George Washington Carver once stated, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” Over the course of the centuries education has changed, developed, and evolved. As a society we are becoming more aware of the benefits of education, both at an early age and at later stages in life. Continual learning past the traditional high school, college, and even post-graduate levels is essential for living a healthy and fulfilling life.
Learning is Life!
As a husband of a special education teacher and a former educator myself, I am attune to the importance learning holds for a person both professionally and personally. Having earned a Master’s in Theology, I once thought myself to be an expert, or master, in that particular field–the study of God. My vocation as a father proved this arrogant premise to be contrary to what I once believed. Children–my three incredible adorable and sometimes obstinate offspring–are in fact good teachers in the school of life.
“Knock, knock who is there?”
Eight o’clock at night arrived in my household. Both my wife and I were scrambling to get our older children to bed. My son and daughter finished their evening snack of a cheese-stick, clothed in their pajamas, and teeth brushed. We prayed the Guardian Angel prayer before shipping them off to the bedroom. I thought we were in the clear when I heard my daughter asking, “Daddy, can I get a book? I don’t have one in my bed!” Begrudgingly, I harped, “Yes, go quickly into the living room and pick one off the shelf.”
Oddly enough–or maybe not so oddly– my daughter grabbed a joke book filled with riddles, knock-knock jokes, and other corny puns. As I tucked the blanket around her, my daughter insisted I read a few jokes. I conceded and read a couple knock-knock jokes. Her eyes lit up and dimples appeared in the corners of her smile. Reflecting upon this seemingly mundane experience now, I realized that laughter is okay–even during bedtime routine. My children taught me that lessening my serious demeanor will not kill me. Instead, laughter enlivens my spirit. New life is breathed into me as I gaze at the humorous antics within my home.
Keep Your Promises
Our oldest son is a “rules kid”. What do I mean by this? He is quite bright, detail-oriented, and observant. I am convinced he possesses a photographic memory. My children taught me that the stakes for making–and breaking–promises exponentially increase when you become a parent.
During the hustle and bustle of daily living, I sometimes say things to assuage my son’s persistent pleading. I am not proud of it. As a member of the human race, I suffer from original sin as much as anyone. My promises do not always get fulfilled. Oftentimes, I fall short of the expectations my son and daughter have for me. What parenthood has taught me is that I need to be honest when I break a vow. I need to continually strive to be better at keeping my promises. Most importantly I have learned that children are fairly quick to forgive– I have learned forgiveness is key to becoming a better father.
Joy in the Little Things in Life
Our youngest son was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Daily life is frequently tough as he struggles to communicate his needs and wants effectively. Meltdowns and tantrums occur regularly. Despite his struggles and limitations, my son teaches me everyday to look for the simple joys in life. For instance, he finds an inordinate amount of joy in anything containing or resembling the shape of a circle. If we go grocery shopping, his eyes light up whenever we pass a helium-filled balloon or whenever he gazes up at the round light bulbs in the store ceiling. Similarly, at house he plays with the same toy cars and trucks without getting bored. Although he has a social-communication disability, in some ways my son has a special ability– to see joy in the seemingly mundane.
Fatherhood reminds me of the words of Aristotle, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Personal growth and learning take time and oftentimes are painful. By focusing on mere snapshots of my parenthood journey I fail to see the fruit that family life fosters. I am incredibly grateful for the life lessons of humility, humor, and joy that my children taught me. I pray that I continue to strive towards being an open and honest student!
As I have mentioned in previous posts, my oldest son was diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum a couple years ago. This journey toward an answer to helping our son has been filled with both joys and struggles. One of the fruits of this process is my wife has discovered her calling as a special education teacher. Another benefit of her knowledge is that it helps my cousin who is experiencing similar trials as my son. Recently, my mom was doing research on saints who assist with people on the autism spectrum. She came across St. Thorlak who is currently being considered as a patron saint for people with autism spectrum disorder.
