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A Spikey Hair Riddle

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I have a riddle for you. What will make you age faster while at the same time keep you young longer? To find the answer, we have to look to a small green jar.

After a 12 hour shift at the part-time 911 dispatching gig earlier this week, I came home to the regular, excited hugs from SI and NE. Shortly after settling in, you both became enamored with the new green jar on the counter. Upon hearing that it’s for my hair, and noticing my new haircut, you immediately wanted to have “spikey hair” too. This is the result of our laughter-filled 10 minutes spent working on your hair.

Spiked Hair

Spiked Hair

 

Brothers Forever

Brothers Forever

 

As I lay down that night to text these pictures to your mother, who was at summer camp with SD, I took a longer look at them…and within seconds, I was welling up with so many different thoughts and emotions. To see these pictures of you boys cracks me up because I was there in the moment to experience the giggles. But looking at them each as just a picture, so many thoughts come to mind…in particular, how tight and close you will both be growing up together…you are already very close, even though you fight and bicker daily. That you’ll always have each other’s back…and will be there for each other…and your sister. That you’re already learning how to stick up for each other when forces from outside our family attack. You’ve already started applying the truth that while it may be “okay” for you to pick on each other, it’s NOT okay for someone from outside our family to pick on us.

Your mom and I consider ourselves SO embraced by the hand of God, so deeply and richly blessed to have been given not just one of you, but both of you…that you would have each other to depend on throughout life…that together you’ll be able to help look after the needs of your sister when we’re gone. Just these two pictures, independent of the memory of the moment in which they were taken, make me smile and cry at the same stinking moment.

So, the answer to the riddle…what will make you age faster while at the same time keep you young longer? The answer to that is easy for any parent. You all have been (and will for a long time continue to be) the cause of so many of my grey hairs, worry, stress and tears…and even more of my laughs, smiles, fun and joy. I would not give up one grey hair…not a single one!! As I age, I will wear my grey (and maybe still “spikey”) hair as a badge of honor, displaying for everyone to see and know that each and every one was bore from a love so deep for my children that when they look in my eyes, they will see the excitement, energy, laughter and smiles of my youth, lived through the joy you bring me daily.

Love,

Dad

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You Did This To Me

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I wasn’t always this way. I used to be smart. I used to be able to sit and read an article or a book and remember what I read when I got up 30 minutes later. I could have a conversation with someone and remember it two days later. I could actively participate in a conversation that required me to use more than single-syllable words…and say it all without taking 5 minutes of awkward silence to form in my head what I wanted I say. I could sit down and write a ten page essay on any topic without stopping to remember what I just wrote in the last paragraph. I could look at three people and in the heat of the moment call out their names correctly. I could choose one side of an issue, more serious than who stole whose Legos and whose turn it is to wear the Spiderman underwear, and present several logical and well thought out points to support my case.

As the saying goes, “the good with the bad”… I’ve been blessed with many good fathering moments in my short tenure as your daddy, and I pray many more to come. I just never realized that the bad would include losing the ability to form a rational thought and convert it into a sentence that doesn’t leave my mouth sounding like it came from an ape.

You don’t see it now, but you will. As you grow into your teenage years, you’ll start to notice it more…and you’ll think I’m an idiot. You’ll glance over at me with a disgusted look on your face as I try to counsel and guide you. You’ll think to yourself (and most likely mutter it aloud to me at least once) “dad, you’re so old. You don’t know anything about being a kid. You’re so dumb.” When that time comes and you have the urge to break my heart by saying it aloud to me, I caution you to consider this before you do: I wasn’t always this way. YOU did this to me! And revenge is bittersweet.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Oh, and before you start fighting with each other to figure out whose fault it is, you’re all equally guilty. Accept it.

I Get It Now

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Dad,

Do you remember how I used to give you grief for how you treated David and Derek differently than you did me and Stephen after I left for college? I still remember my first trip home for the weekend. After dinner, you got up and washed the dishes while they walked out of the room. I stood there in shock watching you wash dishes for what had to have been the first time in my life (at least as I remember it). I felt jaded by that. Knowing that this chore was rotated amongst the four of us boys when I was living at home, this simple act seemed to communicate that David and Derek were different…special…somehow more important. In the ignorance of my youth, I didn’t understand…I didn’t get it. I just want you to know something…I get it now.

Last week, I was walking into the store with all three kids, and NE and SD were walking ahead of me. SI, stuck his little arms up at me and said “I wand you hole me.” And as I looked down into his admiring eyes, arms stretched up waiting for me to pick him up, a thought crossed my mind. I realized that it was at about this age I stopped carrying NE as much, making him walk more often than I carried him. And while I realized that NE likes his independence…prefers to walk beside me now, rather than be carried…I knew that I’d trained him that way. My strictness in making him do things for himself – while done with the good intention of teaching him to be self-supportive – had taught him to stop asking me to carry him. Even more important…what also occurred to me was that it won’t be much longer that they’ll both be too big for me to carry…that my youngest boy is growing up faster than I prefer. The baby years are gone, and we’re in the toddler years. Before I know it, I won’t be able to carry him even if I wanted to. So as I picked SI up and enjoyed the moment for what it was…one of the fewer and fewer opportunities I have left to hold on to my youngest child for as long as I can…the memory of my first weekend home from college in the fall of 1991 came to me like an epiphany. As I hugged SI close to me, walking into the store I knew…and I get it now.

