Posts Tagged ‘ dad ’

I’m Starting To Grow Up.

Father-and-son-playing-001

My eldest son is about to turn 6 years old. He was born premature by 7 weeks, and came out weighing a mere 4.14 pounds. I remember holding that precious tiny bundle there in the delivery room, thinking “how can something this small, ever grow up to be an adult sized person?” I’ve watched this little boy go from not being able to get around at all, to being able to run and jump at will. I’ve listened to him learn how to form words, how to show emotions, how to understand how things work, how to be honest, how to say “I’m sorry”, how to share – in short, I’ve watched him grow up.

It’s funny how this applies to marriage. I know me for one, got married with not much idea of how to do anything, or what I needed to be for my wife. In the “infant” stage of marriage, I expected to be able to have sex whenever I wanted, I expected her totally fulfill me in every area. I didn’t think we would fight like “every other couple”, because after all, we’re in love, and other couples “must just not be doing it right.” I had lots of expectations of what our marriage would look like, mostly based off of what I saw my parents act out growing up. As you can imagine, a lot of my “expected normal” hit the fan within the first few days.

I wonder if God looked down much like I do with my kids and smiled as I learned the hard way to be less about me, and more about my wife and family. The times that I failed (and still fail), the times that I mess up what an “older” husband would have no problem navigating. The “growing up” process. Learning to be married. Learning to give when I don’t feel like it.  Learning to go from crawling, to teetering on those first steps, to maybe a good solid walk, and someday being able to run without falling (or at least as much).

I’ve come to realize there is a process of maturing in a marriage. Not just reading the “top ten things you need to know about your marriage” book, and going “ok! I’m all finished!”, but truly maturing in both your relationship with each other, and also with God.

I feel there are times where just as my son didn’t like the idea of using the “potty” at first, and wanted to stay in diapers, we too can become stubborn. Refusing to grow because it’s “more work” to grow. It takes an “effort”. We might even fail over and over before we get it, and complain that “it’s too hard”, or exclaim that “it was better/easier the way it was”, complaining and muttering the whole way, not realizing how much further we really have to go, and how much better marriage (and not having to be an adult in diapers) can be.

Fast forward to today – almost 8 years from the day I said “I do” to my lovely wife. I feel like I’m about as old as my marriage is, when it comes to understanding it. Like an 8-year-old, I feel like while there are times I have those “ah ha!” moments and go “so THAT’S what she’s thinking when I say that!” I still struggle with things like communication, and putting my wife before myself. But I AM getting there. And I’m learning to DESIRE to always be working on my marriage. There is no “pause” in marriage, there is only forward or backwards.

So, what have I been learning lately, that a lot of you probably already know, but maybe some of you who are just starting out, haven’t figured out yet? Here’s the two biggest things I’ve been trying to get down in my daily walk. If they don’t apply to you, go back to reading the sports page. If they do, hopefully you’ll you find encouragement to keep doing, or start doing it/them better.

#1 – Flipping my idea of a “perfect marriage” upside down – Ok, what if instead of thinking the goal of marriage is supposed to make us happy, we thought of marriage in the light of “marriage is a tool the Lord uses to cause us to grow and become more like Him”?

Think about that for a minute. We get so caught up in the “I NEED TO BE HAPPY” culture, we forget the BENEFIT of STRUGGLE. How many times have I muttered under my breath “why can’t she just be more like me! See things MY way a little more?!” And the Lord has to remind me “Gerad, what are you LEARNING from this?”, and you know what? After we’ve come through it, and even though it’s sometimes painful, we come out of it stronger, and more equipped to handle whatever conflict/strife/issue that arises the next time. The bond is strengthened. Character is built. Our relationship with Him is strengthened.

Now don’t lose me here, I’m not saying that marriage is always an un-happy, hard to deal with, issue filled, mess – what I’m trying to get across, is that when it DOES arise, use it as inspiration to buckle down and strengthen the commitment you have to the marriage, instead of saying “nope, this is too hard, I’m done” and walking away. We are FAR TOO WILLING to hit the “panic! I’m not happy!” button, instead of taking a deep breath, backing up, and saying “Lord, what are you trying to get me to learn here? Give me the understanding and strength to grow through this in the way You want me to.”

