Safe Place

Everything has been on your own terms from the time you were born two years ago today.  Thankfully you decided that being only three weeks early was enough to shake things up a bit.  You succeeded, by the way; we didn’t even bring a car seat to the hospital with us.  Clearly your mom and I weren’t prepared, even if you had been born on your due date, but you also didn’t give us enough time.  From start to finish, you were born in 1 hour and 44 minutes.  What a blessing for your mother, sweet girl.

You slept right after you came into the world.  I remember thinking how sweet it was that it took only a minute for you to fall asleep on your mommy, where you stayed for the longest time.  She couldn’t see your face because it was nuzzled under her chin, but she felt you, little girl, of that I’m sure.

I didn’t predict that this would be the theme of your life thus far.  I thought for sure you’d turn into a rascally tomboy for trying to keep up with your big brother.  It turns out, that even though you can certainly hold your own, you’re reserved, demure, and aware.  It’s beautiful.  You keep your cards close, you’re measured in action, and guarded with your affection.  There’s safety in you, for us and for yourself.

One of my sweetest memories is coming home from work to your 8 or 9 month old smiling, perfect circle of a face.  What a comfort you were, reaching to touch my face with a giggle.  You were a balm for my oft weary soul, and without any effort you absorbed the busyness inside of me.  In those short, healing moments, you gave me more security than an infant should be able to.

The intrinsic qualities you possess fill a hole in our family that I didn’t realize existed.  A few days after we brought you home from the hospital, I remember standing, overcome, as I watched your mom, your brother, and you (my better three quarters) live life in front of me.  I’m sure it was in part due to being slightly overwhelmed at having another life to take care of (and adding another arrow to my quiver), but it was then that I realized that your presence was special, because it brought new life and energy to something that had existed beautifully before.  The way you spin around and dance when music comes on, how you show affection to your stuffed animals and baby dolls, when you say “pretty” as mommy is looking in your armoire for the day’s outfit, how you call anyone in a dress or gown “princess”, how you touch your nose to ours when we ask “where’s your nose?”, how you’re sure to say “ni-night mommy” or “ni-night daddy” sometimes through tears of exhaustion during bedtime, the way you bring us book after book to read to you and the way you crawl on our laps to listen (for as much as I love it, I’d be fine with getting a small break from “Little White Rabbit”), your desire to be close to the ones you love, the joy you find in dainty things, the way you bring out a tender side of your spirited brother when he gives you a hug or tells you he loves you…all of that brings a treasured softness to our household.

And I hope you stay the way you are.  Of course I’ll love you just the same if you don’t, but I see a future for you as someone who many find refuge in: the same safety I find when you look into my eyes and smile.  And if you do become an older version of your current self, I hope you grow in the same security you’ve already found even at two years old.  One day you’ll hear a lie that the qualities that make you, you – the sweet, girly you – were imposed on you.  Don’t believe it.  You were fearfully and wonderfully knit together.  Your inner workings aren’t there by happenstance or persuasion; they’re there on purpose and for a purpose, and it blows my mind sometimes that you seem to already know that.  You’re a daily encouragement for me as I watch you live as the person you are, even if your freedom coincides with your comfort.  That’s okay, stay guarded.  While it may make it harder for things to find their way in, it also makes it harder for things to become lost.

It took a long time for your mom and me to decide on what your name would be.  Some might think it silly that we searched for something that had a certain feel, but we were sure of it once we found it.  As it turns out, you live up to it in feel and definition.  You are precious to me, and one of my biggest blessings.  So keep being you, because it’s beautiful, and because it makes me feel safe to be me.  I’m proud that I can find that kind of comfort from you, my daughter: my safe place, my refuge…my sweet, sweet Haven.

Happy 2nd birthday, sweet girl.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

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The Parenting Manual

Y’all, I think I’ve done it.

I have written the best, most accurate, fail proof (though not fool proof) parenting manual of all time.  And it’s only two, three-worded chapters!  Are you ready for this wisdom I’m ’bout to drop on y’all?  Here goes chapter one:

Figure it out.

Whoa.  I just heard all of your minds being blown.

My generation is popping out babies right and left these days.  The church small group I was once a part of has produced 13 babies since the fall of 2011 – with another one on the way in the next few months!  That’s a lot of kids.  One big sweet, precious, sleep-siphoning pumpkin patch of kids.

Just scroll down your Facebook timeline.  Birth announcements seem to pop up every other day, some for first time parents, and a lot for repeat parents (including adoptions).  They make me happy.  I love newborns…I mean LOVE.  Those little tiny brand new babies swell my heart so, and I love that expectant parents are feeling the same things I felt when I learned of my little bundles.

