Turning 38

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A few weeks ago I turned 38. There’s certainly nothing magical about this age. It’s basically an age that asks “Are you ready for your 40’s?” I don’t know what my answer is. I guess, some days I am and other days I nearly hyperventilate at the thought. I do know that I’m emerging out of this idea that I have a bunch of wisdom or enlightening thoughts to share. I suppose that’s why I haven’t blogged very much this past year. Inspired thoughts in paragraph form are few and far between. Though, I have read more this year than I have since I was a kid. I used to read all the time, because what else did kids do that didn’t have a TV in the house, let alone all the crap that kids have to stare into these days (my kids included)?

I do know that I’ve been “in the moment” a lot more this year. By that I mean; noticing and embracing the little-ness of my kids. Sure they can be completely annoying and unreasonable and well, I could go on but let’s keep it fun shall we? Last night, after the boys’ swimming lessons the three of us jumped into the hot showers with our swimming suits on. As they were standing with the water dripping down their faces, just… two little boys that are short and loud and funny, I sensed the temporalness and beauty of the moment. I constantly remind myself that when Briar sits in my lap while I sit on the couch that it’s a precious short time that she’ll be so little and cuddly.

I’ve also been trying harder to notice all that Alissa does as a mom and writer. My selfishness about “me time” still gets the best of me. But I know (and Alissa knows and reminds me) that I could never do what she does day in and day out.

Bottom line: I know a blog can be anything you want it to be: a journal, an outlet, a way to teach or reach. And I haven’t had the time or the energy to do any of those things. And maybe that’s what being a 38 year old dad to little kids is; getting through the day so you can sit on the couch with your wife for a bit before you quietly crawl into your tiny spot in the bed because your wife and little daughter take up more space than they need.

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kindergarten – it’s not just for kids

Well okay, I guess it really is just for kids. There’s no way I could fit my big uhh self into one of those squares on the carpet that they sit in. Today was River’s first day of Kindergarten and as I left the school this morning I couldn’t help getting a swell of emotion as I looked back at my little guy. Standing there with his hair, where bedhead beat out the brush (I tried, I really did), and his Avengers backpack draping down past his shirt.

Of course, to 99.9% of the people there, he’s just another little kid in the mix, but I see the bouncy excitement that turned into nervous anticipation as the morning went on. I feel the potential of all the school days ahead- I remember this journey, but only from a dream that happened many, many nights ago. It’s almost like he’s sitting atop one of the longest, most crazy slides that one can imagine and just watching him look over the edge makes my stomach drop.

I own the heaviness of the moment, knowing that this is a new chapter for him, a new beginning. This, of course, means that one chapter has closed for good. There is no return. I am both happy and sad for him- for me. Perhaps it’s selfish to bestow so much emotional weight upon this young traveller, but the fact is, he changed me forever.

No, I didn’t suddenly become this selfless father with the perfect mixture of warm hugs and stern looks (all my kids would’ve really liked that, I’m sure). I still want “me” time and sometimes I get louder than I should, but the day he was born my whole existence suddenly become much bigger than just me and my dreams. His thoughts, his fears, his questions, his strengths, his insecurities, I lovingly adopt them every day as my own. Why? So that I can connect, so that I can speak his language, so that I don’t miss the cues.

Just the other day River was crying under a heating lamp with a freshly cut umbilical cord, then I changed my shirt a few times, and dropped him off at Kindergarten today. Two more times around this track and I’ll be snapping a picture of him pulling out of the driveway on his way to his senior year of high school. So yeah, I’ll pick up every cue, question, laugh, stress-session, tough conversation, and hug that I can get. He’s not my only kid, but he was my first real-life parenting class and sometimes I feel like I’m still in Kindergarten. Juice box please?

Reflecting on the first 35: Parenting

Daunting. Joyful. Recipe for astronomical success or failure. Frustrating. Revealing. And I’m only four years in! The day that River was born, everything changed. My perceived purpose on earth become clearer. Here was this little person that couldn’t open his eyes, and didn’t know one thing about his surroundings and he found comfort in MY arms. He found more comfort in Alissa’s arms and perhaps that will never change, but she deserves that.
As he began to reach for things, toys, food, distance traveled while crawling, I saw his raw desire to experience life. In his eyes, somewhere, I found a trace of myself. Perhaps even a part that I’d lost; a zeal, an excitement, a freshness.

Surprisingly, there welled up within me a ferociously protective element. I remember the first time, and I can’t remember what caused it, seeing real fear grip him. He was around two and it wasn’t a scared or knee-jerk reaction, it was an overwhelming realization of something new and frightening. It’s like I saw his little gears turning and that they discovered that he was truly alone in his experience. As he reached for me, the look on his face was burned in my mind and I knew that I would go against all things earthly and unearthly that might want to do him harm. I’ll confess that in certain moments of thought, I’ve called Abraham a complete fool if not an unfit father. That kind of faith is admirable at least and possibly attainable at most.

Perhaps the scariest thing for me is not being able to protect my sons from an inescapable flawed part of humanity: their father. My shortcomings lie bare before them in our home. If my temper flares, they feel it. If Alissa and I “discuss” things a bit more spirited than we’d like, they feel it. My motivation for cleaning up my act is high, but like a lot of things in our lives that often get pushed into that category “That’s just how I am” I find myself causally battling something takes an all-out inner war. For the record, I believe the phrase “That’s just how I am” is a direct and rebellious spit in God’s face.

One of the many ways in which I am blessed is the parenting examples that I had growing up. My mom is still tireless and passionate when it comes to helping us whenever she can. When I was younger, it was being a stay at home mom. When I was in high school it was going to my games and concerts and working in the school office. I’m pretty sure she was cooler at my school than I was. And all the things she did over the years to let me know that she was paying attention teaches me that my boys, whether they know it or not, are waiting to be payed attention to; by me.
My dad helped me actually SEE the world. Growing up in the woods of north east Kansas, he taught me how to be still and listen. He has a way of tying this event with that experience and using it to teach. Somehow he ignited in me a knowledge that everywhere I go there is something unexplored, something that someone overlooked and if I watch, and listen, I’ll find it, and it will move and grow me.
I want these things for my sons.

River is a vat of energy. He is articulate and so quick at making surprisingly complex connections. May God help me to be the kind of man that when he’s not trying to be like me, and is, he won’t get himself into trouble. Does that make sense? My favorite thing about River right now is how good he is with Rainn. It took a while, but it’s beautiful how if River thinks I’m being mean to his little bro (pulling dirt out of Rainn’s mouth) River will run at me with full intent of taking me out. I love it.

Rainn is sweetness embodied. SUCH a different start into this world. Because Alissa had to have a c-section with him, I got to be with him for the first 45 minutes or so. I feel like that got us off on a good foot. : ) He’s so tough. He HAS to be with River as his brother. No 1 year old can safely keep up with a 3 year old.

All that to say, my imperfections make me stumble as a father, but my motivation to keep going is a fire that burns higher and hotter than I ever predicted. I recognize that they will grow up much faster than I will have wanted them to and that every moment is precious. Even when all I want to do is get to work, I know that it’s good for me to re-energize so that I can be a better dad when I get home. Speaking of getting home…