Monday, August 9, 2010

Wife Rule #144: It's a Grand Night for Singing

I got an early start this morning and had fed the kids breakfast and begun the process of draining the kiddie pool out back (so I could move it again and kill a new spot of grass) before it was even nine o'clock. I got the kids started on their morning chores, mowed the lawn, tightened up the badminton net, trimmed the roses, pulled a weed or two, and enlisted the kids' help in washing the algae out of the pool before beginning the refill.

By 10:30 we were on our way to the new public splash pad, where I enjoyed a full hour of wading in the current and taking snapshots of the kids as they splashed in the various fountains and taunted each other. Charity was startled by the first gush of spray as the system turned on shortly after our arrival and never entered the water again, but still managed to have fun playing on the grass. She was just as cute in her pink tutu swimming suit (with ruffly skirt!) out of the water as she would have been in.

Afterwards we stopped at the shaved ice shack and ordered six small cups (including one in a pink flavor called "Barbie" for you-know-who, which ended up fully spilled into her car seat by the time we arrived home). We also stopped at the hardware store to pick up a few items for a bathroom counter repair I've needed to make for several months now. We even got the mail.

Lunch was a snap though it took me a while to get it ready, and afterwards I started on the counter project until it was time to put Charity down for a nap. Then the four older kids and I walked over to the park and played the 18-hole Frisbee golf course (9 separate posts, played once in each direction).

By the time we got home it was too late to finish the counter, but early enough to shower (finally) and snag a fifteen minute nap before the preparations began for dinner. A few unexpected phone calls later and the day was spent. Of course, that didn't mean work was over. Dinner, clean up, and our traditional Monday family night, followed by a chapter aloud in the novel we have been reading together, and then the routine teeth-brushing, prayer-saying, storybooks, and tucking-in fully exhausted the rest of the day.

I never made it into the office. I am on paternity leave.

(insert cheers and congratulations here)

It's a welcome chance to catch up and keep the kids occupied and occasionally away so that my wife can catch a little rest and quiet time with the new wee one.

Now it's dark outside and the chaos and bustle of the day is over. I finally find myself with the opportunity to hold our new arrival, who has been freshly fed and changed and is actually still awake. And for once there's not even any competition or complaining about turns or fairness from the other kids, who normally inundate the poor little thing with a suffocating amount of love and attention, but who are all currently in their respective beds.

So I sit down with my new daughter in the rocker for a little one-on-one Daddy Time. She is dressed in a fuzzy sleeper with a pastel pattern of something cute and babyish. Her eyes are wide open, and she seems to have an unusual interest in the male half of her parentage. It's a good thing too, since I did contribute to the effort of getting her here, at least a little bit.

I begin to rock and sing to her (for what else is a Daddy to do?). The first tune that comes to mind is one I have sung as a lullaby for years now, I'm trying to be like Jesus. While I softly deliver the melody in a baritone key, she looks intently into my eyes.

She has the deepest blue eyes--I would say almost black, but her pupils are still distinct, surrounded by midnight blue. Her long, dark-brown hair falls in subtle curls on her forehead. It's well over an inch long and still has the pink miniature bow glued into it that the nurses at the hospital nursery put in after her first bath. They loved having a baby there whose hair they could style, and though they never actually said it, I could tell they thought she was the cutest baby they'd seen in a long time.

She seems to enjoy the first song, so I start into another: I am a Child of God. As I repeat the well-loved lyrics "I am a child of God and He has sent me here; has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear," I almost discern a slight smile on her lips. She has the same pleasant, little rosebud mouth with a full lower lip as her big sister Charity--which means that she can make that same irresistible pouty face and receive big-lipped kisses from Daddy (I've already tried that out. Several times).

And speaking of kissing, we can't overlook the beautiful, flushed cheeks that grace her mouth on either side, of such perfect proportion as to cast her little round face to the aspect of a cherub. Many times I have bestowed my gentlest kiss on those cheeks, and in special rare instances (subject to availability, limited time offer, can change without notice, etc.), when she rears back her head for a stretch I have buried my lips in the super-soft creases of the skin in her tiny neck.

As I study her face, it does seemed imbued with a heavenly glow--of innocence, of freshness, and of complete trust and dependence. Her eyes, still fixed intently on mine as I rock her and sing, seem to see through me, penetrating to the very depths of my soul, and communicate a clear message: Love me. Protect Me. Shelter Me. Teach me.

These thoughts mesh perfectly with the lullaby as I finish the last chorus: "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do to live with Him someday."

There is a soft smile in her eyes and they begin to close as I start into the next number, O My Father. The words of that hymn so perfectly describe the journey this precious little soul has just made, traveling from "a more exalted sphere" into this simple, happy life with her mother and me (and her five noisy siblings). I sing all four verses to her, leaning in close, expelling just enough breath to produce the notes. By the end her eyes are closed. She never looked away; she drifted into pleasant slumber still fully engaged with me.

I look down at this babe in my arms. My hand is stretched across hers, completely covering most of her arms and chest. She startles a bit as I move it, and wrap her fingers around one of mine. I study the marvelous detail in her baby hands--such perfect little fingers with their infinitesimal joints and nails. Her body is truly a gift--a glorious creation from a loving God.

She is asleep, but I finish my serenade with the classic song Stardust, for its outstanding melody and the pure joy of singing.

When the last hum has died away, I continue rocking her in the silence. I cannot tear my eyes away from her. I study her perfect little body again, offering a silent prayer of thanks to the loving Father who brought her here safe and whole. I marvel that He would share this sacred experience--fatherhood--with me, and lend me one of His pure, choice children for a few precious years here on earth.

She lets out the slightest sigh, and brings me back to this room. I look over and see my wife reading on the couch, her beautiful, soft face illuminated by warm, yellow lamp light. Suddenly I sense the overwhelming fullness--the atmosphere seems thick with the pure, celestial joy that must surely be a shadow of the sweetest glories our Heavenly Parents enjoy. I thank her--my wife--for giving me this chance. For giving me a chance at all.

I sit there, mesmerized and completely entranced: my daughter in my arms, my wife a few feet away, and my heart full to the point of spilling over. I am lost again, drifting away somewhere between a dream and a poem. A pleasant, sublime heat rises in my chest and swells up to my face. I stare at the perfect, glorious child nestled within my arms and a single tear wells up in the corner my eye and is released, tickling my cheek as it descends towards this pure, celestial being.

I am a father. Again, for the sixth time now, I am a father!


Alan Macfarlane said...

Congrats, Matt!

Jenny and Al said...

Yay! I loved reading your thoughts on this! Congratulations.

Lindsay said...

A huge congratulations to you and Brooke. What a sweet essay this was. Babies are so special.

Bethany said...

this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I love when people can be happy with the little things in life.