Thursday, April 24, 2014

Double digits

“Does it feel like we’ve been parents for ten years?”

It’s the kind of question your wife asks the night before your oldest son’s tenth birthday. My reply was quick and blunt.


I feel I wear each of those ten years on my face, or in a few grey hairs — and most certainly in my caffeine consumption. This is not a complaint. I love all four of our boys and often feel real life began the day we learned we’d be parents. About a year before I met Kristie I realized how much I valued family and desired to be a father. I continue to be amazed life unfolded precisely along that path and try as best I can to live in gratitude for those specific blessings.

Yet wanting to be a parent is a hair different from actually walking miles in those shoes. The last decade has offered plenty of the experiences I anticipated (such as yesterday’s kindergarten soccer practice or tonight’s fourth-grade open house) and dozens I could never have predicted (including, but in no way limited to, our various emergency room visits).

We don't quite fit as well on the same couch these days.
Thinking back over the last ten years, I’m starting to understand how it’s possible for those everyday details, so memorable as they happened, to kind of blend into general memories organized by life stage — infant, toddler, preschool and so on. I retain many crystal-clear recollections of individual events, but the father-son relationship with the oldest presents in my brain as something more gradually evolving than a defined timeline with explicit milestones.

I worried my son turning 10 would make me struggle with my own aging the same as turning 30 a few years ago, but it really hasn’t. (Probably because I’ve still got another two years of changing diapers.) But to think we’re more than halfway to the point where he could leave for college, that he’ll be a legal adult by the time the baby reaches fourth grade, that’s when the numbers start to intimidate.

Having open house coincide with his birthday was a treat. He was so proud to show off the slideshow he prepared for his classroom, to introduce his brothers to his teachers and give us the tour of the building. He spends more time there than at home now, and been his best school year by miles. Somewhere along the way he turned that corner all little boys do en route to the teenage years, and I can already see signs of our future struggles as he strives for independence and we yearn to protect.

Ten years gone and my children have changed me in so many ways. It’s rarely easy yet regularly rewarding. Learning to love each of them differently while adjusting my outlook on life keeps me going each day. The kids have completed and changed my life and marriage time and again, which I expect to continue over and again. I know parenting isn’t for everyone, but for me it’s my highest calling — a true gift.

A prayer for April 24:

Lord, ten years ago today, I became a father. Each day since has been its own blessing, and I thank you for trusting me with these four boys. I thank you also for using the experience of fatherhood to help me understand a faint hint of what your love is like for all creation.

I thank you for my family and ask you to watch over us. Help me, specifically, to be the kind of father you have called me to be, to not just raise my boys to be good people, but to be for them an example of your love in the world. I am grateful for the community of faith you have provided for us and overwhelmed by the undeserved blessings in our life.

Thank you also for leading me on this journey of writing and prayer. I am grateful for the opportunity. Amen.

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