I just changed a diaper. Boom! (drops mic, walks away)
No, ladies, I’m not expecting a reward. I know guys often are, like diapers are the equivalent of stepping in front of a runaway bus to save your life.
However, I thought I was done with all this. Now in my early 50s, I was expecting grandchildren next. And no one expects grandfathers to do anything much with the kids but take them to the park and spoil them. Diapers are usually a “hand off”: a chore to be “dumped” (bad choice of words) on the nearest female.
But no, we decided after raising 3 kids from childhood to adultery (family joke: my older kids roll their eyes every time I use it), we should start over by adopting and fostering again. We now have three babies between 6 months and 2 years crawling through our hallways.
Yes, your prayers are most appreciated.
So now, my life once again is filled with a plethora of bodily fluids. I tend to be the one who cleans up all the industrial-strength spills. Our home is the Gulf of Mexico, and I am the “BP response team”. I have cleaned up poop, puke, and mucus from orifices I’d long ago forgotten existed.
My wife has nightmares about the folks from TV’s Dateline showing up with their video team and one of those ultraviolet light thingies at our front door one night. When they turned off the lights, the DNA residue would look like the Manson family just had a party in our family room.
Honestly, I don’t remember much about the first time we did this. I think I was way too much into my career, and left a lot of the child-rearing to my wife Dawn. I was out doing more important things, like…stuff I can’t even recall now. But at the time it seemed important, though now I can’t imagine why.
Conventional wisdom is I should now be headed for my “fun years”. You know, when I can do all the things I want to do. I should get one of those bumper stickers saying, “Spending my kids college fund” as i drive toward the nearest golf course.
By the way, that’s all a lie. You never find happiness “doing what you want to do”. All the things we expect to bring us joy are so incredibly selfish, God would never have the heart to “bless us” with them.
God knows that “getting your own way” is the kryptonite of your soul.
That’s why many retirees are miserable, but they’re not the only ones. At the very first meeting we attended about foster parenting, we sat across from a young pastor and his wife. We all listened as the agency told us the number of classes we’d need to take to be certified and all the huge demands of fostering.
After the session was over, this young couple with no kids confided to us there was just no way they could manage fostering while pastoring a church. Their ministry calling was just too important to compromise it with kids. But we were also pastoring a church as well, had 3 teenagers at home, and were already caring for a 6 month old at that point. When they got up to walk away, my wife and I just stared dumbfounded.
Why did they say no? Because the joy of raising children would have interrupted their addiction to themselves and their dreams. Their comfortable, predictable lifestyle would be over. And I believe that’s exactly what God would have liked to have done: to tip over their tidy little apple cart.
We need to face facts that God’s idea of a happy life is the direct opposite of ours.
Read that again: THE. EXACT. OPPOSITE. OF. OURS. We think “happiness” is getting everything we want. Instead, He knows it’s found in giving up everything we want…so He can then replace it with something so much better.
I believe one of the main reasons families are so important to God is that He uses them to break down this obsession with “self”. To be blunt, raising a family is a dying process. God wants that “dream life” we’re hoping for to die a horrible, bloody death. That’s because our dreams are horrifically selfish and self-serving, and achieving them will only enable us to become even more self-absorbed, immature people.
As an antidote, God teaches us to die. He begins the death process with marriage, and continues it with family. No, the irony of this statement is not lost on me.
With marriage, we go from a “me only” single existence to a relationship which demands we put another human being first. This is why so many marriages end in their first years: because each person expected the other to fulfill their own dreams. That’s the opposite of God’s goal for marriage. Instead, God expects us to give up our dreams in order to fulfill our spouse’s. For this to happen, we must willing let our own dreams die, trusting God has a better dream in store.
Add children, and the dying process works even more rapidly. We now have little to no “time for ourselves”, as kids demand every waking (and sleeping) moment:
- We give up binge watching our favorite series, and instead sit through a My Little Pony marathon.
- We miss the huge blockbuster movie everyone else is seeing to carry the kids to the park.
- We rarely experience that great new restaurant, because taking the kid there would just be too much work.
For my first go-round at the whole “death experience”, I tried instead to stay focused on my career. I rationalized this because I was a “minister”, so that made prioritizing my personal ambitions OK, I thought. When most of those ambitions failed to fulfill me, I looked back frantically to realize my kids were grown.
…cue Harry Chapin singing my own private performance of “Cats In the Cradle”.
So today with a brand new chance at this parenting thing, I feel like George Bailey who suddenly realizes the gift God has given him. With these new babies, I get to do it right and make some memories worth remembering this time!
While I still value my ministry, I will not obsess over it this time around. My young pastor friend may decide his ministry doesn’t allow time for children. I hope God will give him another chance on down the road, but I’m not taking that chance this time.
I’m finding hidden joys with this “second time around”. When I change diapers, I use them as make-shift puppets first so they can sing little songs for the girls before I strap them on. But I’m not sure about the psychological effects from having a Muppet on your bottom all day. I certainly hope they don’t start hearing the diapers singing to them anytime during the rest of the day.
Also, I’m finding new “parenting hacks” with middle-age, as I euphemistically refer to this section of my life (as if I’m gonna live to 110). In the middle of the night, it’s even more tough now to get up and feed the baby. But I’ve found that my middle-age gut comes in handy. I now can cradle the baby in bed, and then prop up her bottle in the handy fold of my protruding stomach. My gut now holds her bottle at just the perfect angle for her to eat (and for me to sleep)…VOILA!
See? I knew exercise was not in God’s plan for my life!
So to all my much younger friends who are parents of small children, now hear this:
The next time you say, “This is killing me!”, know that you are exactly right. God is using your marriage and especially your children to kill all that is selfish and unlike Jesus within you.
Please don’t count on getting a second chance with this – cooperate with your Executioner now. Know that His killing you is the greatest kindness ever….
…only He’s using small children to do it. You know, just like in “The Omen” ;0)
This article is an excerpt from my ebook HOUSE OF THE LIVING DAD: How I survived parenting (mostly), available for instant download at Amazon.com