Category Archives: Being a Dad

Becoming a Dad

Fifteen years ago today,  nine months and nine days after getting married,  I became a dad. 

After a long night, and thirteen anxiety filled hours of labor, I held a baby girl in my arms.  I had never been particularly drawn to babies,  but this one captured my heart and stole my attention from the first moment we met. 

I was fascinated by her.  I watched every move she made.  The soft rise and fall of her chest with each breath,  the jerky twitches of her feet,  and the way her little hands curled around my finger. I wanted to see every movement and hear every sound.

I remember asking the nurse to change her diaper because we had no idea what to do. We left the hospital unsure of our ability to care for the little thing. Thankfully she was resilient and amazing.

Today that little girl is fifteen. She’s eager to start driving, loves going to dances, spends hours every day writing stories, listening to music and helping with her younger siblings, even though she still can’t pour without spilling!

She brings joy and laughter to or home as she bravely forges forward into life. We have a special bond. Maybe it’s because we’re both firsts in or family, or just those moments we shared figuring out life, but she’s special to me.

So, happy birthday #1! I love you and hope you enjoy today and this coming year. Thank you for making me a dad.

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The little things

I was sitting in the airport after the first short leg of a cross country flight with pressure in my ears.  I’ve been battling a cold and they siezed up (not even sure what word to use to describe that) during the planes descent.  After wandering the terminal yawning and swallowing for a few minutes I purchased some medicine and something to chew on: starbursts. 

I like Starbursts and usually have some around the house.  Yesterday I grabbed a couple and sat on the couch and before I had the first one open #9 was charging across the living room floor eyes wide with expectation.  It got me thinking.  I can’t remember the last time I had a Starburst and didn’t share with her.  It’s kind of our thing.

So as I sat in the airport enjoying my Starburst I couldn’t help but think of her.  It’s funny how those little things develop out of our habits.  Now,  no matter where I am, I can easily bring up a memory of #9 by enjoying a little treat. 

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Dumpster Diving for Superheroes

I repeatedly tell my four year old not to take toys to church. I get that he loves the little superhero toys, and wants to have adventures with them, but my warnings are motivated by a perfectly rational desire to ensure he doesn’t lose them (and I don’t have to buy them again).

This past week he snuck them into the car and managed to bring them in the building. Once there, he didn’t hide the fact that he had them because my wife and the other kids saw him playing with them. Unfortunately he came home from church and his toys didn’t. After searching the building, and pleas for their safe return on Facebook, we got a tip that they may have ended up in the trash.

I’ll admit that my first reaction was a selfish one and I rationalized it to my wife by saying, “it’s been a few days, I doubt the garbage is still there.”

Well, it was.

After reluctantly poking around the bags to find the one it would most likely be in (actually it was pure hope, I picked the least disgusting one), I started digging. It took a few minutes and I was about to give up when I spotted Thor’s red cape. Right next to him was Wolverine and Hulk.

I knew that wasn’t all so I kept looking. After another minute, #2, who was graciously letting me take the lead on this one, spotted Silver Surfer. We didn’t know exactly how many there were (because it would have been nice to stop digging through the bag then), so we kept going.

I didn’t have much tolerance left in me so after another minute the search was over. We may have lost a superhero that day (no one’s really sure how many he took or where the rest of them are in the house), but I’d call it a valiant effort. Hearing the squelch of a radio and a man’s voice in the distance, and not wanting to appear malicious, I put everything back in the bag, tossed it in the dumpster, and quickly left (not that that would look suspicious).

Having spent several days away from him on their own stinky adventure, his heroes are even more super, and I can add the title “rescuer of superheroes” to my list of accomplishments. But actually, I could have cared less what they were. All I wanted was a happy four year old.

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Marvel vs. DC

I walk into the kitchen and hear #3 exclaim: “You can’t use Wolverine because he can’t die!” Three of the kids (2, 3, and 4) are in a heated debate about which “human” Marvel character is comparable to the Joker from DC. They are testing their memory of the Marvel encyclopedia, which they have nearly memorized. #2 is done with her school and chores for the day so she’s lying on a bench arguing with #3 who is trying to climb out from underneath the mountain of dishes in the sink he left there since the morning. I ask 2 if she is helping her brother or making it more difficult for him to finish. She leans up and, with a big grin on her face says: “both”. I sense an ulterior motive here.

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The Hair Cut

We were talking about funny things the kids have done and I was reminded of a story. I was getting ready for church one Sunday morning and decided to cut my hair. That involves getting out the clippers, putting on the smallest attachment, and cutting it all down. Since I’ve been doing it for so long I usually do it by myself without missing anything. This particular morning I was in a hurry and did not check it as thoroughly as I should have. I left a thin line of hair going down the back of my head. Not just a few hairs either, it was about an inch and a half long. I showered, changed, dressed, had some breakfast, spoke with at least three of the kids, and then left for church without knowing. No one said a word.

