a child’s gratitude, what about your other kid? & God’s love for an atheist

It was brought to my attention that, to date, I have written almost exclusively about my oldest son. I mentioned my daughter in one post, but have yet to mention my youngest son at all. Although he’s adorable, he really doesn’t give me much to write about in the context of this blog.

Here’s why:

Fatherhood allows us to see through the eyes of God. Our children are a microcosm of all of humanity. The way we relate to our children can give us a glimpse of how God relates to us.

I love each of my children each in their own unique way. The relationship I have with my eldest son is very different from the relationship I have with my daughter, which is equally different from the relationship I have with my youngest son. Each of them relates to me in different way as well.

A child really never understands how much a parent does for them, but my oldest son has a much greater understanding than his younger sister. He understands that I work to earn money, and that money is used to by everything I give him. He also understands that when I take him places, or let him come into my office, I am stopping my work to spend time with him. He gets what’s going on, and is grateful. He misses me when I’m gone. A hug, kiss, “thank you,” or “I love you,” from my son means a lot. I love him and he knows it.

My daughter says “thank you” the same as her older brother, and is just as excited as her older brother when I walk in the door, but being much younger, doesn’t really have an understanding of what or how much is being done for her and given to her. Although I know this, her hugs, kisses, thank-yous, or I-love-yous, mean just as much. I love her and she know’s I love her.

My youngest son is 6 months old. If I dropped dead, he’d probably not notice. If he didn’t see my face for a few days he probably wouldn’t remember me the next time he saw me. He has no gratitude for anything I’ve done for him whatsoever. He’s not even really aware of what I do for him. I love him so much, and he has no idea what’s going on. And yet, somehow, his smile means the world to me.

I love all of my children equally even though they don’t all love me equally. The difference is the depth of the relationship. There is a principle in Judaism that love comes from giving. The depth of the relationship depends on how much I can give to my child. At my baby’s level of awareness, what I can give him is very limited, or shallow. I give him food & clothing. I hold him when he cries, I play with him, talk to him, and smile at him, but none of these connections have the same potential for depth as the connections one can create by giving to an older, more aware child.

God loves us. We’re his children. He loves us whether we know he exists, or not. Whether we appreciate what he does for us, or not. God doesn’t need our recognition, prayers, or anything else from us for that matter. The one who truly benefits from these connections is us.

When we pray, we are deepening our relationship with God, whether we’re asking something of Him, thanking Him for something, or just praising him. God doesn’t need it, but he wants us to deepen our relationship with him. The more we know, love, contemplate, understand, and appreciate God, the more he can give us.

No matter how much I might want to give my six-month-old some good advice, I simply can’t do it. He’s not able to accept it. I love my son, and our relationship is perfect for the time being. It would be sad, even tragic, if the depth of our relationship didn’t grow over time. Not because I’d love him any less, but simply for the lost opportunity for me to give to him.

In the end, the greatest thing a child gives to his father, is the opportunity to give, without any desire of receiving in return.

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