A Father ventures into the world to seek His son. This liturgy of fallen fatherhood opens with the rubric: “Where are you?” We don’t know the rest of the liturgy, because Adam subverted it.
But the mark of a father is that he seeks his son in the cool of the day and he calls out to him “where are you?” The good son, upon hearing these words, has a pierced heart and comes running to his father, sorry that the father had to ask.
Every day, we must find our sons anew, even if they are behind the bush.
Let us be clear that it is not just for the father to have to seek the son. It is not natural. It should work just the opposite. The relationship is only perfected when the son watches the face of the father and moves in harmony with his father’s slight expressions. Jesus sought the face of His Father daily, even on the day His Father forsook Him. But even though it is not fair, after the Fall, the father seeks the son.
He seeks because if he doesn’t he leaves the son at the mercy of the snake. Our unity with him is his only protection from perdition.
A gardener goes out every day to look at his flowers. He inspects the buds to see which ones are breaking out and which ones are still sleeping. He notes his flowers’ slightest daily growth or decline.
If a gardener is so solicitous over flowers, who are here today and tomorrow are thrown into the fire, how much should we, as fathers, inspect our sons souls every single day. Their souls are as different every day as is a climbing rose in June
The heart changes EVERY SINGLE DAY. Today, what is his chief concern and chief joy? This is easier when young, but harder as the child gets older and tends to close up. Children close up for several different reasons: to shut the parents out because the parents are not liked; to shut everyone out because of shame; and because they are increasingly comfortable in a private, solitary inner place. And so on. Every silence is different.
If we have developed the practice of finding his heart every day when he is 5 years old, then when he is 15 we will understand the signals to interpret his silence, and he will be habituated and feel safe to talk about his inner privacy. But this will not happen if it the effort starts when the silence starts.
We need to avoid accepting as “normal” and inevitable what is only common. It is common to for adolescents (especially boys) to become closed up about their interior life, but is not inevitable.
It is more natural for the mother to try to find the child’s heart every day. But if the father does not do this as well, HE IS SERIOUSLY NEGLIGENT AND WILL FAIL IN SOME SERIOUS WAY. It takes more work for the father; it takes him more out of his zone of comfort.
As the child grows he learns about his own privacy, and will form very early what his inner sanctuary is used for. The parents want to be in on those decisions. But after the inner sanctuary is formed, the parents can never force themselves in. To force yourself into the inner sanctuary is to produce neuroses.
Teach them at pre-school age to recognize what is on their heart, then to talk openly with you about it.
Ask! “what is on your heart today?” Then, when he tells you, he must experience the conversation as a BLESSING. Never discipline or correct what is on the child’s heart.
Bedtime is a natural time for this exchange, when distractions are few. Later, this will become the basis for his prayer life, and the transition from talking about the heart and praying that same conversation is quite natural and easy. Whatever is on his heart is the focus of his payer for that day, instead of the typical list of “bless mommy, bless daddy, etc” Ask him “what did you like most today?” and give thanks for that; ask him “what concerns you today?” and make petition around that.