Those Quiet Moments

Dear H,

You’re 8 months old, now. That still seems so young, but it has come so fast. In a blink that “months” will become “years.” You’re growing big. Eight months, but wearing size 18 months. Yeah, you’re going to be tall like your dad. Get used to bumping your head.

At eight months, one thing is for sure. You don’t like slowing down, not even for a cuddle. There’s too much to do. Too many places to explore. Too many ways to be ornery. Too many temptations to pull the cat’s tail.

Sure, now and then, you’ll stop and want to be picked up. You raise your hands now when you do. It’s cute and a sign that you’re learning new ways to communicate. But even then, you want to walk around and see what there is to be seen from a height you’ll have soon enough–eighteen brief years, give or take.

But there does come a moment in the day where your eyes begin to grow red and glazed. You yawn, showing off your two sharp little teeth. You slow down and take a pause, for once in the day.

Then we make a bottle, carry you to your room, and get ready for bed.

It’s in those moments, when the room grows quiet and still in the dark, and your bottle runs empty that you finally decide it’s time for a cuddle. You shift in my arms, wanting me to hold you against my chest so you can lay your head on my shoulder as I rock you in the small green chair.

There you close your eyes and start to drift off. Content–both you and me.

I love those quiet moments, holding you, wishing they would last forever but knowing they can’t. Soon enough, I lay you in the crib. Too soon, you’ll be too big. That’s life. That’s how things are meant to be as you grow.

Still, I’ll cherish the cuddles now, while I can.

Love,

Dad

(header image credit: Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash)

What Makes for a “High Quality” Spouse

I saw a tweet the other day from some guy attempting to instruct women on what “high quality men” look for in a partner. His list can be narrowed down to fitting his definition of attractiveness and unblemished past. On the one hand, the things on his list weren’t bad things. On the other hand, when they are used in a Pharisaical manner to impose a universal standard and to imply that those who don’t measure up are “low quality,” well, that’s just wrong.

To universalize his list is to exclude many who can, will, and have made wonderful spouses.

Why does this matter so much? Well, being a #boydad, and, as a foster dad, being a momentary dad to several other boys, it makes me look inward to ask: What am I implicitly and explicitly teaching my sons about what qualities to look for in a wife?

And there are two main things that I hope I teach my boys…

First, worry more about being a “high quality man” than looking for a “high quality woman.” Or, work on your own character before being a critic of another’s. And how do we begin to become “high quality”? By realizing that we can’t be.

That’s part of the point of the gospel story–there has only been one high quality man (Jesus) and the rest of us don’t measure up. We all fall short of the perfect standard that God requires of us. That is why we need Jesus. It’s either gaining his perfect righteousness by faith and a grace-gift of God or it’s nothing.

Grace is the key word here. When we realize that we need the grace of God in Jesus in order to be pure and righteous before God it humbles us. It humbles us as it enables us to keep growing in character as the Holy Spirit works in us. It also humbles us as we realize that the same grace we have received we need to show toward others.

The simple truth is, as a man, I will never be a perfect husband. I can strive to be the best husband that I can be, but I will never be the husband my wife truly needs and deserves. I trust that she will be gracious to me and my flaws as we walk the road of life together. This also means that no woman will ever be a perfect wife. One of my roles as a husband, then, is to show the same grace that I constantly need.

Second, I can teach my boys to look for the one great quality in a spouse that matters more than any. I can teach each boy to look for a woman who loves Jesus more than she loves him. I want my boys to marry into a partnership where they pursue God together. That means that above anything else there must be that deep love for Jesus. That’s the great command that Jesus gave, after all–love others deeply, yes, but love God supremely (Matthew 22:35-40).

Certainly, I want my boys to find wives who love them deeply. Indeed, who love them more deeply than they love anyone else on earth. But I also want my boys to find wives who understand that marriage is only temporary for our season on this present earth. While it still matters greatly, the eternal matters more (Matthew 22:23-30).

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Image credit: Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Random Dad Thoughts…

Here’s a collection of random, recent thoughts and observations I’ve had as a dad.

The cat plays with the baby’s toys and the baby plays with the cat’s toys. Seems about right.

My son unties my shoe and then crawls into the other room. I’m pretty sure he knows exactly what he’s doing–trying to slow daddy down. Sorry, son, it still didn’t work.

One does not have to be a preteen to be a “know it all.” It starts as soon as they learn to communicate.

