About a month ago in Ottawa before we moved, my husband was preparing for his second year exams. It was the weekend, and he had to study. The kids and I headed for our neighborhood playground. It wasn’t long before my three-and-a-half year old son spotted a youngish dad like his dad and made a beeline for him.
“Oh yeah, I like your shirt,” my little guy said to the dad.
The dad, taken off-guard, responded, “Oh, thanks,” looking a little amused. He continues pushing his small child in the swing.
My little guy continued, “Yeah, I have a blue shirt, too. It’s a Brewers shirt,” he says enthusiastically to the bewilderment of the Canadian dad.
“Cool,” he said, starting to look for this little person’s parent.
The baby was in the middle of a difficult maneuver on the equipment, making it impossible for me to claim—and redirect—the boy, who continued happily in his guy chat.
“My name’s Thor,” said my little guy, deep in a super hero phase.
The dad started to smile, then caught himself, unsure of the veracity of his little friend’s statement. Just then, my four-and-a-half year old daughter arrived on the scene to set things straight.
“Nuh-uh,” she said, “his name’s Augustine.”
The dad was completely confused at this point, as both choices seemed unlikely. He was really searching for their parent, and by then I didn’t want to identify myself. Fearing more family disclosure, though, I scooped the baby off the equipment when she wasn’t looking and ran over to the group. As she fussed, I tried to smile and shoo everyone away while trying to appear completely normal. The dad smiled faintly in return, and I tried to hide behind the playground steps.
Later, I wished that I hadn’t felt so strange, that I didn’t mind if someone may have mistaken my Catholicism for insanity or worse. But when it came to my son, I did. I wanted to explain it all to that poor dad who had simply wanted to be left alone with his child at the park. I wanted to explain how my husband and I had chosen someone who had dearly loved God to be a close and constant intercessor for our son, how we hoped that he would emulate his patron in some way and that some day, he, too, might love Our Lord as much as St. Augustine did. I wanted him to understand and affirm us in our faith and parenting. But he didn’t. And I had to rely on God and not the dad in the playground that we were approaching parenthood in the right way. And some days, that feels so impossibly hard.
To be fair, though, I never caught the name of his son. It might have been Polycarp.
Copyright 2012 Meg Matenaer