Born in 1133 A.D. Thorlak received the sacrament of Holy Orders at a young age. He was ordained a deacon at age 15 and became a priest when he was 18 years old! Eventually founding a monastery based on the rule of St. Augustine, Thorlak lived a monastic way of life for a several years. Thorlak was ordained a bishop of the Icelandic diocese of Skalholt. He continued to carry out the reforms instituted by Pope Gregory VII. St. Thorlak die in 1193 at the age of 60.
Relatively little information is known about Thorlak compared to other Catholic saints, such as Augustine, John Paul II, Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, etc. Despite this, my review of the website that is championing his cause for patron sainthood provides some insight as to how Thorlak could be a relieving guide in both my son’s life and our family in general.
Rigidity in manner
Being unbending in his moral expectations, St. Thorlak demonstrates a parallel to children with autism that commonly sees the world in terms of black/white dichotomy. My son for example, is a “rules kid” and will follow our household law to the letter.
Failure to Initiate or Reply to Social Interactions
According to http://mission-of-saint-thorlak.weebly.com/patron-of-asd.html, the Icelandic saint said little during the discernment process for him to become bishop. St. Thorlak displayed reticence in social situations as well. Many times children with autism spectrum disorder are non-verbal when it comes to communication.
Although a lot of Catholic tradition relies on daily routine, St. Thorlak adhered to a strict routine of fasting and prayer—especially in his time of founding and living in the monastic community. Similarly, my son thrives on a strict and regular routine.
To be clear asking saints for help is not an easy solution to daily turmoil that medicine or therapy fails to soothe. Rather, I look to saints for guidance and relief for my personal trials or family strife. In regards to St. Thorlak, I believe based on the information I learned about his life that he would be a great role model for my son to look to when it comes to the challenges a child with autism faces on a daily basis. I found this concise prayer [see below] that I printed off and taped to my car dashboard to prayer on my morning commute to work. I am grateful for the witness of St. Thorlak and I hope his life gives insight, joy, and relief to individuals and families of those with autism spectrum disorder!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 4, 2019.
Trapped indoors during winter provides ample opportunity for restlessness to set in and I begin to lose focus. Failure to see things with clarity is the difference between a fulfilling day versus a lukewarm attitude.
According to Hall of Fame baseball manager Tony La Russa, “There are always distractions, if you allow them.” How exactly does one NOT allow distinctions? Daily interference attack us in the forms of fatigue, hunger, negativity, annoyances, work/family obligations, the list goes on and on! While distractions will continue to exist I discovered three simple ways to boost your focus— and overcome major distractions.
Write Down Your Goals
An incredibly simple and easy remedy to listlessness and lukewarmness involves creating a list! Make a list of your daily, weekly, or monthly goals and habits that you want to work towards. Your list need not be lengthy.
This weekend I suffered from an intense lack of energy when it came to my dreams to become a professional freelance writer. Thinking about the countless “to-do” items made me sink into a feeling of being overwhelmed and inadequate. Making a small list of my goals for this week and checking them off greatly boosted my focus.
One Step at a Time
Along with creating a list, it is so, so important to remind yourself to slow down. Distractions cause us to think we need to accomplish our goals ALL AT ONCE. That mentality could not be further from the truth. All of the various advice I received from authors, bloggers, and freelancers on Youtube advise of the need to develop a plan carefully and not to skip any steps in the process.
Reflect on Daily Successes/Failures
Dolly Parton stated, “I thank God for my failures. Maybe not at the time but after some reflection. I never feel like a failure just because something I tried has failed.” Some of my greatest “failures” or at least what I considered “failures” at the time became successes. Only after distancing myself from the activity of the day, that is, reflecting at night do I truly recognize how to be thankful and learn from the successes and especially the failures.
I hope these tips helped to boost your focus. If you have any other ideas for things that helped you fight off distractions throughout the day please list them in the comment section. Please share these tips with others fighting daily distractions.
“I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” — Hilair Belloc
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” — George Lucas