Since becoming a dad, I have not had a single instance where I wasn’t proud of Sloan. However, this past weekend I had a defining “Proud Father” moment.
Before I became a dad, I would probably respond to that opening paragraph with something along the lines of “How can you be genuinely proud of a 9-week-old?” I mean it is not like Sloan’s brain is developed enough to ace a test. She can’t even crawl at this point so she can’t accomplish an athletic feat. She isn’t talking yet so she surely can’t blow us away with her singing voice.
But when you become a parent of a newborn, you immediately realize what being proud means. It isn’t about achieving something that society deems as an accomplishment. Just the fact that your baby happened to start as a speck in the womb, grow into an actual infant, and then enter the world is reason enough to be full of pride. However, like I said, Sloan recently provided me with a specific prideful moment that I will always remember.
On Sunday, I took Sloan to church by myself. It was my first real time taking Sloan somewhere without anyone else. I walked into St. Andrew carrying a car seat with a big diaper bag draped over my shoulder. I navigated the crowds and found a seat at the end of a pew. I then crossed my fingers that my daughter would make it through the mass.
I kept Sloan in her car seat for most of the service. Because she was semi-covered and because she was a perfect angel, fellow parishioners who were fixated in prayer didn’t really notice the baby at the end of the row.
After we recited the Lord’s Prayer and offered the sign of peace, I knew it would be just a couple minutes until I would remove Sloan from her car seat and take her up to the altar with me for Holy Eucharist. I knelt down with the congregation as we recited the important words of Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. At that moment, as the eucharistic ministers approached the altar, I sat back up in my pew. I then slowly and gently took Sloan out of her seat and cradled her in my arms.
The couple behind me immediately cooed and asked her name and age. I answered their questions and they remarked on what a beautiful baby she was. Little did I know that this would be just the tip of the iceberg.
By that time, the communion line had started. Sloan and I were seated in the front half of the church but we were in one of the back rows of the particular section. Not only that, but because of our location, we (well, I) would be receiving the holy sacrament from the priest himself right at the front of the church. Thus, we would be walking past a lot of rows and a bunch of people to get to Father Jose.
The usher gave our row the signal to ease into line. Sloan and I moved from one end of the row to the other and then took a right to head toward the altar.
At that moment, I swear I knew what Sidney felt like the day she walked down the aisle at our wedding. I kept my eyes either directly on Sloan or straight ahead but I could feel eyeballs looking right at me. Well, let’s be honest, I could feel the eyeballs looking at Sloan. It was such a beautiful feeling, one I couldn’t really even find the words to describe to Sidney when we got home. The whole way down I could sense the gazes and hear the ever so light gasps of the people celebrating mass that day. When I finally reached Father Jose he had his wide grin once again. He gave me my host and then gave Sloan her blessing.
On the way back to our seats I could again feel everyone looking at Sloan. Although I still looked mostly straight ahead, I did shift my eyes back and forth as we walked back. I could see smiles.
Upon returning to my pew I was hit with emotion from not just receiving Jesus’ body but also from the reception that Sloan got. Even though I had absolutely no scientific evidence that people actually were indeed touched by Sloan, the feeling I had in my heart was proof enough. I was one proud daddy.
With Sloan’s presence now out of the bag (ummm…I mean out of the car seat), parishioner after parishioner came up to me at the end of the mass to say what a precious little girl I had. Although the compliments were so sweet and nice, it still didn’t beat the feeling I had walking down the aisle with her.
When Sidney and I talked when I arrived home, she told me that there is just a sweet spot that people have for a daddy by himself with a little baby. I would say her assessment is right. I know I spent most of this post bragging but it was a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you God for blessing Sloan with her mama’s looks. Don’t Blink.