#2 – I’m learning to serve my wife – I’m learning (and failing, and getting up and failing again), to serve my wife without thinking in the back of my head “she owes me one now, after I do all this”. There is an unexplainable joy that comes from truly serving my wifebecause I WANT to, not because I’m hoping it will improve my odds tonight, or I’m trying to get it so she “owes me one”. Finding little ways to say “I love you”, learning how she thinks, and then making sure to support her in the way she needs, taking my time and putting HER needs first in the bedroom, understanding her need to feel she knows my heart, and I’m emotionally open to her – all ways (way too many others to list) I can serve my wife. Because she always deserves it? No. Because that’s the example Christ set for me to follow when I didn’t deserve it? Bingo.

Please hear my heart as I write this stuff guys – I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m some kind of “perfect guy” who writes a marriage blog, and has it all together. A guy who never struggles with anything, and has the picture perfect marriage and kids. I do struggle. I don’t know it all. I have a LOT to learn. I fail. A lot. But by God’s grace, I keep going. I keep putting one foot after another. I keep on driving for a better relationship with my wife. Through the times when my mind says “you don’t even like her right now”, I push through the pride and love her anyway. But it’s hard. And I don’t always succeed. But until I take my last breath, I will ALWAYS try. Why? Because it’s what God has called me to do as a husband. It’s what God has called YOU to do as a husband. It’s making us more like Him. It’s making us grow up. And that’s worth it.

The role of DAD; Our kids desperately need us.

The last few days, I’ve had the blessing (ok, so sometimes my face may not have said “blessing”) of taking care of our 3 kiddos (5, 3 and 1) while my wife went to the Woman’s Advance at our church (great thing to send your wife to by the way, to get refreshed and recharged – but that’s another post…). It was really nice to have some “down time” with just the kids and I. And it got me thinking.

Sometimes I think we as men, can view life day-to-day, as one big “task list” that needs to be done, in order to feel like we’ve accomplished and “conquered” the day.

What I’m afraid we also tend to do (most times not even realizing it), is put “quality time with the kids” way down at the bottom of that mental list.

We tell ourselves “I’ll get to that when I get all this more important stuff is done”forgetting that being a DAD to our kids (even if that means just building a Lego castle with your son, or letting your daughter “do your hair” with bows and barettes) is one of the greatest callings God has given us. Spending time with them – not “left over” time, but quality, purposeful, time –  is one of our most important jobs as dads.

Our sons are trying as hard as they can to win our approval, even when they mess up. They’re also trying to figure out what it means to be a “man” in today’s world. And you know what that means, they’re looking to DAD. You remember the feeling – always thinking Dad was about the coolest, strongest, best dressed guy you knew. But are we taking the time to really talk to our sons? To encourage them? To show them how to treat women respectfully and with honor? To show them the value of hard work? What it means to be a man of your word? When they show anger towards us or their siblings, do we show them anger back? Or take that chance to take a deep breath ourselves, and help them understand how to work through it, instead of blow up? If we aren’t training our sons up to be men of God, and what it looks like to be a “real man” in God’s eyes, who will?

Or how about our little daughters? You know, the most beautiful little girl you’ve ever laid eyes on? The one that goes around telling everybody she’s “daddy’s princess”.  Do we even realize what an impact we have on her little sense of self-confidence? How she’s crying out to us “Dad, do you think I’m beautiful? Do you notice me when I spin around in my dress? Do I have value? Do I measure up?”. We forget the impact we have on our daughters. We need to spend that time with them just cuddling on the couch, asking her about things she’s interested in, taking her on “daddy daughter dates”, telling her she’s beautiful. And do you know why these things are so important? Because if we don’t, she’ll end up finding another boy who will.

I don’t know about you, but when my little girl gets into her teen years, I want her confident in her daddy’s love for her, in feeling valued, in knowing that she can come to me anytime for support, or just to hold her through the tough times. The more we seek to fill this God-given role for our daughters, the less likely they will be to try finding it out from another boy, until the appropriate time when God sends her the mate He’s chosen for her – to take over for me.

Don’t view time with your kids as “optional”. It should be just as important as spending time with your wife. I’m pretty sure when we get to Heaven, and God asks what we did with the children He entrusted to us, it’s not going to go over well if we say “Well, I didn’t spend much time with my kids, but you should see how much landscaping I got done, and how many contracts I closed at work!”. God didn’t call us to have an amazing yard. He called us to train up the children he’s given us.

Our kids just want to see that their dad values them. Over work. Over getting the house clean. Over his golf game or ESPN.

Sometimes it seems like we’re not “training them up” by just playing cars, or doll house, but if we could only see the impact we’re having on them, showing them they matter to us, we’d do it so much more often.

