There are so many things through life that help to sanctify us and bring us to our knees before our Father, but I don’t know of any as of yet that does it as well as having children. You know, when you’re single (if you’re like I was), you have your little life figured out pretty well and you’re pretty much totally selfish and self-centered because you don’t have that much else to really focus on at the time. Then you start dating someone, maybe seriously, and God starts working on your heart to show you areas you could improve so that in your sea of selfishness, you begin to think about the person next to you.
Then you get married and realize you’re a selfish jerk and give up part of yourself in order to serve and love your spouse the way they deserve. So you go along for a few years of marriage feeling pretty good about yourself because you’re a pretty good guy (or girl) and have done a good job (you think) of putting your spouse first and all that. Then BAM!!, you have your first baby. And you quickly realize after having this little mini-you that you’re still a selfish jerk and have so many areas that need work that you’re pretty much a hopeless mess! LOL So two years goes by and you kind of “get the kid thing down” so to speak and are feeling pretty good about yourself as a dad/husband combo now. Then you have your second baby and KABOOM!!!, once again, God drops a bomb in your little world and shakes it up and shows you areas that you still have not given to him and areas where you are STILL A SELFISH JERK!!! So in case you haven’t gathered, this is my personal testimony (many details removed) for the past 8 years. I am a quick learner, but am hardheaded and don’t listen very well so it takes me awhile to grown through these lessons like I probably should.
So for the sake of being totally transparent with you, I’ve had a really tough time these past four months since we had our baby girl Ellie. Harper, our son, is 2 1/2 years old and is my little buddy. I’ve loved every single stage with him as he’s grown up, but I really like this stage because I can talk to him and hang out with him and have full on conversation with him at the dinner table. I also as a dad feel more useful with him (just being honest) because when they’re little, there’s really only so much comfort I as a dad can give them before they need Cindy. Ridiculous or not, that annoys me when they’re younger. I don’t know whether it is me being a perfectionist, or an over achiever or what, but not being able to totally comfort one of my kids as an infant/baby (until this weekend) really gets on my nerves! With Ellie, it has been harder than it was with Harper. Ellie’s birth was out of this world amazing, no complaints there at all. Afterwards though, I had an impossible time connecting with her and bonding with her because with having a toddler running around, I became Harper’s right hand man and Ellie pretty much was with Cindy most of the time. She was a lot fussier at the beginning than Harper and had a hard time nursing so when she was really little, she would scream about 75%of the time. We finally figured out that she was tongue-tied and had that corrected by an awesome doc in Albany, NY and ever since then she has been much better and actually super happy. Part of the problem was that with her latch being off, she was getting a lot of air in her stomach and she was just bloated all the time and uncomfortable! But through all of that and up until this past weekend (I’ll get to that), I have found myself really angry at Ellie and not patient with her at all. I’m not proud of it, just trying to be honest, but there were times when with her fussing and screaming, I’d just have to put her on our bed and walk out for a second and let her scream her head off because I was like: “FINE, if you’r going to keep screaming, then I DON’T WANT TO LISTEN TO IT!!”. I almost felt like I was on the playground at school again: “Come on Harper, let’s go play over here because Ellie’s a crybaby and we don’t like crybabies!”. That sounds ridiculous, but I can’t describe to you (if you have more than one kid and are human you understand) how I felt on the inside. Angry….that’s really the only way I could describe it. Even though I love my daughter to death, up until recently, I could honestly tell you I didn’t like being around her all that much. Ellie showed me that I was still extremely selfish in a lot of ways and had so much to work through to be the dad and father my family needs me to be. I also was really really jealous of Ellie. That sounds crazy I know, but I got really jealous of her taking all my time from Cindy!! I love my wife, so much, and one of our favorite things is to hang out drinking tea or coffee in the living room and literally just talk and kick around ideas. That’s why we love road trips because we can just sit and talk the whole time. With Harper when he was a baby, I didn’t feel “robbed” of any time at all and didn’t feel “left out” or anything like that but for some reason with Ellie (uhhh, a problem between my ears!?!), I got really jealous of her and resented her for it. So I’ve pretty much been an all-around poopoo head about the whole thing.
This past weekend over Easter though, God smacked me in the face and got my attention and really turned me on my heel about the whole situation. See, I was doing all that and feeling all that I said earlier, but didn’t even really realize it at all and didn’t acknowledge it to anyone, including my wife. I was totally in denial and acted like nothing was wrong, but I was miserable. So I’m sitting in worship with my family and I look over and Harper is lifting his hands and praising his Savior and I just started crying. Ellie is hanging out all content in Cindy’s baby wrap and Cindy is worshipping with her eyes closed to whatever song we were on and I just started crying in my seat. At that moment I felt two things, well three 1. Realization of what had been happening, 2. Overwhelming Joy, and 3. Love. God spoke to me right in my seat and said, “See!! Look at your children. You’re harder on your family than you are anyone else. CHILL OUT and enjoy them!” He revealed the areas of my heart that were still dark and needing his healing and transformational light and he filled them with the most incredible love and joy I’ve felt in a long time!! I’ve heard older, wiser parents say to me over the years, “Yeah JB, enjoy these times and stages with your kids, I know they seem hard, but you’re going to miss these times like crazy when they’re gone.” I understand that so much better now. I don’t feel guilt or condemnation about the past 4 months because those emotions are not of God at all, He’s not a God of guilt and He’s not a God of condemnation. Instead I feel renewed and restored and MOTIVATED to love both of my kids like they deserve and to lead them like a father should. So on Sunday during service I re-committed myself as a father to my family and vowed to diligently and wholeheartedly pursue my children and love on them and show them grace and patience just like Christ does me. The other thing God spoke to me was just that: “You need to show your kids the same grace I show you.”
After church that day when we got home I held Ellie for a long time and I loved on her and I apologized to her. I told her I was sorry for being angry with her and sorry for being jealous of her and sorry that I had not been patient or graceful with her the entire time for the past few months. I promised her I was going to do better and that I loved her so much it tore at my heart and made me weak. I took Harper aside and told him I was sorry too and that daddy had been having a hard time learning how to be loving to everyone in the house and that I was going to do better. And I sat down with my wife and talked it out with her. I apologized to Cindy too and confessed to her how rough a time (boo hoo me right?? She’s the one at home with both kids all day nursing and everything!) I had been having trying to adapt and that I knew I hadn’t been as supportive of her as I should. And you know, everything’s not perfect, we’re human….but my relationship with my family has skyrocketed since Sunday. Ellie (believe it or not) is completely different since Sunday. She is happier and is self soothing herself more, and is laughing and cooing her head off.
So I’m not sharing this with you to pound myself on the chest and show off at all. I’m sharing this because we’re human and I know I’m not the only dad or parent that has struggled with this. We’re all just trying to do better as parents and to listen to the Holy Spirit and do what he leads us to do. Love on your kids today, love on your spouse. Everything else is just details…..