As a little boy, I used to sit at my grandma’s piano and play with the keys. Much like my darling daughter is playing right now. A few months ago, or was it just a few weeks ago, it sounded like random noise. Today, it sounds like she is really trying to experiment with the notes and make music. I remember that experimentation, and although I never learned to play the piano, there are times when I’ll sit down and experiment and play with the music. I’m not playing with the piano, I’m playing with the music.
When I was about four years old, I took a tinker toy and plunged it through the seat of my grandparents leather recliner. I wasn’t intending to be bad, I just had a general curiosity in the whole experience. I distinctly remember being more of an observer, rather than a participant; although some small voice was trying to tell me it was wrong. My grandma was horrified, but I remember not being punished – and that haunts me.
When I was going through my divorce and recovering from the mess that had become my life, I would randomly drop by my grandma’s house and have coffee with her. I got off work in the mornings and I’d stop by her house around 10 am or so. Neither of us were morning people and that time worked just fine.
“I remember she’d drink her coffee out of a big, green four-cup measuring cup”
I remember she’d drink her coffee out of a big, green four-cup measuring cup. Sometimes she’d make me breakfast. Comfort food, that was. And we would talk. I was amazed at how intelligent, gentile, and wise she was. She was one of my best friends during a time when I was hanging out with not-so-wise people. She never expected anything out of me; she just accepted me for who I was.
“I never realized the perspective of a parent”
Until this morning, I never realized the perspective a parent, or even a grandparent has. I am so absolutely crazy about my darling daughter. I’ve never loved anyone the way I love her. It is jumping up and down, I’d do anything for her, radical love. My parents had that kind of love for me, but they were always trying to shape me, mold me, change me – especially my Mom. My grandmother just accepted me.
Today, as I write this, I am struck by the charge given me to mold and shape my daughter and then the reflection that what she needs most from me is acceptance. There is a part of me that is fascinated by her growth, development, and fascination with the world around her. There is another part of me that wants to put her in a jar and preserve this innocence and beauty forever.
On the day of my grandma’s funeral, just moments after I presented a sketch of her life in front of 200 people, my great-aunt told me a secret about my grandmother. The eagerness of which she revealed my grandmother’s secret and illegal, back-alley abortion, when she was just 17 years old, tumbled out like unsatiated revenge.
“I don’t know what purpose this 70 year-old revealed secret served”
I don’t know what purpose this 70 year-old revealed secret served, but it didn’t change the love and respect I had for this amazing woman in my life. I had no secrets from her, and now, apparently, she had none from me either – even posthumously. If anything, it put matters nto focus and raised my appreciation of the pain she walked with.
All my life, I’ve lived pretty much in the moment. I’ve rejected the notion that I’m a sum of my parts, a sum of my past, and have prefered to look towards the vision of who I am becoming. Most people that we meet don’t see us that way. They judge us for our reputation – either earned or myth. My grandma never judged me for my past, instead, I was always the little boy who she loved without conditions. Something she was never able to do with her five daughters.
As my darling daughter plays with the notes on our piano, I am struck by the mystery of maturation. Would, if I could, keep her right where she is? Would, if I could encourage her to new heights of imagination and achievement? Would, if I could, be the best daddy I can be?
I’m called to be a Radical Dad. I will do whatever it takes to give my kids the best foundation possible. Life is hard and the pain and scars come without warning, so how can I best arm them with the skills necessary. Not just to survive, but to thrive and live the abundant life. I want my kids to laugh, to cry, to dance, and to mourn. I want them to taste, and smell, and feel, and hear, and touch the world with fascination and curiousity. I want them to be wise and hungry for knowledge and learning. I want them to have empathy and humor.
What is a Radical Dad? I am a Radical, unrepentant rebel of a Dad. I will do whatever it takes to make sure my kids love themselves, love others, and love their Creator. If that means pushing back against peer pressure, the culture, and broken systems, than I will. If that means loving their mother more than I love myself, than I will. If that means sucking up my ego, to let them become their own people, then I will.
I will be radically authentic, radically genuine, radically real, and radically transparent – all for the sake of my family.
Worldly success is fleeting, and I’ve already experienced it in many ways. Seeing my kids live happy, productive, abundant lives – well, I can think of no better success and no better joy.