“Dad” – the best honorary title I’ve ever been given

It’s Father’s Day. The day that Hallmark invented because men were feeling a little left out because of all the Mother’s Day hoopla. It’s true. The dollars spent on Father’s Day pale in comparison to what we fork over on Mother’s Day gifts, cards and flowers. Of course, mothers deserve more respect and reverence (and stuff, I suppose) if for no other reason than enduring childbirth. I was in the room for a couple of those. I’d take a double hernia any day!

Still, dads have some tough stuff to do, too. As dads we change our share of poopy diapers and mop up puke and wipe away tears. Some of us taught our kids how to ride a bike or drive a car. Some of us have instilled great wisdom in our young charges. Some of us are models of virtue, faithfulness, patience and courage. But most of us are just trying to make it through to another day.

Did you ever take your 13 year-old daughter swimsuit shopping and have to examine in detail nearly 100 swimsuits all of which “weren’t quite right”? Or have to sit through your 9 year-old’s ‘Parent-Teacher Conference’ and listen to Junior’s litany of sins while realizing that your kid is smarter than this teacher? Or did you ever have to fish something out of the latrine at boy scout camp that your son couldn’t manage to hold on to, and find yourself screaming, “Why the hell did you have that in here in the first place!” These experiences are not for the faint of heart. It takes a real man. It takes a Dad.

I’ve been blessed. God has chosen me to be a Dad. Somehow with limited intellect and no training or background in child development I was able to plod through this journey of fatherhood. My efforts were, at best, questionable and my mistakes as countless as the stars. Still my results were beyond my imagining. Three amazing humans walk this earth that I have the joy of calling my children. They are loving, caring, capable people who you would be better for knowing. So if a dumb-dumb like me can pull off a feat like this, there is hope for all of humanity.

Being called Dad is an honor and it is one that I treasure with my whole being.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads, stepdads, foster dads, mentors, and men who make a difference in the lives of children.

Peace,

Denis

Baby’s Breath

2:00 AM and the baby is crying. It requires every fiber of my being to pull myself out of my dream of being single and carefree and childless. When I finally realize that my beautiful wife has finally drifted off to much-needed sleep and is even more exhausted than I am, I rouse myself and stumble into the nursery, There he is. Warm, wet and bawling his little blue eyes out. I change what by now must be the 10,000th diaper and look at that face which is a startling reflection of my own. Why did we do this? What were we thinking?

Shh! Shh! Shh! I plead with the 2:00 AM screamer, hoping that he won’t wake the five year-old and three year-old who will be bounding out of bed in mere hours wanting breakfast and love and attention. I wonder then if the milk is bad and if we have enough cereal in the pantry. I know I’m running short on attention but I remember that I’ve been told (or read in Reader’s Digest or some other scholarly tome) that love multiplies it never divides. And so I trudge on.

I pick up the squaller and cradle him in my arms and I am overwhelmed by the sweet aroma of baby’s breath. That sweetness is nearly miraculous and I am humbled and frightened because fatherhood is a daunting responsibility.  I carry him to his mother’s arms and lie down next to them. Suddenly everything seems manageable. Somehow we will make this work. 

As I dose off to blessed sleep, I think of the young nurse in the hospital, who just a few short months before, was surprised how happy and excited we were when learning that this was our third child. Perhaps she had never smelled sweet baby’s breath or had never experienced the soul-transforming power of a tiny heart beat next to her own. 

Family

1983

Our baby boy was born on the day after Father’s Day in 1983. But that moment; those memories, were yesterday, and today, and tomorrow and will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Peace,

Denis

Faking Fatherhood

I became a father at twenty-three. To say that I was clueless would be an huge understatement. Not only did I not know what I was doing, I didn’t think I needed to know anything. Within five years we had two more kids. My knowledge of fatherhood had not increased. I pretended to comprehend the magnitude and seriousness of fatherhood with it’s wisdom and overwhelming responsibility for nurturing and molding young minds and bodies. But I was just faking it.

Don’t get me wrong. I was knee-deep in diapers and feedings and bath time rituals and nighttime prayers and all the rest. I was a hands-on dad. I wiped up puke and dealt with tantrums, and frantic searches for lost pacifiers. But didn’t know any of the “important stuff”. How could I be a father when I could barely take care of myself? When I tucked those babies in at night I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for patience. I prayed that I wouldn’t screw things up too badly. But I was just faking it.

Then came the school years with sports and science projects and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts and all the rest. The kids had homework that I couldn’t possibly do. They played sports that I couldn’t have played as a no-talent, last-to-be-picked-for-a-team kid. I went on Boy Scout camping trips that I hated. And I just kept faking it.

Years flew by and the kids grew up and became adults. Off to the Air Force. Off to college. Down the aisle. I sighed (and cried) but I put on a brave face and big smile and faked it. They weren’t ready for what was coming their way because I hadn’t done my job. I hadn’t prepared them for adulthood. And I just kept faking it.

family

Faking it big time!

Now I have grandkids and I’m still faking it – the wisdom part; the knowledge part; the Fatherhood expertise part; I still fake all that. But the love; the love is real. And LOVE is amazing because it makes up for all my other shortcomings. Love lets me fake all the rest. And so I began faking it the day that baby boy was placed in my arms. Because love is all that really ever mattered.

And being a father is the greatest gift I was ever given. Turns out that you don’t have to be worthy, or brilliant or patient or knowledgeable, just loving…

Peace,

Denis