Ju and I attended a marriage conference this weekend, and while I took a lot away from it, one of the things the pastor said that really stuck in my head was that “wedding vows are not a declaration of current love. They’re a promise of future love.” He followed that with 30 minutes of showing us that when we stood at the alter and made those vows, there was no way to foresee the future and know who we would be. There was no way to predict how the pain of family sickness and death would change our spouse…no way of knowing how having four children would change us…no way of knowing what life events lay before us that would change us. While certainly true for the marriage relationship, God opened my eyes to the reality that what he’s saying here is also true for every relationship, including the parent/child relationship. And I get it now.

Lots of “parenting experts” say that parents need to be consistent in their parenting style with every child…discipline each the same…show affection to each the same…etc. And I agree, that if not done with delicate balance, treating each child differently can have disastrous results. Conversely, I see that it’s quite honestly just not possible to do. The thing is…as I’ve aged, I’ve changed. I’m not the same man I was when I first became a father. As I learn from my mistakes, my parenting style changes. As I see what others do that works…and what doesn’t work…I adapt my own style a little. As I age, God reveals to me little by little what is important and what is not as important as I once thought…and my heart softens a little. As my relationship with our heavenly Father grows and strengthens, I learn more from Him about how to be a dad, and I grow and mature in how I father. I’m just not the same dad I was when I first became one 12 years ago. I think I’ve known this for awhile subconsciously, but it was just this weekend that God truly revealed it to me…and I get it now.

It’s not that we love one more than the other or that we set out to treat them differently. It’s that each child holds a different piece of our ever-changing heart. Granted, my time “in the seat” of fatherhood is far subordinate to your experience, but when I reflect back on my time as a dad, I can already see how my parenting style has changed to reflect the various stages of my life. As I watch my children grow, I’m hit with the realization that in the grand scheme of things, my time is short…that not all of the little details matter as much as I think they should…that there is no shame to be found in picking my battles…that there is a time enforce strictness and rigidity, and a time to enjoy life with my children. And I get it now.

As you enter this new phase of your life, I hope you enjoy the time you have to do the things you enjoy…and to enjoy your children and make memories with your grandchildren. You’ve worked hard all of your life, and you’ve earned the right to enjoy retirement. I have learned so much from you over the years…about being a father…a husband…an employee…a friend…a follower of Christ. I look forward to many more years with both you and mom by our side. I still have so much to learn…and there are just some things best taught by a dad. I get that now.

Love ya,

Jay

Anyone Seen the Van Key?

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Assuming one of you had picked it up and walked off with it, we tore the house apart, looking in every nook and cranny we could find. Grandpa walked the yard and scoured the mulch pile where you’d spent most of the morning. Grandma tore into the couch where I first sat down when we got there. We searched pockets and purses, boxes and beds. I’m pretty sure someone even tore into the trash in hopes of finding it. There was seemingly no where we hadn’t looked…no stone left unturned. I actually gave up, resigned to the fact that it was most likely lost forever. I’d already started conjuring up a plan B, planning how to get home without it.

What we were faced with is indicative of an issue you’re going to have to face someday. The older I get, the worse my memory gets. I can have a conversation and forget it within a few hours…I can set something down somewhere and within minutes not know where I put it. There are full years of my life that have passed by, leaving me few memories…if any. Much of my youth is but a blur to me by now. Trust me when I say it’s as frustrating to me as it ever will be to you. Your mom has graciously resigned herself to accepting it, and been amazing with her forgiveness of me in this. As you grow, I don’t anticipate that this problem of mine will improve. By the time you’re teenagers and young adults, you’ll have realized that I have a problem. And it’s now that I ask for your forgiveness of my short-term memory loss. Please know that if there is only one thing I could change about myself, this would be it. I really do want to remember more. One day you’ll understand that it truly is more frustrating for me than it ever will be for you. It’s not easy to come to terms with your own mortality.

Finding yourself three hours from home without a key to the van is not really a place you’d expect to find any humor. And yet as frustrated as I was standing there in front of the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t help but laugh as I stared at the man looking back on me. Thirty minutes of frustrated searching later, it hit me. Did I put it in my back pocket? Surely not! Why on Earth would I do that? And as I reached back into that pocket to find one single, solitary key to the van, I couldn’t help but laugh. I hope that one day in your frustration with my memory loss, you too can look back and laugh every once in awhile…at the realization that dad probably didn’t even know he had the key all along.

Love,

Dad