Dear Little One

This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

This may be surprising to hear, but I like to write. I know…I know it’s crazy right. A blogger who likes to write? Well, it’s true. I enjoy trying to make my thoughts and ideas come together to create a story or narrative that hopefully someone else can read and feel connected to. It is one of the best ways that I can express my feelings and thoughts and offers me a bit of catharsis. Continue reading

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My Rose

Life has a way of testing your breaking points

It often knows when you are least able to handle another trial Continue reading

Stay-at-home

I’ve always known that being a stay-at-home parent is a JOB…it’s not easy, it’s not just playing with kids all day…it’s work. Often very fun and rewarding work, but also often stressful, loud and unendingly frustrating. I’ve always respected and admired my wife’s sacrifice of her career to stay home, but some days I get reminded of how tough it can be and how stressful it is.

This morning, while taking time off from work because my wife was sick I received one of these reminders. While my wife went to sleep to hopefully feel better, I was thinking that my daughter was tired and ready for her nap so I laid her down in her rocker and started to play legos with my son at his request. After a few minutes it became clear she wasn’t quite ready for her nap and really wasn’t sure what she wanted. I tried to soothe her and then my son and I tried to play with her for a while to calm her down. This worked briefly but eventually all my efforts were futile. She started really crying and didn’t want anything I was offering. I was thinking she might want to nurse, but it hadn’t been that long since her last meal and my wife really needed to sleep. Meanwhile my son was doing what three year olds do when not directly supervised with legos, which always annoys me since I’m a kid at heart and a just-slightly less strict version of Will Ferrell from the Lego Movie when it comes to legos. My stress level rose and my tone with my son became more harsh.

In that moment I realized my wife does this every day, all day five days a week and does it really well. I knew this already, but in that moment I knew it and understood how difficult it really was.

I am happy to say that I did eventually calm my daughter down, kept my son happy (and from breaking all the legos), and kept my wife asleep. I don’t bring this last part up because I think I deserve congratulations or kudos. In reality I was simply doing my job as a dad and doing for just a few hours what my wife and lots of other stay-at-home moms and dads do all day, every day. It was a reminder to me how awesome my wife is, how difficult her job is, and how blessed I am 😊

This is fatherhood…

Paternity Leave

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to take some extended time to meet and get to know my brand new baby girl and so I thought I’d write a little a bit about how amazing this was for me and how I hope in the future this becomes a much more common option for men.

I’m well aware that paid paternity leave doesn’t exist for a lot of men and a lot of jobs.  I’m extremely thankful to my current organization for providing this option for me and allowing me to take advantage of it even with some legal changes soon to take effect that will force our organization to change some of its policies, including this one.  I’m also very grateful to my coworkers in my office for supporting me when I was gone, allowing me to relax and focus on my family.

Let me start by saying that this was most definitely not a vacation.  For most of it I was quite sleep deprived and fighting feelings of grumpiness towards my son who enjoys waking up before 6am, being loud and wanting to play…all things that are quite normal toddler behavior, but aren’t necessarily conducive to other people in the house getting sleep, especially when considering that there are others in the house who were up every 2-3 hours during the night feeding and caring for the baby.  However, my son and I had lots of fun and learned to manage our grumpiness toward each other and help keep the others asleep.  We had lots of fun together and I was able to give him a lot of one-on-one attention that I’m usually only able to give on weekends and the hours before and after work.

I also was able to spend good chunks of time marveling at, holding and changing diapers for my new little girl.  I can’t tell you how important each of those things are to bonding with her.  If I hadn’t been home with her these first couple of weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to take those midday naps while holding her, the two of us sleeping and cuddling…I wouldn’t have been there to experience firsthand the ups and downs of worrying about getting your child back to their birth weight and worrying about jaundice, and I wouldn’t have been able to see my amazing toddler absolutely embrace and love becoming a big brother.  If I hadn’t had the opportunity to take paternity leave, I would have received all of this secondhand, in small doses, and with my thoughts split between trying to be fully present with my family and unwinding from the stress of the busy season at work as well.

I also would have missed out on witnessing my warrior wife continue to amaze me with her strength and perseverance.  New moms are completely wiped out after the birth process and get absolutely no time to rest as they have to constantly feed and worry about feeding, take care of themselves, and take care of this brand new little one while also still trying to be a good mom to their other children.  My wife worked really hard to give our daughter what she needs and still make time to cuddle, read and play with our son.  She is a terrific mom and continues to impress me with her endurance and resolve.

While it would seem like with two adults and two kids we would be evenly matched in reality that’s just not the case.  Thankfully my wife’s mom has been with us as well and has been a tremendous help, especially taking care of my wife and helping with the feeding and medicine schedules.  We are so grateful to her for coming and taking care of us and helping to take care of the kids while we all adjust to this new crazy life.

My paternity leave has been such a blessing and given me time with my daughter and family that I truly needed.  I’m so grateful that I was able to give everything to my family these last couple weeks and will cherish the time that I had.  I encourage every soon to be dad to look into their options and ask or request time off for paternity leave.  There is something special that happens in those first couple of weeks of adding a family member that you just cannot get back and don’t want to miss.  I sincerely hope our country’s businesses, organizations, government and health systems find a way to prioritize a standard paid policy for all fathers to spend time with their kids away from work at birth, because it has meant so much to me and I feel strongly that every dad should get the chance to experience it.

