Friday, June 13, 2008

Wife Rule #55: The Used To's Don't Matter Anymore

I used to do a lot of stuff.

For example, I used to watch NBA games on TV. Now I spend hours each Saturday watching three of my children play soccer.

I used to spend days hiking and backpacking in remote wilderness locations. Now I spend hours coaxing and carrying my young children along much shorter, more crowded trails.

I used to spend nights sleeping so deeply that I sometimes drooled. Now I often spend nights comforting my children who aren't sleeping for one of a hundred reasons, and I'm so tired that I drool during the daytime.

I used to play basketball, volleyball, and table tennis for hours at a time. Now I play "Hot Tamale" and "Alligator" on our trampoline with my children, and I usually only last about a half hour before my guts feel like they're ready turn inside out.

I used to watch loud, explosive action/adventure movies. Now I watch a lot of Disney, Barbie, and other pink-heavy animated movies that meet the "no bad guys" requirement, with my children.

I used to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now I read a lot of dinosaur-themed and farm-themed books, according to a set routine.

I used to have free time. Now it seems that there's never enough time.

I wouldn't change a thing.

I know that what I described above will change someday. For example, I'll switch from being the Giving-Up-My-Noisy-Entertainment-Martyr, to the Reduce-the-Noisy-Entertainment-Enforcer, and finally to the Turn-It-Up-I-Can't-Hear-the-Way-I-Used-To-Gum-Smacker soon enough. I'll figure all that out when I get there. For now, I'm trying to remember to enjoy being a dad to five brilliant and highly energetic children, ages eight to two months.

Sometimes it's tempting to push as quickly as possible through Play Time, Dinner Time, Story Time, Bath Time, Bed Time, or Whatever Time, chasing the illusion of a big pile of Me Time stacked up and waiting at the end of the rush. But that's not what fatherhood is about.

Fatherhood for me has meant slowly, one by one, giving up some of the less important things in my life in favor of more important ones. And the more important ones all have names, squeaky voices, and stinky feet.

But boy am I glad that our Father in Heaven doesn't pass us over because of our stinky feet. Nor does He push us aside in pursuit of more personal time. No, it seems that His entire existence, as Creator, Provider, Protector, Nurturer, and Teacher--in other words, as Father--revolves around us.

Hopefully we remember to give a little something back sometimes. Just the other night, during our usual routine of two-year-old Andrew bouncing off the walls of his bedroom while I piously model reverence in a futile attempt to calm him down enough to kneel for his nighttime prayer, a truly sweet thing happened. I had just prompted Andrew through the "Dear Heavenly Father" part of the prayer when his face twisted up into a fearsome grimace and he growled, "I AM A LION!" The rest of his prayer was repeated in a loud, growly, lion voice:

Me: "I thank Thee for this day."

Andrew: "I THANK THEE FOR THIS DAY!!!" (Yes, it really was in ALL-CAPS and with triple exclamation marks punctuating the word "DAY.")

I bet it was one of Heavenly Father's favorite prayers that night.

I have to admit that I get my fair share of rewards from being a father. Perhaps this is no better exemplified than by the morning ritual that occurs as I leave for work. As I pull away from the house, I have typically two, sometimes more, adoring children running along the sidewalk and blowing me kisses, with shouts of "ILOVEYOUBYE! ILOVEYOUBYE! ILOVEYOUBYE!" streaming from their little lips. Typically one of them trips and face-plants on the sidewalk, or gets all bent out of shape if I drive a little too fast for their liking, resulting in tears as part of the mix. It's really quite a spectacle, and I'll admit, it makes me feel special.

But despite these expressions of adoration, there's no arguing with the fact that fathers give up a lot for their children. Only as I have become a father myself have I realized just how lopsided the give-take relationship between parent and child really is. But there is also a lopsided abundance of love that seems to perfectly correspond to the give-take relationship. And that's what makes all the difference.

Since becoming a father, I have experienced more pure love, and thus more true joy, in my life than I ever thought possible. That's a richness that can't be duplicated in any other way, no matter how many NBA games I watch, or how many backpacking trips I take, or how many Me Hours I get, worlds without end.

My wife, of course, already knows this stuff. Mothers give so much, so quickly, that they are on a kind of accelerated track for this type of learning. But I'm starting to finally understand for myself what she already knows, as I live the Good Life--a life with less of me, and more of them.

I wouldn't trade it for the world.


Jenny and Al said...

Thanks for that, Matt. I still have a hard time giving up my "Me Time" a lot of the time. It's nice to be reminded why I'm doing this.

Glenda said...

Matt, I'm so glad you are part of our family and such a great dad and father. ILY.