The Little Moment: A tale of realization as a dad.

My life, as of late, has been measured by the moment. To some this may be a dad thing, in this case it is amazing. This weekend I took some time and headed to a park with Zoey and David. I have been working with the  City Dads Group and finally was able to get a chapter started here in Richmond, VA. While this has added to the never-ending list of things that I am working on, it is extremely important. I have benefitted through my current journey from countless other dads. This has empowered me to do something to help others. I have watched a community building itself out of awesomeness.  City Dads is a community of fathers that work hard to redefine fatherhood in the 21st century. I am so happy to be bringing this to Richmond, leading the charge, but that is a story for later.

There was a moment while we were walking on the trail that struck me.

moment of joy

The recent rain brought forth a bouquet of fresh aromas under the canopy of the trees. The deep, earthen soil mulling with sweet pine being baked in the humid spring heat brought memories of my childhood forward. I watched as their little bodies would lean and run around the winding path. The joy and excitement of each and every step reverberated through the deep woods.  The rapid scraping sound of little shoes running across fine gravel echoed with a cacophonous tumult, pushed further with the sound of laughter.

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Taking this time with my kids means the world to me. It is my honor and duty to raise them up to be better than myself. It was in this moment, far from the sounds of suburban life, that the juxtaposition of the quote struck me.  As I glanced through the trees, over the standing water, and watched the blur of my son and daughter, I smiled. This moment was the embodiment of the quote from Goethe. My children were simultaneously showing their roots and wings. It was beautiful, and inspiring.

This is not a mark of completion, but a trail marker on the way. It is a sign that I am doing something right, that amidst the trials and failures, there is something beginning to grow.

 

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Just when we think that Spring has finally sprung…

Things were looking up.  The sky has been a beautiful shade of blue. The clouds have been white and puffy like marshmallows dancing in the sky. We were able to open the windows and let in some fresh, warm air. Spring had arrived! The birds were chirping, the grass was growing, and all was right with the world.

Then I looked at the ‘spring’ weather today.

Just when you think spring has sprung

First I see that there is rain.  I pay that no mind, it comes with the season. Then I looked a little closer.  How is it getting COLDER? I understand that cold fronts move, and the jet stream does its thing.  But, we were looking great. Incremental climbs every day. We were a little over 70 yesterday, and now, what do I see.  50 degrees, followed by 40 degrees. Then there will be a quick jump back to 70! Followed by another round of declining temperatures.

Perhaps it is a result from being cooped up so long.  Between everyone being sick… forever, and the weather, we have been confined. Haphazardly glancing out the window and sighing, mostly out of remorseful disgust. Having three kids under the age of five, we need spring.  We need the puffy marshmallow-esque clouds and the blue skys to come. To be able to open our doors and let the kids run, carefree and barefoot in the sun warmed grass.

But, it is not meant to be spring, just yet. We will now keep looking to the days that will come. All in hopes that our home, and our sanity can outlast the final thralls of winter.  Do not get me wrong, I am an autumn/winter guy.  But as parents, running low on coffee and chocolate, we need spring. We need spring rather badly.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Dance in the Storm: A tale of how Fatherhood is changing

I spent the better part of the night before I left to attend Dad 2.0 Summit filled with excitement. My son and daughter gleefully put on music and took my hands so we could dance.  Filling my soul with all the joy and laughter that it could take.  I knew that I needed it to sustain me. How could I justify flying across the country, leaving my wife and three kids (all under the age of five), to go to a conference that talks about being a good dad? My hope was that it would be found in these moments pre-flight.

With a final kiss goodbye, I slid the door closed and walked into the airport. It only took two steps for me to physically feel that my heart was not with me.  Behind me, in that minivan, the one with the three crying children and teary-eyed wife, that is where my heart was.  As excited as I was to be heading to Dad 2, I felt empty and alone as I walked through the airport. Something was lacking. Stressful as it may be to travel with kids, I missed having to chase them down. Usually I would be focused on my kids as we waited in the endless TSA line. Instead, I stood there, alone. I missed it so much, that it angered me. I felt a fiery heat rise in the void that was created when my heart was left in that van.

“Real fatherhood means love and commitment and sacrifice and a willingness to share responsibility and not walking away from one’s children.” – William Bennet

All of it, all the angst and torment, was directed at myself. Angry for getting on this plane. Torment because I missed my kids. But, woefully I moved on.  I thought of the excitement that lay before me. I was going to be surrounded by other dads talking about what they have experienced, and what they are working through, as dads. This summit is a chance to have open, honest, raw and vulnerable conversations about the thing that we all love more than life itself, being a dad. There is much laughter, joking, and even crying about some of the things that we have gone through. There is so much acceptance and support for every single dad there.  It is kind of beautiful actually.

