Dammit, My Wife is Holier than Me

My wife had to go back to the U.S. to attend a funeral and I had to take care of our two children for five days.  It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do in my life.  It was only five days for me, but my wife has been doing this for over three years.  The experience was humbling.  Now, I have a profound respect for my wife.  Single-parents — I can’t even imagine — must have heroic virtue just to survive day-to-day, let alone help their children thrive.

We are blessed to live a life where the cost-of-living permits us to have part-time household help.  Although I never brought it up to my wife, I always wondered why she would say she didn’t have enough time to do certain things when we have Lorie to help around the house for half the day.  The purpose was to give Anne Marie more free time, but she would claim not to have any.  Now I know.  Even with the extra hours that Lorie put in, I could barely check my emails once a day, let alone get any time to read, think or relax.

Taking care of one’s children full-time and going to work full-time are really not the same thing.  For one, I get breaks at work.  There could be a lull in demands and I could check the news.  I can go off to lunch by myself and read for a whole hour.  That doesn’t happen with one’s children.  Not my children.  Not with daddy.  I’m like a honey pot and they are like Winnie the Pooh times two.  To top it off, they’re jealous of each other.  Maya could be happily playing in one corner, but as soon as she sees me holding Hana, she’d storm over and complain about having a “tummy ache” and wants me to carry her.

Another difference between work full-time and children full-time is intellectual and emotional detachment.  Screwing up at work is one thing.  Screwing up with your kids has a different magnitude of consequences.  While I have pride in my work, I don’t love my work.  I do love my children and so the amount of self-giving is that much greater.  That’s the thing… it’s the self-giving that is required with one’s children that is not required with people at work (i.e. supervisors, co-workers, clients, etc.)  Caring for one’s children is physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually draining.  And that’s on the good days.  Even on the worst days at work, I only complain about being mentally drained.

These five days with my children has been humbling spiritually.  In “The Three Ages of the Interior Life,” Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “The great sign of love of God is precisely love of one’s neighbor.  A saint who has little learning in theological matters but who has a very great love of God, is certainly more perfect than a theologian who has a lesser charity.”  I have more theological knowledge than my wife.  I never realized it until now, but I thought that made me more holy.  It’s not knowledge that makes one holy, but self-giving to others, especially the less fortunate and the helpless (like one’s children).  My wife has given a tremendous amount of herself these past three years for our daughters.  Just these five days gave me a taste of the cross that she continues to bear for our family.  Taking care of our girls is not torture (per se), but there’s a lot of self-sacrifice.  All the virtues are practiced (faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance).  Many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are exercised.  I’ve come to realize that despite all my book knowledge about God, my wife loves Him more than me because she gives of herself more than I, especially for our children.

If I am to pursue the holiness, I need to exceed the charity that my wife exhibits.  A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt.  The prize is the Beatific Vision.

Theology of Parenthood

“Theology” is the study of the nature of God.  Being a parent has really helped me understand God’s nature more.  I’ve been compiling these personal anecdotes for a while and I’m afraid I’ll forget them if I don’t put it down on paper.  So, here are a few observations I’d like to share with you under this category:

  • When Maya was born, my heart was so full of love I felt like it was going to explode.  I had so many dreams for her, of what she can do, who she can become.  As I dream for my daughter, so God dreams for me.  He, too, has dreams of what I can do and who I can become.
  • My wife and I love each other so much that another person was born from this love.  God the Father and God the Son love each other so much, so perfectly, from eternity, that another Person results: the Holy Spirit.  Just as the Holy Spirit goes forth to help others enter the Kingdom, my wife and I will be raising our daughters so that they can grow up and help others enter God’s Kingdom.
  • I tell my daughters “I love you” all the time.  When they were babies, they didn’t understand the words.  As their father, I yearn to hear them say “I love you” back to me one day.  God has this same hope for me, too.  He also wants me to turn to Him and say “I love you” and mean it. 
  • My children learn to repeat “I love you, daddy” from their mother.  Christians learn to pray (“I love you, Abba”) from their Mother Church.  My children will one day contemplate the love they have for their father (and mother) in their hearts and this will guide how they will act.  When I start to contemplate the love I have for God, I am moved towards acts of virtue and away from vices.  I am moved to patiently suffer trials for the love of God.
  • My children do not need to give my wife and I anything because we are complete with each other and in God.  However, Maya and Hana can show their love for their parents by loving one another as sisters.  If they take care of one another, protect one another, and help each other grow, then we will know that they love us.  In the same way, I love God by loving my fellow human beings, who are my brothers & sisters in Christ (whether they know it or not).
  • This was true when Maya was a baby and true of Hana now when she is still a baby: sometimes I love them so much I feel like I want to eat them.  It’s a bizarre feeling.  Not like a cannibal.  I don’t want to cook them up or anything.  I just have this overwhelming desire to consume them out of love.  During this Christmas season, I was struck by the thought of Baby Jesus and the Eucharist.  Why can’t I desire to literally eat the Eucharist as I desire to figuratively eat my own babies?
  • Hana does this endearing act: every time I sit cross-legged on the floor, she would drop whatever she’s doing to crawl over and sit on my lap.  She would only crawl away to get a toy and then come back and just sit on my lap.  She likes being near me and the simple joy of being in the arms of her father.  This made me think about the contemplative life.  When I think about the mysteries of God (i.e. Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, Glorious, etc.), am I not like Hana sitting in the lap of my father?  Rather than rushing through my prayers, do I instead take the time to enjoy being in the lap of His presence as my daughter is in mine?
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