This is fatherhood…

“Boys will be boys”

I was thinking about this topic before but with my daughter here now I feel it’s even more pertinent. This phrase and the culture that seems to excuse and justify male actions by shaming females or blaming the victims has got me worried.

One of my favorite things to do on a fall Saturday is watch college football. It’s something I’ve done for a long time. But I have been getting more and more bothered and worried by the amount of rape and assault cases coming out of college campuses and the amount that seems to be perpetrated and frequently covered up by athletes and athletic departments. If I were a father of a teenage daughter right now I would be very much looking into a school’s track record in this area and frankly terrified of even sending my daughter off to college with how prevalent it seems across the country.

It also shocks me how many people are ok with keeping it quiet and saying “well she shouldn’t have been there” or “she was asking for it” and basically giving these men who committed terrible, violent crimes a pass perhaps because they “have a bright future” and “they shouldn’t be defined by this one mistake”. The women who are violated or assaulted never get to forget that “mistake” and their future is forever altered. This cannot be justified!

I know that I can’t and won’t speak for what this really means and feels like from a female perspective, but thinking about something like this happening to my daughter from a father’s perspective makes me boil with anger and fear. As a dad it’s my job to protect my little girl until she’s old enough to look out for herself…and even then I’ll still want to protect her! So thinking and fretting about something like this happening I fear will be a constant and prevalent worry on my mind.

That’s not to say I can’t do anything though…first I feel it’s my job to instill confidence and self-worth in my daughter from a young age. I hope to encourage her to define herself by who she is and what she enjoys and can do, rather than letting herself be defined or dictated by men. I want to encourage her that when she starts to date that she look for a partner, not a knight or a hero, someone who will love her and serve her and fight for her. Only her and God decide what her strengths and limits are.

It’s also my duty to make sure my son understands this as well.  I want him to be respectful and courteous to women and to see women as partners and equals rather than subordinates.  I don’t want him to blame his shortfalls or mistakes on a woman’s dress or actions.  As a man, I know what goes through a dude’s head…I know how hard it is to keep thoughts and eyes pure; I struggle with it every day.  Don’t blame someone else for a mistake you make son…you control where your eyes linger, you control what thoughts enter your brain.  Women are not objects here to entertain men; they are not asking to be stared or gawked or whistled at.

As with most everything that I’ve written about this comes back to me and my actions.  I need to model this in my own life with my wife and the women in my world.  I need to show both my son and my daughter how I feel a husband should treat his wife.  I need to show them both how to encourage, empower and serve rather than demean, belittle and dominate.  I need to talk with them…frequently…answer their questions honestly, and be extra prepared for “the talk” when the time comes.

This is a crazy, messed up, broken world…and I’m going to be sending my children out into it.  God grant me strength, wisdom and the ability to calm my fears and worries because I’m seeing more and more that they aren’t unfounded.

This is fatherhood…

Better half

One of my most important jobs as a dad is to show my son how to treat women, and more specifically, how to treat a spouse. He can already pick up on the feeling of tension, watches my every action, and listens to every word, so it’s really important that I show him as frequently as I can how I believe a person should treat their spouse.  As the primary male influence in his life I have a huge impact on how he perceives himself, and how a man acts toward his partner.  I strongly believe that how I act now, and throughout his growing-up will resonate with him as begins his own journey into adulthood.

Luckily, I have been blessed with an amazing wife who is also a terrific parenting partner.  We work together as a team to make sure that we are presenting the same message to him and so that he understands he can’t try to play one of us against the other.  My wife is a great mother, who also finds the time to be a supportive and loving spouse as well.  She makes it easy for me to want to work hard and strive to be a better man and a better partner to her.

My wife and I are a team.  Neither of us is above the other, and we approach every decision and crossroads as a united front, praying and discussing together what we should do.  A lot of this came about naturally through our personalities and hard work as a married couple before kids, but was affirmed and solidified after having our son and influenced by a powerful podcast my wife shared with me that I’ve linked here.  The podcast is a bit long but well worth the listen for couples and really gave me some good insights on our roles as husband and wife.

I hope that I have already influenced my son positively in this area, and I know that I will get plenty more chances as we go along.  I think this can be an often overlooked aspect of fatherhood as when people think of fatherhood it’s natural to think mainly of the day to day duties of being a dad, and I know it can be easy to lose track of paying attention to your significant other in the craziness of parenting.  But, if being a dad is about guiding and encouraging my son along his life journey, then it is very important that I give him all the tools he needs, and that means showing him how I feel women should be treated and how I feel a person should treat their better half.

And just as important as showing him good behavior, I feel, will be me showing him how to atone when I haven’t lived up to standards and need to be called out.  As I’ve mentioned before…one of the most important lessons I can teach my son is how to own mistakes and say “I’m sorry”.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve had to do this, but I know that one of the reasons that my wife continues to love and put up with me is because I have acquired this skill, and then also make a concerted effort to not make the same mistake again.

Being a spouse is hard work…being married is hard work.  I want my son to know and understand that.  It won’t be easy, and it won’t work out if you don’t put in the effort. I will make sure he hears and hopefully understands what I feel sums up the best advice I can give on loving your spouse…make sure to never stop working and trying to show and tell the person that you love how much they mean to you.

This is husbandhood…This is fatherhood…

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