Over the last five years I have discussed the state of fatherhood. I have written about some of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. I have written with raw and visceral emotion about every time that my daughter has had a surgery.  Pouring out the feelings and encapsulating the moments while waiting for a team of surgeons to open her skull, re-shape it, and put it back together like a jigsaw puzzle. I have expressed every question, fear, and worry as many dad’s do not.  Open and exposed for the world to see.

On the other side of things, I have written about the things that have brought so much more joy than I thought possible into my life. Taking every single milestone and event as viewed through the eyes of a proud father. My pride being a banner for the world to see, and a model for my children to learn. Never shy of showing my joy for these things. Yet again, standing on the outside of ‘normal’ fatherhood.  Unashamed of showing my feelings for my amazing kids.

The same amazing kids that I just walked away from.

The void which my heart left in its wake, quivers with sorrow as I board the plane. I miss them. My God do I miss them.  Holding onto the memories of the dance gives me peace.

Why do I do this? Looking at my stats, usually with a stiff drink in hand, I can tell that my prolific writing is not just for solace, or confirmation. My reach is far narrower than many of the people that I will meet at this conference. I wonder how many know of the endless nights that I spend working though self-doubt, and creative enlightenment in ways to expand my reach. Of the countless drafts and plans that I have worked through in an effort to better tell this amazing story of my journey through fatherhood.  Then I wonder that if they did know these things, would it matter?

In my last five years of being a dad I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by some prolific storytellers, who just happen to have kids. They write and shoot videos, often tongue-in-cheek, about their adventures into this great unknown we call parenting. They do not dance around the difficult topics. Instead, they face them head on.  They have been some of my best teachers, and dearest friends, as I have pushed myself to write more, do more, show more.

As the summit carried on, one thing resounded in the general buzz of the atmosphere.  With all the ideas and accolades, there was the same sorrowful voice about how much we missed out kids. I held fast to those memories of my kids and I dancing, without a care in the world. Those memories that I crammed into my soul before leaving.  In a flash, something begin to happen. Over the crowd I could hear the music wafting through the air, mixing with the distant sounds of my children’s laughter.

It was so surreal.  I could feel the carpet under my feet and the hands of my children in mine.  I could feel my body wanting to dance with them, as though they were there.  In this moment, it hit me. There was something that says more about the current state of fatherhood then I thought real. There is something about this dance that is now screaming as an epic moment of realization. So, I do what I have done for five years and I write.  I glide my lyrical brush across time and space to make sense of it all.  Removing layer after layer of dust to uncover something for all of us to see.

The very moment that someone becomes a dad their lives are changed forever. The act of entering fatherhood means that our lives are sent careening down a torrent path filled with the ominous unknown. The twists, turns, rises and falls are consumed with moments of fear, doubt, joy and often moments so hilarious that we can do nothing but laugh. We have to make decisions very early on that forever alter our children’s lives. Ironically is a decision that most of us make absentmindedly.

Holding onto my children’s hands as we dance in the living room, something was happening. As I replayed the moment over and over again in my head, I began to see.  This moment has something hidden deep in the steps, the motion, the dance itself.  Tightly wound like my son’s hand on a Popsicle stick, or my daughter’s on a piece of chocolate, so tight that you cannot see it, and surely it would break.

In a flash, it becomes clear.  Brilliant like the sun on a summer’s day. Bright like the full moons reflection upon a still pond. This thing buried deep with the dance all centers on a single decision that we all make at that very moment we become dads. A decision that shows the importance of fatherhood as a whole, but also how the idea of fatherhood has changed.  The simple act of dancing with my children exposes a question that many do not even know they answer.

How do we raise our children to be better people then we are?

As dads, we have the obligation, not the choice, of making a decision on how to raise our children. We can raise them in such a way that forces them to fit into a mold that, in-turn, fits into our lifestyle or point of view. We could constrain them to the perfect little thoughts and dreams that we have had for them since we found out that they were on the way. Society, and all of its morals and ideals could crash into our voices, masking reason with what society feels is right and good. Or, we can get uncomfortable with the unknown, and let our children become who they want to be.

Our decision, and my choice.

