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On Memorial Day weekend, the goal for our family was getting our landscaping done. And with an acre of land, and a once-professionally landscaped yard, that is no easy task. So to accomplish this, Lisa and I assigned the children various tasks of hedging, pruning, mulching, and planting.

Lisa and I had just removed a dead plant and bought a beautiful magenta rose bush to put in its place. Since Veronica has shown an aptitude for growing roses in the past, I asked her if she could plant it. But as she dug a new hole for the roses, she noticed that there was a big rock underneath. She figured that the rock would have to come out in order for the roots of the rosebush to grow properly. As she dug, she discovered that this rock was over four feet long and two feet wide, and probably weighed over 100 pounds.

As she worked on the excavation project, I came over to look at the rock. I kind of grimaced, and told her, “Veronica, that’s an awfully big rock. It’s going to take a while to get that rock out, even with Athanasius, Demetrius, and Tarcisius helping. Anyway, don’t worry about it. The roses will find a place to grow roots, even with it there. Why don’t you just leave the rock in the ground?”

That was pretty well thought-out logic for giving up and moving on to something else, or so I thought. Not to Veronica, who looked at me, half-smiled, and said: “The rock’s coming out!”

There are times in one’s life when you realize that someone has the determination to make a great impact upon the world. And this wasn’t the first time she has shown that kind of fortitude—in fact, she has been showing it ever since she was a very little girl.

I remember that when she was about 16 months old, I took Veronica to a Christmas ornament shop, which was full of fragile pieces throughout the store. You might think that I’d have to be crazy to even take a little toddler into a store like this, much less let her walk around. But I wasn’t worried at all. First of all, she was already walking like the graceful ballerina that she has today become; she probably walked better than I did. And second, I told her, “Nocky (which was her nickname at the time, because that is how Athan pronounced her name), I know that these ornaments are very pretty, but don’t touch.” That’s all I needed to say. I’d like to believe that her almost preternatural obedience was born of a love and trust for her “old man,” but, whatever the reason, if I told Veronica not to touch the ornaments, she wasn’t going to touch.

As she took a few laps around the store, I noticed that something funny was happening: every shopper in the place paused from what they were doing, and starting staring at her. They were all amazed that such a tiny girl could walk around without either falling into an ornament display or finally succumbing to temptation and grabbing a pretty little decoration. They were awestruck by her determination. Looking back, it’s funny to think how personalities are determined so early in life. Though she is turning 17 years old this month, that quiet determination and appreciation for beauty is still there.

Does her determination drive me crazy sometimes? You betcha.

Did God give her this gift of determination to help her become a great saint and change the world for the better? Absolutely.

And it’s a tough world in which to become a saint. As I’ve told Veronica, perhaps the only harder thing than being a parent of a teenage girl in the world today is being a teenage girl in the world today.

As parents, it’s important, especially as our children go through their teenage years, to realize that those qualities which sometimes drive us crazy are often the same ones that they need to fulfill their missions in life. I guess that one of our jobs as parents is to direct these traits toward the good.

I have given speeches about fatherhood for years, and even written a book about it. Along the way, I’ve seen heartbreaking stories about fathers who seem to have done everything right, but whose children nevertheless veer off track, and reject their parents, and reject their faith. But truth be told, as I think back over Veronica’s life, and the lives of all my children, I am forced to admit: my kids make it look easy. It’s tough to be a good father without first having good children. But when you do have good children, fatherhood is a great joy, and a great consolation.

I am also reminded of something else. The Baltimore Catechism teaches us that we were created so we could know, love, and serve God in this life so we could be happy with Him in the next.

But this answer strikes me as somehow incomplete.

My wife and children have been a constant reminder to me that I’m happy now.

I’ve been to a number of homeschooling conferences already this year, and one thing that the other speakers seem able to agree on is this: the world is in pretty bad shape. Yes, the world is fallen, but if that’s the only thing you know about the world, you don’t know the whole story.

Some people seem to have forgotten a central truth, but they desperately need to remember it. In the first Chapter of Genesis, we read: “And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good.”

They still are.

As I watch my children grow up, I have been incredibly blessed to see the good things that God has made. And I am indebted that I have been the father of children who help me see the splendor of His creation, each and every day. May it always be so.

Happy Birthday, Veronica!

Header Image CC ukgardenphotos

About John Clark

John Clark is a homeschooling father, a speechwriter, an online course developer for Seton Home Study School, and a weekly blogger for The National Catholic Register. His latest book is “How to be a Superman Dad in a Kryptonite World, Even When You Can’t Afford a Decent Cape.”
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