It's easy loving babies - I do that extremely well. It's a gift. Youngsters - I just find it so easy to gush. But older children, adolescents, etc., that, to me, seems to offer a far greater challenge: giving advice, not theoretical, but practical, moral advice. I am an academic, so the theory is fine; I hate b.s., so practical advice has to fully convince me before I can pass it on. But I have not experienced everything my kids will or are currently experiencing. I won't tolerate platitudes and silliness, though, when it comes to the arch-importance of guiding my children. I experience the same sort of taciturnity in the classroom. I don't pretend to be certain about what I'm not.
I loved and adored my father, but he was slow on the advice-giving. Obviously he cared a great deal for veracity too, and wasn't content with passing off folk-wisdom without having arrived at apodictic certainty. But his hesitancy, sparked probably more than anything by uncertainty in himself, cost me a great deal, and in no way more significantly than a model to emulate today. He didn't exactly recognize an objective moral code, at least one with mosaic specificity, but that wasn't why he advised so little. The tragedy of secularism. Yet there exists, contrarily, the error of over-certainty, the pharisaism that infects even (or especially?) convicted Catholics. In any case, how to guide another soul in these life issues is no easy thing. I feel it heavily.
It's about connecting with another in an intimate manner. We sign on to this form of discipline when we become parents, whether we know it or not. Bearing one's soul to another does not come easy to us all. It is a good thing when one has become able to do so with one's spouse, but what about to some extent with one's own children? Some adults cannot confide or be self-revealing with anyone - those people should definitely talk to a professional, because this is a form of imprisonment. Being open with my children emotionally, becoming a mentor, or spiritual father, is not easy, but I will put myself into it because the cost of failing to do it is unimaginably high. Yes, I am a theology professor, but I am hesitant in claiming any moral authority. I know I have it; I know I have signed on for it when I accepted this professorship, but I consider these big shoes to fill. I am heartened by what one of my friends said about me in her post. She described me as: wise, easy-going and tell-it-like-it-is friend. I'll accept the friend part, but the wise part? The only thing wise about me is that I appreciate how great the task of spiritual and moral mentoring is.
In the case of my father, God gave me that circumstance so that I might recognize how important overt guidance is. Fathers are too quick to settle for the strong, silent kind of guidance. I don't believe it's sufficient. Again, some fathers are know-it-alls, but I think the former one is our more common fault.
Please, pray for me!