God the Father

Third Son is about 18 months old. He goes to sleep nursing almost every night. But last night, the wife was at a kitchenwarming for a friend who had just finished a badly need home addition. At 8:30, Third Son and I went to war on the bed. He was exhausted, but he never stopped fighting me. He got off the bed, collapsed on the floor, then climbed back on. He grabbed the flesh of my neck and arms and squeezed for all he was worth. He flung himself away, then flung himself against me, headfirst. When he was too tired to crawl, he flopped – away and back, away and back. He screamed when I tried to stroke his back or his belly to calm him. He flailed at the baby bottle full of apple juice, a bottle he usually loves. Rage had consumed him, good things were bad to him, Dad – normally the favorite – was the enemy. I couldn’t snap him out of it, the way I do with my older kids, with a stern look and a raised voice. All I could do was watch and keep at him; keep singing lullabies; keep offering the bottle; keep trying to draw him close.


  1. J. Christian says

    There must be something in the air. Our 21-month-old son was having a screaming fit last night, too, and he’s almost always a good sleeper.

    Although it’s possible to push the metaphor too far, now that I’m a father, I’m amazed at how much faith in God the Father reinforces my parenting. The kind of responsible freedom that comes with living in truth is exactly how I see my relationship with my son. From the very start, I knew he was his own person. He wasn’t some project that his parents could shape into what they wanted him to be; he was going to be who was meant to be. (What did Pope Benedict XVI say in his homily? “Each of us is the result of a thought of God.” Doesn’t matter how young he is — he’s a human being with all the potential that comes from being willed by God.) In that sense, he has complete freedom.

    But his freedom has limits, of course. We’re there to guide him on his journey. When he has his meltdowns, about all we can do is to be there for him when he’s ready to come back to us. And even at his young age, he knows when he’s doing something wrong; he knows when he’s getting into mischief. That look of “What’re ya gonna do about THIS?” in his eyes is so telling (and pretty funny, too).

    I don’t know how well I “got” this before I was a dad. But, man, it’s right there smacking me upside the head…

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    I’ll tell you what was in the air – the poor kids were upset about Levada at the CDF! (KIDDING. I don’t have a dog in that fight. I just know there’s been a flap.)

    Oh, yes, they know they’re doing wrong. They want to see the reaction. And then they’re shattered when you express disappoval (at least at some ages).

    Yeah, the metaphor breaks down at a certain point. I don’t have supernatural grace at my disposal to work on his interior. And I don’t know him like the Father knows him. But before that breakdown point, it’s a doozy.

  3. Ernesto Pinamonti says

    Third son — 1
    Lickona – O

    Unfortnately, you’ve taught Third Son that Dad can be outlasted. Nest time it will be harder. It all reminds me of that old joke: Children’s Book titles that were rejected. My favorite: Daddy Drinks Because You Cry.

  4. Matthew Lickona says

    One time doth not a habit make. He almost outlasted Mom last night as well – he didn’t drop until 11 p.m. for some ungodly reason. So I’m not sure it was just the war against me. Most times, he breaks after a half hour, if he fights at all. Something was goin’ on last night. I should have checked the moon.

  5. I was on a trip to San Antonio (I live about two hours away), my wife is becoming a citizen of this country Texas, I mean USA. Anyways, I had a chance to stop and get coffee at Starbuck’s, a treat for us. However it was just so located in a Barnes and Noble. Another treat! You see books, book stores, and books are a hobby of mine, I don’t read whole lot. I enjoy reading what I enjoy. I love my Faith, so I love reading Catholic things. So there I was on a serious journey to find one book, “Swimming with Scapulars.” And it was no where to be found. So I asked the lady if B&N carried the book. She said they have two copies on the shelf. I just couldn’t find them. So then came the most upsetting thing about the book. It is too small and short!!! It should be bigger and longer! Not only would I have enjoyed the fact that there is more to read of good book, I would have been saved the embarrassment of not finding a book. If you haven’t read the book, order it, get it, and buy copies for your family and friends. I am not done yet, but with two kids under 20 months, I am about halfway and it has only been two days!

  6. Matthew Lickona says

    That’s a pretty powerful endorsement. Thank you kindly.

  7. AnotherCoward says

    What did you do to my kids?!?!?!?! The past 3 nights have been awwwwwful!!!! I blame it on you and your crazy night’s sleep post.


    The hardest thing about being a parent is that your mistakes haunt you. Thankfully, I’ve not got any heavy mistakes, but even now I can see the little things taking hold in a way that should not be. It’s disappointing and sobering: seeing your children act out your sin.

  8. Anonymous says

    I love to rock my 18 mo old to sleep. I sing (badly), the ‘Our Father’, then the ‘ABC song’, then ‘An Irish Lulaby’ and finally, ‘You are my Sunshine’. About three months ago, she started singing along and has gotten quite good at all the words. She now says the ‘Our Father’ at mass. I did the same for the other four kids, as well. If I make it to heaven, and they have jobs there, I hope my job is to rock all the aborted babies to sleep.

  9. Matthew Lickona says

    Now there’s an image worthy of O’Connor…
    You’ve let my interweb presence into your home, and now I’m infecting your whole family! Bwhahahahaha!
    Sorry for the sleeplessness. I’d recommend bourbon on the gums – surely they’re teething? – but somebody might get upset.
    Oh yes, they act our your sins. I hear my eldest scolding my youngers, and I cringe. That’s me in his irritation, his impatience, his shouting. Argh.

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