I also feel slightly sorry for them, because they have no idea what they’re getting into.  I am not trying to call them ignorant – oh no, not that in the least – but they actually have absolutely no idea what they’re getting into.  I was the same way: having cute little nuggets in the house is such a novel idea.  After having survived two newborns (“survived” being a term that I can use as a father, because what their mother has gone through far exceeds mere survival), I know now what it means (mostly) to parent small children.  Now I see that what I thought I knew before having children was hardly a fraction of what I’ve learned.  It’s an impossibility to understand it unless you’ve been there, and I figured that out pretty darn quickly.

I mean, I always heard “they don’t sleep at night.”  Ok, so you mean, like, I don’t get to sleep in anymore because they get up at 5 AM or something?

Ha.  Hahaha.  Nope.  (And I didn’t even nurse!)

“You will literally have to give up your life for your kids.”  I mean, sure, I won’t have as much free time as I do now.

TERENCE.  THE AMOUNT OF FREE TIME YOU HAD BEFORE KIDS IS ACTUALLY INCONCEIVABLE.

Then there’s the biggest “I mean, duh” statement of all time: “You guys (parents) need to be sure to make time for yourselves.”  That’s cool, yeah.  Sure.  If not we’ll just bring the kids with us.

Rrrrright.  You go right ahead and have your relaxing dinner with your toddlers.

You have to figure it out.  Almost any parent that has ever lived is a wealth of information and advice.  Even then, it’s not enough.  I can’t deny that it’s helpful; my wife and I have sought our fair share of help and advice from our parents and in-laws, but it’s not enough.

I know I’ve thought this to myself many times, which is also why I know that other young parents like me are thinking it too: “Nobody told me.”  Nobody dang told me.  I didn’t know, however, that they didn’t tell me because they actually couldn’t tell me what was to come.  The handbook is that there is no handbook.  You will know when you get there, but there is very little that I or anyone else can do to prepare you for the nitty gritty, day-in day-out, no sleep, no money, no time, no sanity, sometimes harsh reality of being a parent.  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  I don’t care what you’ve done before.  Listen to me:  It is the hardest thing you will ever do.  And you have to figure it out.

But y’all, thank God for chapter two:

You got this.

You’ll see.

There will be plenty of times that you’re going to think you’re the worst parent in existence.  It’s a guarantee; it comes with the territory.  You will fail your children.  Repeat after me: “I will fail my children.”  For the amount of times you mess up, you’ll have at least one victory.  Rest will come, you will sleep again.  I promise.

But YOU GOT THIS.  And you know why YOU GOT THIS?  Because you WILL figure it out.  And you know why you will figure it out?  Because of the fierce, stubborn, foolish, indelible love you have for your children.  Trust it.  Y’all, that love is a well, and it is deep and full and teeming with exceedingly more than you ever thought it could produce.  It is a well that will never dry up.  You got this.

And you got this because you are going to rearrange.  The most precious thing you have on this earth is going to be replaced real quick, and it will happen with the blink of an eye.  When you hold your newborn, the thing that you think will hurt immensely to let go of is going to fall so far down the list without you even noticing.  I’m telling you, you won’t realize it.  You’re going to pore over every inch of your baby in such amazement and wonder that you’ll forget about what you thought you loved before holding that little tiny life in your arms.  And that prioritization will, by default, lead you to figure it out.  (Whatever form “it” takes at the present time.)

And you got this because you’ll change.  My kids love to wake me up in the morning with mirrors held up to me.  Are you following me?  They’re experts at drawing out the dirtiest parts of me and, quite honestly, won’t relent until I start to clean some of it up.  This is the single most difficult thing that I can say I’ve endured as a parent: those little buggers have waged war against my flesh.  When I am awakened by a knock on the bedroom door at an hour that is earlier than I’d like it to be, standing right behind that door is my 3 year old with his dang mirror.  If I open that door and it is anything but a smooth start to the day, it will NOT resolve until I look in that mirror and make a change (props, MJ).  After all, I’m the adult here, so it is my job to die to myself a little bit so that my kid can start the day off on the right track.  He doesn’t know that I’m exhausted or stayed up late the night before, nor is it his problem.  In those moments is when you find success.  Although I fail at this more than I’d like to admit.  It’s offensive, in a way, because being Mommy or Daddy to your little one is a sure-fire way to reveal your flaws.  You just aren’t as awesome as you thought you were.  You thought you were patient, honest, calm, gentle, etc etc etc.  This part is tough, y’all.  Parenting forces you to let go and change, because really, you don’t really have a choice.  The stakes are high, because the responsibility to guide them in their first, formative years rests on your shoulders.  So you have to fall in line, because those beautiful babies are exceedingly more important than your pride.  There is no other option.

You’ll see.  You’ll see that you got this when your baby latches on for the first time, when nothing seems to keep him from crying until you stand up and bounce around, when she sits up and stays, when he successfully puts food from hand to mouth, when you wake up in a panic after she slept the night through, when the doctor confirms your instincts about what his sickness is, when she laughs at you, when he says “mommy” or “daddy”, when she takes her first steps, when he sleeps successfully in the toddler bed, when she hugs you at the end of a day that seemed like you were her worst enemy…you’ll see.

