Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hello, flowers. Hello, ducks.

Anna and I have been enjoying some quality father-daughter bonding time over the last week. I figure that, aside from doing most of the daily chores around the house, this is probably the best way for me to help out on the home front while Jennifer tends to little Sara’s needs. Besides, Anna seems to be exhibiting all the normal growing pains of a new family dynamic where she is not the only child demanding momma and daddy’s attention. We’ve definitely noticed a slight uptick in behavioral issues and general clinginess. This is neither surprising given the circumstances nor insurmountable with the right handling of the situation.

To relieve some of the stress and accommodate Anna’s cravings for attention, I have been taking Anna and Percy on extended walks around the neighborhood. Inevitably, as the playground comes into sight, Anna begins the familiar whine “Sliiide, sliiide, daddy, go on the sliiide” with her finger adamantly beckoning toward the shiny blue equipment. I glad accede to her demands, for I have to admit that this is my favorite part of the walk, too.

I love watching Anna go berserk with excitement and exhilaration. She’s a veritable banshee. It’s like watching a human shuttle launch or something. I especially treasure the moments with her where I can help her gain new skills like walking up and down stairs, climbing a ladder, or going down the slides. For those teachers out there, it really is the epitome of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development to guide your little one to new skills.

Perhaps the most touching aspect of our walks, though, and that which has given me pause for reflection and the impetus for this post is Anna’s interaction with the natural surroundings at the playground. She always greets the ducks –we actually have like six or seven ducks that permanently reside at our subdivision’s recess pond, which is very cool by the way-- and the flowers.

Anna’s salutations to nature got me thinking about St. Francis of Assisi’s interaction with the environment. It always seemed sort of eccentric (maybe even insane) to me that this holy man would directly address God’s creatures in a deliberate manner, as if they could carry on a conversation like a Disney movie; however, it finally clicked for me listening to Anna today. It reminded me of Christ’s words “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it" (Mark 10: 15). There is just an innate spiritual innocence in children that speaks from the bottom depths of the soul in a special and spontaneous way. They intuitively recognize the beauty of God’s creation in their simple wonder. I realized that Anna helps me to recapture that wonder at God’s glory that I sometimes lose track of in the day to day routines of my sometimes humdrum life.

Who would have thought that in setting out to help Anna get acclimated to a new family, she would assist me in my faith life in such a profound and touching way without even being conscious of her role in doing so? God works in mysterious ways. I think from now on, I, too, will greet nature: Hello, flowers. Hello, ducks.

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