As for my wife and I, we could raise our children by any of these ideals. Instead we raise our children with the motto: live big, love bigger, and be kind, always. This means that we place value in living with honor, choosing to love, and the importance of being kind. To me it doesn’t matter who my kids might grow up to be. I just want them to grow up, slowly, and be happy with who they become. I have learned that it should not matter who they want to be. What does matter is that I exhaust all efforts for them.  That I let them explore this crazy world around them. Ensuring that they find what makes them happy. Above all else, encouraging them to go after what makes them happy.

What matters is it that I cheer them on in every possible endeavor. To do this not just from the sidelines, but right there with them. That it is more important to cast aside my ideals, and help them explode onto this world, and leave a mark that THEY are happy with, not the mark that I hope they make. To show them that inclusivity STARTS at home, at our dining room table. That love and respect is a requirement, not some gracious thing they should do.

Fatherhood In Practicality…

There’s something awesome about being a dad. You must force yourself to take a step back from it all. Look past the unknown and see the brilliance and beauty behind it. If you let yourself just being your children’s cheerleader, their champion, and their springboard, there’s so much greatness that you have the ability to witness. There will be times when things don’t go their way, and all you have to do is be there for them. They will be things that they want to do that do not even remotely fit your mold.

I’ve been watching my oldest son over the last couple of days and I see something that would terrify most. He would make one damn good ballet dancer. Looking back, not too far, I would find myself doing a plethora of things.  Spend evenings outside with him tossing the football with him in hopes of him becoming a defensive end like his father.  Enrolling him in sports, wood-shop, welding and other things to entice the engineer side that I have seen in him.  Excite him with Lego’s and building sets to have his mind shift to constructive creativity.  However, fatherhood has changed. I have gleaned so much from my dad, as well as the other dads at the Dad 2 summit.

Instead of doing those things, what is it that I do?

I dance with him.

And he loves it.

Perhaps even more than I do.

 

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

New family stuff

It has been awhile since I have written a more personal update on life in general. As I ignore the cabinet doors banging open and closed behind me, here is the latest.

Me – I have started a few new endeavors this season. The most time consuming project has been coordinating the childcare program for my MOPS group. Technically it doesn’t even start until Sept 17, but there has been a lot of prep work and hunting down of capable, willing participants as we start our first year in this location. I love it, and I’m really excited with what I have been able to bring to the table with my random assortment of experiences. I highly recommend finding a local MOPS group for all you moms of little ones out there!!
Second, I purchased three large spools of ribbon to be used in about 40 prayer chains for other cranio kids undergoing surgery. This is a project of Cranio Dads (www.craniodad.com) in direct support of Cranio Care Bears (www.craniocarebears.org), an amazing nonprofit that sends care packages to cranio kids before they undergo surgery. I will be getting packs together with instructions for individual chains as I can, so please let me know if you want to help make a few! Third, we have successfully moved into a house! I personally count this as a project and an ongoing accomplishment as we fix it up a little and begin to make it our own.

Zoey – was prescribed an additional four months of wearing an eye patch, this time alternating eyes every day for a few hours. This is an effort to strengthen her eye muscles before her follow up appointment with her ophthalmologist in Nov. Most likely she will have an eye muscle corrective procedure in later Nov, to encourage them to work together a little better. As you might remember, she tends to focus only one eye at a time. She is also continuing in private speech therapy every week, and showing a really encouraging amount of improvement in her articulation. Another shout out, I highly recommend Bon Air Therapy Center through VCU for anyone in the RVA area! All other areas of care are basically on standby now. She is three, and apparently an expert on all things grown-up now. She is a great little mama bear for David.

David – is a ham. Mr. Social, he is actively engaged with every person, dog, and car crossing his path. His speed and fearless curiosity have only increased as he nears his second year of life (aaaaah! too soon!). Every action and word is adorable – then again I’m a little biased, and he is incredibly devoted to his big sister. He has been a wonderfully easy baby, with one major exception in the sleeping category. We’re working on it 😉 He has brought so much laughter and chaos to an otherwise overly serious family sometimes.

craniodad – I will let him speak for himself. He’s pretty good at it 😉 He is an amazing husband and dad, and I am so blessed to have his undying support in everything as my best friend.

Giving thanks

Day 13:

I’m thankful for a wonderful combination of midwives who advocate for natural childbirth methods, as well as incredibly skilled surgeons who are on call to assist in emergency situations.

And so it begins….

The first few flakes of snow are falling today in RVA…. and chaos ensues. Yes, it is cold.  Yes, there are these magical flakes in the air falling to the ground, it is called snow.  Snow is not the end of the world, stop driving like it is.  *sigh* at least I have a window in my office so I can see the beauty that is this weather.