Everyday, I wonder if I am doing it right. Every. Single. Day.
Everyday, I wonder if I am gone too much for work or present too much, showing too much of an impassive, gloomy face. I am allotted only so many hours in a day and very few of them are with my children. And when I am with them, I am usually tired or rushing or thinking of other things I have not finished. I go to bed with a pit in my stomach, wondering if they have heard me say “I love you” in the small ways that I have tried to say it. I say it with words, with hugs, with teasing, with bed time prayers.
Everyday, I am almost certain that I have hurt them more than healed them.
Everyday, I wonder if I left them a legacy in the word “dad” or if I have handed them an anchor.
Everyday, I delight in them behind their back and find a way to be frustrated and impatient to their face.
Every. Single. Day.
Children are a wonder. My children are special and a joy and the pride of my life. My wife seems to have been born with their language. I speak it only passably, awkwardly, and with moderate success. But their foreignness is only further indication that they are a gift to me, something not entirely of my making.
My generation is increasingly delaying child-bearing or forgoing it altogether. I think that, probably, people like me are part of the reason why. I publicly profess my unease with my own children, my fatigue, my failure. But make no mistake: I am fraught because they are treasures that I do not want to shatter. My friends that do not want children because they think that they are not “kid people,” they are missing out on the wonderful, terrible truth that none of us are, and we are better off for it.
Parenting feels like a high-stakes tight-rope game with only glacial payoffs and decades-long strategies at hand. It feels like failure comes in an instant and success is unknown. I cannot believe that so much of the best of me has carried on, and I am so sorry for my own darkness that has been passed down in their bones.
But their smiles, the giggles pile into my pockets like an inheritance that cannot be stolen from me. Diamonds and rubies and giggles. They charitably pour out wealth on me, seemingly unhindered by my incompetence in the field of joy.
Someday, their language will merge with mine. They will grow up and we will understand one another better than we do now. I can only hope that when that day comes, they will still want to speak with me.
What I will tell them is the truth: Their father has never been anything more than mortal. Their father has failed them and everyone else in uncountable ways. Their father has often treated them as if perfection was attainable, all the while groaning under such a load.
Fatherhood is facing the wilderness with very few directions. There are companions and the semblances of tracks ahead. But there is everywhere the sense that doom may be ahead.
And I will tell them that I have needed grace. So much grace. I will them that I remember so many times when I had to ask a four-year-old for forgiveness, for mercy. So many times when I should have. I will them what I hope to show them: That the love of God was never contractual, but given regardless of the other end of the bargain.
Fatherhood makes me feel small every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
I don’t know if I’m any good at it. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’m not. People think that when I say that, I’m asking to be reassured that I am. But I’m providing diagnosis, not invitation. I’m not very good at this thing.
But I’m so grateful for my kids. I hope they know that. I want to honor them with my life. With my fears. I would give them the world. I hope they know they have my heart.
There is no resolution here. I cannot solve this thing. I have no truth to be blogged that will warm the heart and solve the equation.
I’m clueless. Every. Single. Day.
And I need grace. Every. Single. Day.
I need to be given what I do not in any way deserve. Every. Single. Day.
And somehow, there is enough to make me think that the wilderness will not win, it will not crush me.
That we will be ok.
That I will be ok.
That we will make it.
Every. Single. Day.