow is my daughter’s second birthday. The first two years of her life have not happened by quite like I would have imagined or desired them, but they have happened and for that I am grateful.
I always wanted to be the father of a daughter.1 I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just because I’ve seen friends who are girl-dads dote on their daughters. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen cultural examples of the sweet relationship between a father and his daughter(s). Maybe it’s because I’m not a particularly manly man and I’m sort of afraid of how I would lead a boy to embody healthy masculinity. Like I said, I really don’t know why.
If I have learned anything in my last, first two years of parenthood it is that I am a terribly weak person. I don’t mean physically as much mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is easy for me to get frustrated with my beautiful daughter. Of course sometimes this is because she is doing something wrong,2 but not all of the time. In fact, not even most of the time.
The most common reason I get frustrated with my daughter isn’t because of what she is doing but because of what I feel she is keeping me from doing.3 She won’t go to sleep easily and it impinges on my personal time. She wants to watch Elmo so I can’t watch what I want to watch. We can’t find a babysitter for the day we want to go out on a date, so we have to order takeout yet again. The most significant fragments of frustration I have unearthed as a parent are rooted in my own selfishness, and it is in this that I have felt weakest.
And yet, though selfishness is wrong and worthy of mortification, I have come to embrace the weakness I once feared.
Weakness: From Foreign to Friend
I have never been a “macho” person. I was a late bloomer. I was never popular in school. All I ever really had on my side growing up in terms of “strength” was my relative intelligence and semi-quick wit, which was wielded more for selfish sarcasm than good humor. But I have always tended to succeed at what I set out to do, in one way or another. I have been told I’m “driven,” as an understatement. It wasn’t until I was cut during tryouts for the high school baseball team that I was faced with real weakness and failure. Baseball had been my life to that point. I no longer knew who I was. I begrudgingly played high school football and could never lift as much weight or run as fast as everyone else (again, late bloomer). Feelings of weakness have ebbed and flowed since being denied the high school baseball team and trying to keep up with the football team, but with my daughter came new, profound feelings of weakness.
Parenting, as any parents know, provides ample opportunity for weakness and failure. I have felt it even in these last, first two years. But what I have learned is that while the sin revealed in our parenting must be identified and extricated, our weakness doesn’t have to be dismissed; in fact, it shouldn’t be dismissed. Our weakness can be embraced. True strength is nothing without a recognition of our weakness.
The humility we find in weakness is an unmatched treasure and could be called a required ingredient for healthy relationships. It is when we lead in this weakness, whether as parents or otherwise, that we can best express our love for the people we lead.
In his 2016 commencement address at Kenyon College, novelist John Green concluded by saying, “The people who supported you to this point, they are the people you want to be when you grow up. They have been strong for you, but also weak for you.”
I will be strong for my daughter because at moments I will have to be.
I also hope that I will have the courage to be weak for her.
No offense to any future sons I may have. I love you too.
For instance, she recently upon waking up in the morning removed her footie pajamas, unfastened her diaper, and played with her poop. I believe it is a cruel joke that God would see fit to develop our fine motor skills before our brains.
I say this having managed to write two books in the first to years of her life, so yes, I am a pathetically selfish person.