They’ll always be more “stuff” to do. Our kids are only in our care for a short time. We don’t have to be perfect, we just need to be “there”. Don’t short your kids what they desperately need from you – being their DAD. 

What my Dad Taught Me About Hard Work

I was out mowing a lawn for some extra “diaper money” the other day. It was hot, and the lawn I was mowing was at a house that had been repossessed by the bank, so “lawn” didn’t truly reflect the condition grass I was cutting. “Hay field” would have been a better representation. It was so bad that I couldn’t even use a regular mower to get through it, I had to use a “DR Trimmer Mower” (basically a 6HP weed eater on wheels) to hack through the overgrown grass. Anyway, there I was, sweat dripping down my forehead, grumbling to myself about how hard it was, and how I wished I could just go home and have a glass of my wife’s homemade lemonade, when my mind started to wander back to when I was a kid, and the lessons that my dad taught my sister and I about hard work.

My sister and I were always expected to help with whatever project dad had going at the time. It could be building fences around our 5 acre plot of land, or weeding the very large garden he insisted on growing every year. Whatever the task was, dad always taught us that it didn’t matter if it was 95 degrees out, or if you were tired, or had some great excuse for why you needed to go inside – the job needed to be done, and done right, and with the right attitude. There were many times I thought he was mean to make us stay out and finish the job. I had no idea that what he was instilling into me would be of such great value as an adult. What I thought was dad just being a pain – I should have been thanking him for.

There have been many jobs as a teenager, and as a young adult, that I would not have gotten, or been able to keep, if it weren’t for what Dad taught me as a kid. I’ve worked for burger joints, all the way up to self-made millionaires, and each one has always gone out of their way to hire me, and then try to keep me on if I decided to leave for a better job. Is this because I’m a likable guy, or I have some kind of secret power? No, it’s because I know how to roll up my sleeves and get down to business – just like my dad taught me.

Being a father myself now, I have to remember to teach a good work ethic to my kids – to do the job “unto the Lord, not unto man”. Even if it’s not an enjoyable job, or everybody else has quit – having to determination to see the job through. This is harder than it sounds however, in the culture we live in. It’s tempting in our world of automated everything and “the government will do it for you” attitudes, to end up doing too much FOR my kids instead of letting them work at something and see it through without my direct help. I also need to lead by example in the work that I do with them. Just like I remember my dad seeing the job through no matter how hard, my kids will also remember how their dad did, or didn’t see a job through.

Thanks Dad, for showing me the value of a hard work. It a trait that’s becoming harder and harder to find.

A First Time Dad’s Guide to Surviving Childbirth

This is something I wrote for a friend of mine, before he and his wife had their first child some years back. It was a list of things that I wish somebody had told me, before I went “into battle” with my wife in that thing they call a “delivery room” – over 5 years ago. I am posting it to my blog in the hopes that it helps all the soon to be dads out there that are trying to put on that they know most of what’s going to happen, but then get to that day – only to realize (like me) they had absolutely no clue. Here’s what I wrote:

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS FROM EXPERIENCE GAINED FROM WATCHING MY 3 CHILDREN BE BORN, AND THE SITUATIONS FOLLOWING THEIR BIRTH. THE CONTENT MAY BE A BIT GRAPHIC, BUT GET USED TO THAT. THE INFORMATION PROVIDED MAY OR MAY NOT BE HOW YOUR WIFE WILL RESPOND TO ANY GIVEN SITUATION DURING OR AFTER BIRTH. IT IS SIMPLY MEANT TO BE A GUIDE TO GIVE YOU SOMEWHAT OF AN IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECT, AND HOW TO HANDLE, THIS THING THEY CALL CHILDBIRTH. AFTER THIS, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN. GOOD LUCK.

Section One – Before Birth:

What happens when her water breaks? – 

This can happen before she goes to the hospital, or after she gets there. When it breaks, it’s not like in the movies where it gushes all over the floor, and sounds like someone just turned a shower on. It’s more like it “leaks” out. And the more she moves, the more it leaks. Most of the time she will run to the bathroom thinking she is peeing herself. If you think about it, it’s like a sack of water with a baby in it, trying to get out a small hole. Some of the water is trapped in different places in the sack, and so the more she moves, the more it finds it’s way out. Have a few towels ready for the seat of the car if it breaks before at home. It will leak all the way to the hospital, and the maxi pad that she put on, won’t last more than 5 minutes. Does it smell? No. Is it bloody? Shouldn’t be. Mostly clear, with little bits of “whatever that is” in it sometimes.

