Nov 172009
 

In response to your many requests… today I offer you another letter from Bubba.

For those new to Momastery, please read this introduction to my father first.


This letter is a reflection on the conversation between Craig and my dad after Craig and I, unwed, told my parents that we were pregnant. It’s a passing down of the keys of fatherhood from father to son in law, from man to man.


Christmas 2005

Dear Craig,

You are receiving my annual Christmas letter to Glennon. This year, I decided to write it to you because I think it is important that important things get said, particularly between men. For guys, thoughts about friendship, admiration, thankfulness, and even love just don’t get on the radar screen much less on the table until regret finds it is too late to say what should have been and could have been said. Things don’t get said because of a time honored ban among men about sharing anything that is not couched in sarcasm. In some venues I adhere to and even support this ban. In others, the important ones, I don’t. So I have a few things to say and this seems a good time to say them. These Christmas letters to my daughters tend to be a little sappy. I’ll try to avoid that pitfall but might not. Since you are now reading this that has become your problem. (That was man to man sarcasm.)

About three years ago you and I sat in the Burke house and discussed your future. During that discussion I shared my thoughts, as best I could, about the decisions before you. They were life altering ones that you had not bargained for, much less prepared for. When you left, because I knew little about you, I had no idea what direction you might take. And to be truthful, because I didn’t know you well, I didn’t know what direction you should take. But the decision you have taken is clearly one I have observed and evaluated. So here is your three year evaluation.

First, the direction you took, by its very nature indicates that you have character and courage and faith in yourself. When confronted with adversity every man has a dual reaction choice. Fight or flight. For most, flight is both an instinct and an inclination. Flight contains the hope of escape or at least a retreat and reprieve from the threat. You did not choose flight. You chose to stand and face your future. It was a good choice for you since it appears you fit your future well. You may not see yourself as a fighter, but you are not a runner.

Second, the future for which you have taken a stand appears to be a bright one. Your son, who is loving, positive, bright, and endearing reflects everything you give him, every day. Your fathering intuitions are strong and your skills in dealing with, nurturing, and directing your son grow week by week. Your wife exudes confidence in you and is content, secure, and very much in love. It is obvious that she depends on you, leans on you, and admires you. My wife adores you. (The word “adores” is not one that is in the lexicon of most males, certainly not in mine. It is my wife’s word.) And I trust you. I see your children, however many there might be, as among the lucky bunch who have a father who has decided to make them the center of his life and who does so selflessly and with a sense of joy. This is less common than you may think.

Thirdly, every man I ever admired was a good father. Because of your nature you will likely find yourself doing the same. Even in your professional life the men you trust most will turn out to be strong fathers. Commitment to honest work, to integrity, to charity, and even to friendship is all centered in the family. Everything moves out from that center. The farther it is from that center the less important it becomes. Where I live I am surrounded by eminently successful men who commanded enormous salaries and enjoyed great power. But many are now confused at their adult children’s lack of direction or lack of work ethic or even lack of values and integrity. Those children were the audience that watched their fathers move farther and farther from the family center as they were seduced by money and power and prestige and pressure or by any of the other things that cause men to lose their way. As they became lost so did their children and as a result those children turned to somebody else to raise them. Make no mistake, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a father who is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure his children know him, know what he stands for and know that they can count on him without equivocation and at anytime. From what I have seen I think you are ready to join that elite group.

Any evaluation that is meaningful contains suggestions and constructive criticisms. The following are intended to be useful, not instructive.

Areas for growth and improvement:

1. 1 1. Do not assume that your natural child rearing talents will carry the day. You would never consider pursuing your career without a passion to succeed, or without exposure to successful role models and techniques. The same is true for parenting, which is the most important job you will ever have. You may have a natural talent for it, but to be a successful parent you can’t rely on your intuitions and energy alone. You must expose yourself to the important body of knowledge that has been developed over centuries of study. You cannot and should not, under any circumstances, defer to your wife as the sole arbitrator on child rearing. That is not fair to her, yourself, or the children. She and the children need you to be a knowledgeable and confident father. Making bonds with your children through good times is the fun stuff, the easy stuff. If you want to be a great father, seek and find books, seminars, and other resources. Use them to increase your knowledge and confidence particularly in the areas of setting limits, consistency, and fairness. This takes time and energy. Your profession will not provide you with time or energy. The opposite will be true. You will have to do it on your own. That is part of the sacrifice of being a good father. Ironically, you will find that it is amazing how the skills you acquire as a parent spill over and enhance your professional efforts. Your job is to establish their roots while developing their wings.