I promise you got this!  And you got this because you’ll figure it out.  And you’ll figure it out because of the undying love you have for your babies.  And that’s the long and short of it, my friends.

Any publishing inquiries for the aforementioned manual can be directed to the comments section of this blog.  Thank you.

recount

it’s 5:27 in the morning.  i’m tired, and you’re just having your morning like it isn’t way too early to be awake in this household.  i wish i could get inside your little 2 year old brain and know exactly what you’re thinking and feeling as you lie there on the couch with the pillow, blanket, and nabi that you requested.  i’m having more and more moments like these the older you get and, for how incredibly sweet they are, the bitterness is ever present.

watching you grow and change has been one of the most rewarding, heartwarming, saddening, happy, and abundantly full experiences i’ve endured.  i’ve found myself saying quite often that the baby years are too few.  you’ll spend most of your life as a big person – you’ve already changed from baby to toddler, then you’ll become a kid, then a teenager, then an adult, and i will (God willing) see it all – but there aren’t nearly enough little person years.  you’ve gone from infancy, being able to do nothing for yourself, to walking and talking…already!  and it’s only been a little over two years!  you have the rest of your life to walk and talk, couldn’t it have taken just a little longer to get there?  why do the changes have to happen so quickly and soon?  if i could slow it all down…just a little.

even earlier this morning, at 3:52, when you gently knocked at the bedroom door (your new morning routine), my initial annoyance immediately dissipated when i saw you standing there with a stuffed animal tucked under your arm, quietly asking to “see mommy?”  [God, please burn that into my memory.]  in that moment i saw you in the essence of which you were created: my precious child, petitioning me in complete innocence and sincerity.  does it get any purer?  you should know, that even 3 hours before i was ready to wake up, every part of me wanted to scoop you up and put you in bed to share my pillow.  if i wasn’t worried that you’d wake your 4.5 month old sister who was sleeping soundly on the other side of the bed, i wouldn’t have delayed.  not even a second.  sure, you will need to learn how to stay in bed a little longer one day very soon, but it would have been fine today.  i wouldn’t have minded.  i can go without sleep occasionally, and i will.  i will if you want to take an early morning and watch “pocoyo” with us in bed.  even if we’re up long before the sun, i’ll trade a few hours of sleep for a few hours of closeness with you.  the time keeps flying by…i need as many of these moments as it will allow.

i’m learning that the seemingly small moments are the biggest, and when one of these small-big moments blind sides me, i feel my desire to be as present as i can.  it’s like a pain…it hurts to know that i sometimes can’t prepare for the special moments; that i can’t be prepared to live in those times.  i want to soak up everything possible because my memories are the most tangible things i will be left with when you go and grow up.  i pray that the memories are strong enough…that they will somehow be enough one day when all i have are traces of this little person you are now.  i know it will smack me in the face in 10 or 20 short years just how much you’ve grown, so promise me that you’ll show me some grace one day when you inevitably find me staring at you, because i will be searching for reminders of who you are today…i know that when i look at you, i’ll be pressing play on the home video reel that’s stored in my brain, remembering the first time i saw you, the first time you looked at me just seconds after you were born, the time when you were just a few months old and i scrunched my brow at you and you smiled, how, also when you were really young, you’d look like a tree frog when picked up, how you’d stretch and have the biggest smile on your face when i’d get you out of your crib in the morning, how ferociously you’d make the motorboat sound until you were covered in drool and red in the face, the crunching sound of the rice mum-mum as you bit into it for the first time, how you’d light up and say “dada dada dada” when we’d pick you up from childcare after church, how you’d purposely fall into our arms when you were learning to take your first steps, how you would say “dahkdah dahkdah dahkdah” instead of “tickle tickle tickle”, how you jump your feet “out in out in out in” when you dance, how you called 7 “funny” 11 “oney” and peanut butter and jelly “bo jay jay”, anytime you said “holdmeholdyouholdme”, how saying “yayayayayay!” when you were frustrated changed to “whoawhoawhoa!”, “wubbies” (my favorite – you will say that for as long as i have a say in it), how you said “wubbie bb hahmeh” to your sister, and how you call her “pretty” or “princess”, how you kiss her on the cheek and ask to hold her, how you call us “mommy pig” and “daddy pig”…and many more.  i’m going to recount as much as i can as often as i can.  i have to.

so.  it is my mission to be present.  my charge.  i’m going to do everything in my earthly power to live life with you, to experience as many parts of you as i can.  i should give a fair warning that you’ll probably see me cry often because of it, but that’s ok.  i want to share my heart with you as you have already done with me.  i want to rejoice with you, cry with you, share in your (appropriate) pride.  let me help bear your burdens and feel what you feel.  i’ll be your guide and i’ll be your help…ahead and beside.  i’ll strive when you strive.  i’ll learn when you learn.  i’ll grow when you grow.  i’ll live when you live.

my son, my first born…i will give you all of me.

wubbies.