children

A New Normal

We recently had another baby.

Recently? She's three and a half months old. I'm not sure that's recent, exactly.

I've been reeling ever since. I knew that it would be an adjustment, that my life would have to expand to include another life, but I feel as though I've been thrust back to the very beginning of parenthood. I keep telling myself, We've done this twice before. We should have this down by now.

We do not. I do not.

Having the first child was like being schooled in my own selfishness. You know that feeling of reading a really good book, and then someone walks into the room, oblivious to the fact that you're reading (a really good book) and asks you a question? You try a short answer and get back to the paragraph you were reading. But there's the inevitable follow-up question. Then back to the book. Another question, usually something along the lines of Are you even listening to me? And now you're not even sure where you are on the page, so with a passive-aggressive sigh you mark your page and reluctantly engage in the conversation.

Having the first kid was like that. Moment by moment I was confronted with the decision: Will I tend to the needs of this little defenseless boy, to the needs of my tireless wife, to the needs of having us all fed and mostly clothed and presentable in public, or will I continue doing the things I've always done? More often than not, I think, I made the right choice, but I was conscious of the decision every time. Some days I just craved the chance to do whatever it was I wanted to do, to get back to my book, so to speak. Denying myself and choosing generosity—of time, attention, rest, agenda—never came naturally because the things that come naturally are usually quite a bit less holy than what I've been called to be.

Then, after a few months or years or something, I began to get back a little of what I wanted, a little bit of the rhythms and rituals I was used to. I was able to sneak in a chapter here and there before I had to press the bookmark between the pages again.

Then along came baby number two.

Chaos. Although this time, in less time than the first time, I felt like I was able to recover. Life was different, but I found an equilibrium a little faster.

Now though, since the arrival of baby number three, it's as if the book has been placed on some high unreachable shelf in the corner of some room I haven't set foot in for three and a half months. When people ask us how we're doing our answer is often, Oh, we're just trying to find our new normal. But what sort of makes my eyes go wide is the very real possibility that we've already found it. Our new normal (at least for now) is that there just isn't a lot of (read: any) me time because loving these kids is full time. And I'm trying to embrace it, learn from it, and revel in it because my kids are making me a better me, and together we're a better us.

So the book will sit awhile longer, and that's okay because I've been told that once I finally come back to it in a few years I'll probably find myself disappointed that the story written there is a lot less fierce, and funny, and frightening, and full of wonder than the one I've had the chance to live.

Fatherhood Is...

Fatherhood is...

always being on. hilarious. nerve-wracking. being tired all the time. the reality that sick days aren't nearly as relaxing as they used to be. fascinating. choosing to engage no matter how hard, long, or frustrating the day has been. noisy. eye-opening. an immense privilege. heart-opening. another reason to pray...a lot. holy.

Fatherhood is trying as hard as you possibly can at something and still never being sure you're getting it right.

But it's full of these moments that seem so simple, moments that would likely wind up on the cutting room floor of any sappy movie's musical montage. But they're moments when your heart gets so full that time seems to stand still as you desperately try to record it's nuances in the part of your mind that battles with the broken world around us by holding on to all the heaven we get to glimpse on earth.

Wonder-full moments.

Today, in the middle of lunch Ellis spontaneously gave me a hug and said, “I love you, Daddy.” Sure, it was nearly unintelligible, but she said it.

Tonight at dinner we enjoyed a childhood-meal-of-dreams: hot dogs, peaches, baked beans, strawberries, and cookies. At some point Finnden decided his half-eaten strawberry was a volcano that was spewing "hot wava" in my face. Ellis squealed with delight and joined the game, each of them taking turns pointing their strawberry halves at me and making noises that sounded more like a laser battle than a volcano eruption. I made sure they got a good reaction out of me each time, and they giggled until tears were streaming down their faces.

Last night after church there were fireworks around the lake. It was a perfect summer night—seventy-five degrees or so, a nice breeze, just a few clouds in the sky to catch the colors of the setting sun, and the buzz of a mosquito or two just to remind us that Adam and Eve really did wreck everything. Karen, the kids, and I sat on a blanket right at the lake's edge as we waited for the sun to set and the show to begin. Finnden helped us keep time by asking every 30-seconds if the show was about to start. Suddenly the night erupted into booms, sizzles, colors, and light. Halfway through the show I leaned back and propped myself up on my elbows. Within a minute or two both kids had leaned back against my chest, perfectly content. Moments like these—the almost unnoticeable weight of their tiny heads against my chest, the sparkles reflecting in their eyes, their little gasps at the biggest of the booms—they are simply amazing and amazing in their simplicity.

My life is filled with more of these kinds of moments than I could ever have hoped for due to those two little ones. And these kinds of moments happen every single day. Some of them are as full of frustration as these are of joy, but for all the work it is being a dad—and even with all the self-doubt I often feel—I love it.

I love seeing their eyes light up in ways I never expected. I love finding the things they find funny. I love gazing into the mystery of them being a little bit me and entirely distinct people altogether. I love that they help me discover wonder in places where I stopped looking a long time ago. I love that they fill up my time, my thoughts, and my heart as much as they do. I love each of them. I love being a dad.

Fatherhood is a gift.