2. 2 2.Try to overcome the tendency to paint around hardware on doors and windows.

Merry Christmas,

Bubba


And for those of you who were raised without a father like Bubba, or who are raising your babies without one…please stop back by Momastery tomorrow morning for the juiciest slice of hope I’ve ever tasted.

Nov 162009
 

I got this thing in the mail this week, from my good friend, Kiran, over at Masala Chica.


Ever since she married Craig’s best friend John, Kiran has dedicated herself to helping my little family function more efficiently and appropriately. She is forever bringing us meals and clothes and toys and other expressions of loving concern.

Last night, Kiran dropped off some pasta sauce that John’s Italian mother made. While we were eating Chase said, “This is so good. It tastes DIFFERENT.” And Craig said “That’s because Italian people make their own sauce.” And Chase said “From what?” And Craig said “From scratch.” And Chase said “What’s scratch?” And Craig said “It’s like…ingredients. Ingredients are…things some people have in their kitchens. And they put them all together. And they stir them. And the things…they turn into other things.” Chase was quiet for a minute and then said, “So…it’s like magic? I don’t understand.” And Craig said “I know. We don’t either.” At which point I interrupted with a reminder that I had a Swiney headache and so maybe we could discuss something less confusing and stressful, like perhaps our family’s ideas for achieving peace in the Middle East.

A few months ago Kiran’s family was over at our house for dinner. I was trying not to cry because Craig had just announced that sweet jesus, the grill was broken and Kiran said “G, why don’t you use the Advantium?” and I said “Why don’t I use the Advatiwho?” And she walked me over to my microwave and showed me these special buttons and black trays which I had always thought were just really, really dirty white trays but apparently not. In my own defense, we had just recently acquired the microwave five years prior. Kiran patiently explained that my microwave was not just a microwave, it was actually an oven, too. And that I could use the special buttons and black trays to cook things. I found the whole conversation baffling, since that’s what I thought I was doing all along in my microwave… cooking things. I wondered what I had been doing to our food for the past five years if not cooking it. I also wondered why Kiran was so determined to complicate the only thing in the kitchen that made any sense. But she seemed so excited to enlighten me that I pretended to be pleased and to understand, and I even showed Craig the fancy buttons right in front of her to prove my enthusiasm.

When it seemed appropriate to move on from the topic of my magical microwave, I asked Kiran if any of my other appliances had superpowers. I was thinking that maybe my refrigerator could mop or my dishwasher came with some sort of discipline plan I could use on Tish. Kiran threw her head back and laughed in the same way people always laugh when they think I’m joking. This laugh is my cue to stop asking questions. A few years ago, in the car on the way home from a particularly embarrassing dinner party…Craig suggested that when someone I’m talking to laughs like that, it’s important that I start laughing too and pretend that I was joking all along. So I did.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

We, of course, have never spoken of or used our fancy buttons or black trays since Kiran left our house that day. There are really only two buttons I need on my microwave, actually in my entire kitchen, and they are Time Cook and Popcorn. Also, I do enjoy using the light switches. I am basically an expert at those. But I appreciate Kiran’s effort. She never gives up on me. And I also appreciate her gift. It took a few days to figure out what the gift was, but all the thinking was worth it because look how pretty it is.



Thank you, Kiran.

Kiran goes back to work today after being home on maternity leave for months. I think it’s probably a pretty tough day for her. If you get a chance, head on over to Masala Chica and leave her some love. We mommies, writers, readers, women… need to stick together.

Nov 132009
 
So, the bad news is that I’ve got The Swine.

The good news is that I’ve also got a team of Superheroes that assembled overnight to serve and protect me in my time of need. Allow me to introduce you.


This is Dog and Chase, my security detail.

Their duty is to work reconnaissance on suspicious pumpkin packages while directing the neighborhood traffic away from our swiney home.



This is Tish, who is generally more comfortable on the other side of the law. Her duty is to entertain me by shaking her pirate booty and yelling “ARRR” on command.

Amma’s duty is to pummel the bounty hunter, cop, or pirate if one of them should happen to lose his or her mind and ask me for anything today. Here she is again, warning Tish…

“MAMA SAID KNOCK YOU OUT.”



So don’t worry about me, friends – my crew will see me through.



Have a peaceful weekend. Find some stillness and hand sanitizer.