This week I was going to write about being a Christian and working in retail. But, my second child was born this past weekend, and I spent the afternoon I planned on writing my post holding my newborn. So, I’ll save that planned topic for a different time. Instead of a post on consumerism and conscience, I’ll grace you with my heart and mind’s freshly imprinted impressions of birth, fathering, and staying at home. Because this is a post based in impressions, it will be a series of somewhat random thoughts joined only by the theme of parenting.
It’s amazing how different the experience was between the birth of my son two years ago and the birth of my daughter last weekend. The birth of my son is a complete blur in my memory. I remember some vivid images of our time in the hospital, like holding him for the first time, and wondering at the strength and beauty of my wife. I recall Mr. Jones, by Counting Crows, playing itself over and over in my head for the duration of her sixteen hour labor (Mr. Jones showed me some of “that Spanish dancing” and passed me his “bottle” at least a hundred and fifty times that night). One of the best ways I can explain the difference between the two experiences for me is a sports analogy. When your playing a sport (it could be any type) each time you move up a level the game speeds up and you have to learn how to keep up with the new pace. In other words, when you move from jv to varsity you better learn how to move, think, react, and see the field faster. Usually it takes a full season before the game slows down again. I think this picture can apply accurately to life in many ways. When I got married life sped up to a new level. It took awhile, but eventually I could keep up with it. Then we had our son. And life sped up drastically again. After a while I learned how to live at this new level of life. So, when my daughter was born, I was accustomed to living at the speed of fathering and was able to take in and process more than I was able to the first time. This allowed me to enjoy the whole experience in a really awesome and new way.
One of the things I do clearly remember from when my son was born was the way a few of the nurses treated me differently because I was male. We live in a time and place where it isn’t uncommon for young fathers to abandon wife and child and single mothering is commonplace. I’m young, and look even younger than I am and I think that when the nurse looked at me she wrote me off as just another dude who got a girl pregnant. I’m not a dude who just got a girl pregnant. But in our culture, because of our collective track record, if you’re a young man, you are guilty until you’re proven innocent. I remember this hitting me really hard at the time. I knew I was going to be a good father because I have a good dad, many people have invested into me. But the average young father probably doesn’t have one, or both, of these positive voices in his life, and so he is treated (not openly, but subconsciously) like he is going to fail. And then he often does. I found myself trying to “show off” a little to one specific nurse, trying to prove that I had what it takes and that I loved my wife. How completely ridiculous and pointless. It was a silly battle for me to wage, but it did reveal some insecurity for me to face.
This time I didn’t get the feeling that any of the nurses were questioning me. Maybe it’s because I have a two year old son already, maybe I look older, or maybe I just didn’t care. Anyways, that insecurity wasn’t there and it was just good to be Dad.
Within the last six months our family has made some major shifts that have opened up new doors for us in parenting. The major shift is that I transitioned from working full-time in construction (long days, long hours) to staying at home and working part-time. My wife took a job as an RN part-time (she had previously stayed home with our son) and we co-provide and are able to both spend a lot more time together and with our kids. This shift has been so awesome for our family. I’ve seen new places of growth in each of our spirits and, like I said, some pretty sweet doorways of intimacy open for us as a family.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called Mr. Mom over the last four months. It doesn’t really bother me, but I do find it interesting and sad. Our society’s (I’m including the church) understanding of parenting is really narrow. I could no more be “Mom” than I can jump over the moon. I can be one thing, and one thing only, to our kids. I can be Dad. If I’m working…I’m Dad. If I’m home…I’m Dad. Period. None of this Mr. Mom bull. If your reading this and you’ve made a Mr. Mom comment to me, I’m by no means calling you personally out. Seriously, at least thirty different people have made some kind of reference to it. But, I’m not playing Mom. I’m Dad, and this is how my family has heard from God that I am to act as Father to my children.
Men really don’t know how to handle physical beauty in women. We so often try to control it and end up at a porn site, or try and ignore it, and end up completely missing the person in front of us and religiously objectifying her anyways. I’m very much in the midst of learning how God would have me view feminine beauty properly. I know it isn’t to control it and I know it isn’t to ignore it. I’m excited and concerned to walk this journey with my daughter. I’ve just been called into a whole new level of stewarding beauty. She already melts my heart and I feel such deep emotion and passion towards her. I want to help my son with this too, and I’m really glad he has a sister. It has helped me so much to have two younger sisters that I love. Helps keep things in perspective as a young man.
I’ve hardly scratched the surface of my recent impressions, but I’ve reached the agreed word count. I’m so thankful that I’m a dad. Emotion, heart connection, deep feeling, and love are strength. If your a dad (or called to be one) remember this today.