You know you’re excited to be a father when, as your pregnant wife is leaving the house for work, you say “I love you both.” Been doing that lately. I can't help it. I'm a giddy fool.
Here’s the picture again, since I keep looking at the images of this little girl inside of my wife:
I really am ecstatic about this. The news this past weekend that we’d be having a girl, combined with our naming of said girl, has made this whole experience more real. It’s no longer an “it” or a “he/she” inside of Joann; it’s Clara.
The prospect of being a father, especially to a girl, specifically to Clara Clementine Boswell has filled me with much hope.
The name Clara means “bright.” I hope my daughter brings joy to others, that she would be a light in darkness; that her warmth, optimism, and hopeful spirit would enrich the lives of those she encounters. I hope I am that for her.
Clara also means “clear.” I hope Clara finds clarity as she grows older as to who she is, what she wants, and what she can offer the world. I hope she lives with the peace that can come from such self-knowledge, and that her parents give her the tools to cope well with “clouds” that make life more complicated and less clear.
Clara also means “famous.” I don’t really care if she becomes famous or not. It’d be nice if she wasn’t infamous. That’s usually not a good thing. But I suppose if she’s infamous (or famous) for the right reasons—perhaps gaining her notoriety for living a life of virtue and making the right choices—then I guess that’s okay.
I hope that, like St. Clare of Assisi (Santa Clara), she would embody the same faithfulness to God, devotion to virtue, and concern for others.
Clementine means “merciful.” I hope she can show me mercy, whether she’s two, sixteen, or forty. I’ll make mistakes as a parent. I’ll react in anger, fail to be gentle, lose patience, falter in my disciplining, and not treat her with the respect she deserves. Rather than abandon me or punish me with words or actions, I hope she shows me the mercy I probably won’t deserve.
I hope she extends this same mercy to others. People will hurt her, because, people are people, and that’s what they do, sometimes. And I hope I too can embody this kind of merciful life, not wavering in my discipline and justice and steadfastness, but recognizing that my daughter will make mistakes and, while she’ll sometimes need her dessert denied, she’ll also sometimes just need a hug.
I hope that, like St. Clement of Alexandria, an early Church Father, my daughter will recognize the relentless love of God for all people and attempt to treat them with the same kind of love, whatever their gender, culture, religion.
I hope I can say sorry to Clara, where appropriate.
I hope I don’t vomit while changing diapers. I have a pretty sensitive sense of smell. Though I have changed the diapers of grown, disabled men before; a baby might be pretty manageable.
I hope she likes all the silly lullabies I'll write for her. I’ve already written her one, just now:
Clara, Clara is my little doo-pee-doo-pee-doo
Clara, Clara likes to make a poo-pee-poo-pee-poo
Daddy loves his little darling more than broccoli
Cause Clara is my little angel, dop-ee-dop-ee-dee.
(I should say I rather enjoy broccoli. It’s not an underhanded insult. I wouldn’t do that to a small child...come on.)
I hope my daughter takes on a lot of her mom’s physical qualities. Trying to imagine the female version of me is kind of unsettling.
I hope that Clara learns confidence at a very young age, so that regardless of whether or not she’s physically a female version of me, she’ll love herself.
I hope Clara acquires my adventurous taste for food, and Joann’s adventurous creativity.
I hope Clara learns to appreciate geeky baseball statistics like OPS and FIP so she can accurately analyze baseball players with me. And that she loves Shakespeare, for Joann’s sake.
I hope that I can handle being a father to a teenage girl when “suitors” began to show up at the house more often and when Clara starts showing a bit more skin than I’m comfortable with. I hope she doesn’t hate me when I screw around with such suitors to instill in them a bit of healthy fear.
I hope that I will do all I can to guide and teach Clara with love and discipline so that she has life and life in abundance from an early age. And I hope that, when she wanders from “my path” for her and my efforts seem to fall short, that I will realize that I can only do so much, and that she must be given the freedom to be who she will be. I hope I never forget that constant tension that I believe to be one of the most important realities of our lives: that we are profoundly shaped by the environment around us, by our genetics, by biology, by culture, by people, by numerous forces that determine who we are and who we become; and yet, that we are somehow free, we are responsible, we can choose.
I hope that my part in Clara’s life is played as well as I can possibly play it...and that I can let her play her part.