I am now 99.9% convinced that boys have a gene that predisposes them to gross things. Never, before having boys in the house, did I think I would have to so often say, “Stop licking… [insert: the door, the house, your arm pit, your brother, the table, etc.].” (And I think I blocked out this part of my own childhood.)

I must be getting older. I’ll never understand the fascination kids have about watching people on YouTube playing video games they could be playing themselves. In fact, their obsession with this whole YouTube thing… Oh, wait, somebody shared a video on Facebook about a dog being funny, give me a minute. Okay, what was I saying?

Babies blowing raspberries are adorable. Until it is your own baby that you taught to blow raspberries doing it while you’re feeding him.

Farting is not as funny as you think. Why are you laughing? No, stop. Do not… *sigh* Did you just fart again? Now, repeat twenty times. Sixty, if school is out. I do not get paid enough for this.

It’s always best to watch a movie first before you show it to your children. Yes, that way you know what’s in it and whether or not it is appropriate. But more importantly, so you can have enjoyed it yourself before you get inundated with a string of questions that lasts the entire run time.

When a 6 year old asks you why something is, you can try to explain it to them, only to have them ask again and again. Or, you can simply say, “Because of magic from Narnia,” and they’ll accept it the first time. Lesson learned.

In all seriousness, though, I wouldn’t trade the dadding thing for all the riches in the world. (Except maybe in that lingering moment, right after a child has passed gas beside you for the tenth time in an hour.)

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Image Credit: Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

I thought about naming this post…

So, A received a chess and checkers set for Christmas. He asked the other day if I wanted to play a game of chess. I told him that I had another idea. We set up the board chess on one side and checkers on the other. It was fun, though he played the chess and I played the checkers and he kicked my rear.

Trying to think of a name, I thought, “What would you call a game like this? Chesskers, of course.” I thought about naming this post that and writing about how we made up this crazy game.

I decided, though, to google the term first. And sure enough… There is nothing new under the sun.

There is an official Chesskers site with rules and all (slightly different than what we came up with). Chesskers it out if you want to know more. (Sorry about that, um, attempt at a bad pun.)

But here’s the thing: Even if you later find out your game and name already exist in some form, take time to play some crazy games with the kids, even if you lose.

(I did get my revenge, 7-2 tic-tac-toe on the back of the board, not counting the ties.) 😉

The Simple Joys

I love watching my two-month-old son. Truth be told, there is a lot he still doesn’t do. He eats, he sleeps, he poops, he cries… Though he’s begun to make various sounds, the first of his “baby talk,” and he smiles and grabs, and he’s starting to hold his head up a little more.

But there’s one thing he does that seems to be his favorite. When he’s not tired or hungry (i.e. he’s in a good mood), we can lay him down and he gets a content look on his face as he swings his arms wildly and kicks his legs.

The blur means he’s happy.

Now, we would think it strange if we walked up on an adult doing the same. As we grow, there are childish things that we, rightfully, leave behind. At the same time, watching my son is a reminder of the contentment and joy that can be found in the simple.

It’s an idea contrary to our consumer culture. The whole point of most commercials we see on TV or pop-up ads online is to create within us a sense of dissatisfaction. “Oh, you think you’re happy–well check out this new car, home, toy, restaurant, computer, exercise bike, whatever–you’re missing out!”

If those behind the advertising are good at their jobs, then at the end of the commercial we are less happy and satisfied than when it began. Jealousy kicks in at what our neighbor has and we don’t. The seed gets planted and we can’t get it out of our minds until we purchase the new thing.

And it satisfies, at least for a minute, until the next commercial airs with the next model of whatever we just bought.

Truth be told, though, there is more lasting joy in the simple things; a sense of satisfaction that can be found walking a trail, sitting by a lake, staring at the stars, or watching a two-month-old wildly swing his arms without a care in the world.

He looks like me…

We first saw our son on the ultrasound at 6-weeks. A tiny human being developing in what looked like a speck. Yet, his heart beat as a rapid flash on the screen, pumping blood to what would soon be arms and legs, a mouth, eyes, and a brain. We didn’t even know he was a he, but my imagination still soared–who would this child look like? What would his personality be?

We saw him again at 13-weeks. It was still too early to know his gender, but he looked clearly more like a human should. We saw his head and nose, and little arms and legs. Two months passed and we learned we were having a boy. A tiny person jumped and spun in black and white on the screen. Still, I wondered, What will he look like?

Nine months of wondering as he grew in the womb. When he was born, from the moment I first laid eyes on him, it was obvious: He looked like me.