 What do I bring to the hospital? –

You’ll want a change of clothes, shower stuff, a book or something to read before labor get’s hard, a toothbrush, THE CAMERA (don’t forget the memory cards and extra batteries), video camera?, stuff that may distract her (in a good way) during labor. This may include a picture of both of you on vacation at a favorite spot, her iPod with her “labor playlist” on it, etc. Also have good selection of old memories in your head that you can remind her of. Like “hey honey, you remember when you and I took a walk on the beach when we were in Oregon, and we found that little cove where we watched the sun set?” Helps get her mind off of the pain.

Section Two – During Labor:  

Is it true that she might poop during labor? –

Yes, she might, but nature has a way of “cleaning her out” before the pushing part comes. Most of the time they have diarrhea before that point, and there’s not a whole lot left to come out. Will she be worried about that? Probably at first, but when it comes to that point where she is pushing hard, she could care less. She just wants that baby out of her. NOW.

Is true that they yell at you during labor? –

For the most part, no. Are there times when she will get a little pissy and may send some crisp words you way? Yes. You just have to feel her out. It helped Val if I found a place on her body to rub softly, and rhythmically to give her something to concentrate on. A rhythm. Also breathe with her. She will have a tendency to “tense up” during contractions. This only makes them worse! She has to find a way to RELAX through them. Talk softly to her, and remind her to breathe through them. (Side Note: The hospital ice machine is the most amazing nugget ice machine on planet earth. She might want you to feed her a few pellets at a time. If she doesn’t, mow down the whole glass yourself.) Contractions will start out pretty slow (5-7 minutes apart), and then get to where they are a minute or less apart. Should you sit down? No. This is your part. She’s got the raw end of the deal, let me tell you. Will you get tired of standing all night long? You bet. Don’t let her panic either. At a certain point she will start talking like “I don’t think I can do this”. You have to talk her through it and tell her she’s going to do just fine, and you’re right there with her. Oh, and don’t play your Game Boy while she’s in labor.

What exactly is happening “down there” during labor? –

Ah yes, the vagina. What used to be your play-toy, is now morphing into this crazy looking birth tube. The doctor, and the nurses, and the other nurses, and pretty much everyone who walks into the room will now be sticking their fingers “up there” to check how far she is dilated. Once she get’s to around a 8 or 9 (10 being ready to give birth) you’ll start to notice a “bulge” about 5 or 6 inches above her vagina. That’s the head. At this point she will be complaining about feeling a lot of “pressure” down there, and will be saying that she wants to push now. The docs won’t let her though, until she is dilated to a 10. This is always a fun conversation between the doctors and your wife, as everything inside her entire being is screaming PUSH NOW, and the doctor is saying “just wait a little longer, breathe through it”. At this point you may want to make sure there is nothing around within easy reach that she could grab and throw at the doctor (like a lamp). Ok, so now she is at a 10, and the doctor has given her the ok to push. If they haven’t already, they will now “break down” the bed, and put her feet into the stirrups like you see in all the movies. At this point, there is no such thing as modesty. With each push her vagina opening will get bigger and bigger, to the point where you wonder how that’s even possible. Now here’s the point where you either look away, and stay “up north” with you wife, or decide “how bad can it be, I kinda want to see it”, and watch her push it out. I have tried both. The time I watched it come out, it took me a few months (or more) to look at that area the same again. It’s hard to explain, but it just did something to me, and it took me a while to not see that image in my head whenever I thought of that area. What I recommend is to take pictures standing at her bedside, from about the middle of her body. That way you can see enough to catching it coming out, but not so much that you are scarred for life.

What’s it look like when it comes out? –

Bloody, covered with white stuff, and oh yeah, attached with an umbilical cord. The doc will ask you if you want to cut it. I did with all 3 of ours. Kind of gross, but somehow I felt I had to. It’s some type of “right of passage” I think. They usually put the baby right on mom’s bare chest when it comes out. This is up to your wife, but most like it. They check all the vitals, and towel dry the baby while it is there.Bathcomes later on. Oh, and don’t forget about the placenta. (the bloody “glob” that was attached to the inside of the uterus, plus the sack the baby lived in) They deliver that after the baby comes out. Another very bloody and gross after effect of birth. I guess there are some people who say it’s great fertilizer for your garden, but the thought always just makes me want to hurl.  