I spent two hours before church in meetings, and was two hours into the actual services, when finally someone stopped me in the hall and said “you missed a spot.” He pointed it out and as I reached back it was obvious everyone had seen it. I had interacted with family, friends, and acquaintances all day at church and no one pointed it out. Why would no one say anything?

I decided to mention it to a few people and the flood gates opened. One by one, with a laugh and a grin, my friends acknowledged that they had in fact seen it and were holding back. Ok, they were friends and maybe they didn’t want to embarrass me in front of everyone, but surely they knew I would figure it out sooner or later.

The kicker came when I arrived home and asked the kids if they noticed anything about my hair that morning. Surely if a family member had noticed it they would say something. Right?

I was met with the usual blank stares for a second and then #3 giggled and said he did. After confirming that he had in fact noticed it BEFORE I left, I asked why he didn’t say anything. His reply – “I didn’t want to embarrass you.”

What!? Not embarrass me? How could letting me go off to church, stand in front of 150 people and interact with them for 3 hours with a streak of hair running down the back of my shaved head not be more embarrassing than telling me while I was at home?

Of course he had no answer, and by that time no one could contain their laughter. Apparently no one wanted to be the one to tell me.

So thanks to the friend at church who didn’t care enough about what I thought to actually point it out. Or maybe he cared more? Either way, I learned something about the lengths people will go to not embarrass someone.

And – I thoroughly check my hair after each cut.

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Image credit: 0Four/Flickr

How Movies Teach Manhood

I asked my children this question the other night: How many times do you think I have solved a conflict in my life through violence?

They sat there quietly for a moment, glancing at each other trying to avoid being called on to answer, and I let them. I wanted the question to settle in.

After a moment, my oldest son said “probably none”. Immediately the other children nodded their head in agreement. Granted, as a child I had an occasional spat with a sibling that ended with a hit or pinch or push, and there were a couple situations that almost developed into a fight as a teenager, but in no case did the violence accomplish anything.

“You’re right”, I said. “None. Now, how many times do you think I have solved a conflict by cooperating with someone else?”

Immediately they responded: “All the time.”

We don’t have cable television in our home. We don’t watch the Disney channel or Nickelodeon, or many of the other popular children’s shows and we limit television watching most of the day. My wife and I do this because what we see on that screen is not what we want our children to become, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that children who are fully immersed in popular culture have the challenges they do. It’s not a human development or “terrible teenager” thing. It’s cultural. There are plenty of examples of teenagers who are not self absorbed, conceited, disrespectful towards themselves and others, full of anger and resentment, and wanting to mimic every bad adult behavior they see.

Even though we limit television watching, we like movies. I share this talk because I think it is a great perspective on what we learn from movies. These are the stories that are influencing the lives of our children. These are the stories and images that rattle around in their heads as they develop their character. I don’t believe that all movies are bad, but I do believe that all movies are not good. We need to be deliberate about the things we watch, and as parents, we must take the lead in teaching children how to choose entertainment that is appropriate, positive, uplifting, and that teaches them how to be a cooperative adult.

http://www.ted.com/playlists/180/the_10_most_popular_tedx_talks

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Noise

We are sick. #1 told her seminary teacher this morning that we didn’t make it to church on Sunday because everyone’s sick. She wasn’t exaggerating. Seven of the nine kids and both parents are battling this virus in one stage or another. I was hopeful that it would be on the way out when I returned from my business trip, but no such luck.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do sick well. I ache from head to toe, and when everything hurts the littlest things set me off. One in particular that really gets me is noise.

I am sitting on the couch clicking through my email and #4 drops the broom. The metal handle bangs the tile sending a blast of discomfort through the air. I shoot a frustrated look in his direction and ask him to put it away. He apologizes and walks of and I return to my emails. A few minutes later #7 and 8 come into the room with handfuls of little metal matchbox cars, the kind that bounce and vibrate several times producing a terribly sharp, annoying sound when they fall on the hard floor.

I cringed at the first bang, but ignored it. The second one a few seconds later resulted in a glance in their direction. Useless at is was, since they were paying no attention to me, #8 reached down to pick up the car and dropped two. Bang. Bang.

“Oh  my goodness!” I exclaimed holding my head, unable to hold it back. “Please put the cars away.”

They looked at me, reached down to pick up the two cars, dropped three more, and then left the room.

I’m sure I’ll step on those later.

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