This is not unusual, as many sons resemble their fathers. It’s still weird at times, though, staring down while I hold him in my arms, seeing a face that looks so familiar, sans age and a beard, yet belongs to someone else.

He looks like me and now I wonder how much he will act like me.

I ponder four decades, and there are plenty of highs yet also some deep lows. There are things I have done well, yet things I could have done much better or said better and people that I should have treated better.

I want him to have my strengths and avoid my mistakes.

Although, I know, even if he does, there will be plenty of mistakes he will make on his own.

But this is what fathering is, right? Guiding a child toward adulthood, my boy as he grows to be a man, trying to direct him to wise choices, to love people well, and to think more of others than he does of himself. Yet also seeing him stumble and fall, seeing him make mistakes–some that are new and some that seem all too familiar. But then offering him a hand to help him back up and keep pressing on to become the man he is meant to be.

He looks like me. At times, I’m sure, he’ll act like me for better or worse. My hope is he ends up a much better man than me.

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That Helpless Feeling

A few weeks ago, we faced the unexpected: Our not-even-three-week-old baby spiked a fever that wouldn’t break. A trip to the emergency room was followed by being admitted into a children’s hospital for a three-day stay. Fortunately, the problem proved to be a virus that simply needed time to pass.

But in the midst of the wait, there was one feeling, for me at least, that was strong: helplessness.

Life is precious. Life is also vulnerable. You learn both as a new parent.

We like to think that we are strong and in control. We like to think that we can provide safe spaces for our children where no harm will befall them. But then things happen in life and our illusions of strength shatter.

I watched as they poked, prodded, and drew blood and spinal fluid from my baby boy. I listened as the doctors explained how they would aggressively treat his condition as they waited for test results, in case their worst fears were realized. I sat awkwardly in a chair and held my son with wires and tubes running from him to machines.

I was present but I was helpless. I couldn’t make his fever break. I couldn’t speed up the clock for answers. I couldn’t make my boy better.

I could hold him. I could sit with my wife as she held him. And I could pray.

One positive that came from that helpless feeling was the reminder that even though I’m not in control, God is. That reminder deepens the reality of the prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come your will be done.”

Not every moment in life resolves positively, at least in a way that we can see in the here-and-now. Thank God for those moments that do, but the fact they don’t is part of the reality of living in a broken world. Yet, in those moments of deep helplessness, however they resolve, God is there for his children and God will carry us through.

That is the essence of Psalm 23, after all. There’s quiet plains and still waters but there’s also the dark valleys of the shadow of death, yet, God is there.

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Confessions of a “New” Dad

I’m about to hit the two week mark of being a “new” dad. I put new in quotes, because as a foster dad, I’ve been a dad-for-a-season to five kids, but mid-June my wife gave birth to our firstborn. The youngest foster kid we’ve had was nine months old, but I get the privilege of being daddy to H since birth.

Here’s a few things that I’ve learned over these past two weeks:

1. Diapers aren’t that bad. Granted, I’ve had the experience of other kids in diapers, so I’m not new to the game. Some individual diapers are pretty nasty, but as a whole, changing diapers isn’t horrible. It’s a reality. You gotta deal with them, so you deal.

2. Nothing prepares you for the one-in-the-morning scream fests. You know it happens. Every parent talks about it. You’re asleep, finally able to get some rest, and then the baby goes full-bore into scream mode. You change his diaper, he screams. You rock him, he screams. You sing to him, he screams. You feed him, he eats, seems satisfied, you lay him back in the crib, and he screams. Yeah. It doesn’t matter how many stories you’ve heard, it’s a shock to the system.

3. My wife is a whole lot stronger than me. She carried our little man for nine months. For our six day, five night stay in the hospital, she did all the work. I held her hand and offered words of support. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. She’s been the rock star in this thing, I’m the roadie. Husbands, appreciate your wives.

4. It’s weird holding a mini version of me. Sometimes kids look like their dads. Sometimes they look like their moms. Sometimes they look like Great Uncle Jack or Second Cousin Sue. H is a spitting image of me. There are times when I’m holding him that I’ll look down and see the infant version of my face staring back (or the closest thing possible to the infant version of my face). It’s kinda fun and it’s also kinda weird.

5. The sweet moments are some of the best parts of life. No, I’m not talking about the scream-fests above. There’s the quiet moments where I’m reclining in the chair with H on my chest, passed out and cuddled close. It’s pretty darn sweet.

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