Section – The Hospital Stay: 

Ok, so now where do we stay? –

Pat your self on the back, you made it through birth! Exhausted? Yeah, imagine how your wife feels. After a few hours they will now move you to the room where you will spend the next couple days. I always thought you would just stay in the same room you delivered in (where I had already set up all my electric toys, laptop, etc), but no, they move you to the “other rooms” that aren’t delivery suites. If you’re lucky, there will be 2 beds in the room. If you’re not, there will be a bed for your wife, and a chair for you. Chairs suck. Ask for a bed if you can.

How about food? –

Get used to walking down to the café to get yourself food. They will deliver the food to your wife, but not yours. This is ok though, as you get you get out of the room for a while and get some air. If your wife get’s tired of the hospital food, you might find yourself running to her favorite fast food place for lunch. Something about giving birth makes them ravenous.

WI-FI? –

The hospital usually has free Wi-Fi for you to use. Just ask for the password from the nurse station, and you’ll be sending pictures of that new bundle of joy to everybody that has an email address.

Section 4 – Time to go home:

Night #1 –

Let the fun begin! If the baby is breast-feeding, they usually get up about every 2 hours for feeding. Since your man boobs don’t work, this means that your wife will be getting up every two hours to feed the thing. This will make her crabby. So to help, you will be the one that gets to change the diaper every 2 hours, and then hand the neat little bundle to your wife to feed. The good part is that then you get to hop back in bed. The bad part is that it’s only for 2 hours. This will improve with time however! Hey, and some kids sleep the entire night as soon as they are born (or so I’ve heard). Have any of mine done that? No.  

Section 5 – Sex after birth:  

How long do we have to wait? –

Doc recommends at least 6 weeks. More if there were complications with the birth, or if they had to cut at all. Some couples won’t wait that long, but you need to at least wait until the bleeding stops, since you could cause an infection if you do it earlier.

Is she going to feel the same after giving birth? –

Here’s one of those questions you have in the back of your head, and mostly due to the locker room talk you’ve heard over the years about them getting “loose” after giving birth. This has not been the least bit true in my experience. Some men even say that their wives even feel tighter after birth, than before. 

Will I hurt her the first time we do it again? –

Yes. More or less depending on several things, but it will probably hurt a little. GO SLOW! And use LOTS of lube, since they can be a little dry down there for a while. This is not the time to try out that new position you’ve been wanting to try. The missionary position, or her on top (so she can control the depth) works the best, and it’s going to take her some time to get used to having you inside her again. Just take it easy, even though it’s been 6 weeks, and you’re about to go crazy, and let her tell you what feels best. You may even try it, and it’s just too painful to keep going the first time. Don’t panic! She will eventually be ready for it again. It’s incredibly frustrating to the guy, but it will get better!

Does she hate sex? – 

This is the question you will be asking your self quite often during the several months after she gives birth. Between breast-feeding (like cold water to her sex drive), and being up at all hours of the night, it’s going to take some time to get back in the swing of things in the ol’ sex life. The key is to keep communicating about your needs to her in a loving way, and being patient with her. She isn’t just trying to be mean (even though it sometimes feels like it to the guy) when she’s not interested. She is just not to that point yet. The hard part is to NOT become bitter or mad at her, and have that “whatever, I’m not even going to ask anymore” attitude. There are times that even though she doesn’t want to have intercourse, she may be willing to “help you” in other ways until she has a little more energy for full on sex. Remember to let her talk out her feelings, even though she isn’t giving you sex. There is a tendency for us guys to just “close up” and go work out in the shop when we feel rejected sexually. This doesn’t help the problem at all. If your wife doesn’t feel emotionally connected with you, she sure as heck isn’t going to feel like diving into the sack with you – with reckless abandon. Remember, talking is like foreplay to our wives. 

Will our sex life ever be the same as it was before kid(s)? –

The short answer? No. But it’s not all bad. Sex will now take more planning. Gone are the days of “whenever you feel like it, no matter what time of day it is, or in what room”. Now you have to time it for nap time, or in the 2 hours you have before you go to bed, after you put the kids down. There will be nights you plan on doing it, and then when your head hits the pillow, you’re so exhausted, that it just isn’t going to happen. Sex is now more of an adventure of “fitting it in” to your schedule of dirty diapers, feedings, play time, etc. Is it going to be hard work? Yeah. Is it worth it? You bet it is! The sooner you get used to the idea that your married life constantly changing, and not try to live in the “good old days”, the faster you will learn to look forward to the new and constantly changing challenges that lie ahead for both of you.