I stood in the shallow end of the swimming pool waiting for my sobbing 5-year-old daughter to jump in. This had been going on for almost 15 minutes. “I’m scared,” she cried.
“This year, we need a break,” said my wife, Raquel, at the beginning of 2017. Each year since we’ve gotten married, there’s been some huge stress that has shaken up our lives. I know we all go through those times, but knowing that doesn’t make them any easier — it certainly hasn’t for us.
This week I had two opportunities to appear on “Fox and Friends,” the top morning show on cable TV. It caught me by surprise, but it happened because of my FoxNews.com op-ed “What happened when my daughter saw me kiss my wife.”
The day my oldest daughter was born, I held her in my arms in the hospital and made two promises: “First, I promise I will never leave your mother; and second, I’ll show up. I’ll do everything I can to be at your recitals and ball games and dinner around the table.”
I remember the night my parents split up. My older brother Caleb came into my bedroom and whispered that Mom and Dad were in the kitchen talking about divorce. We weren’t surprised.
When I was seven years old, my dad took my brother and me on a hike around our small town in south Mississippi. That hike would turn into one of the most terrifying moments of my life.
One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.
I have a brother and sister who died in a plane crash when they were 10 and 14 years old. Although I only have one memory of them, I definitely felt their absence growing up. My father will tell you that he still does.
I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday. I took my three kids to the service by myself because my wife wasn’t feeling well. The journey started out well enough — we were in the car and only running 12 minutes behind when we pulled out of the driveway. But it was all downhill from there.
“Color with me, Daddy,” my oldest daughter said. “I prefer to draw a picture, but I don’t what to draw,” I said.
A lot of folks like me hit their 20s or 30s and suddenly realize all the things their parents got wrong. The blame rolls in. Our insecurities, troubles with romance, inability to develop healthy friendships, whatever — all of it comes back to mom and pop. If only they hadn’t done this or that, we would be healthy and whole. When my parents divorced after years of trying to keep it together, I didn’t know what to do with their relationship. In the back of my mind, I knew there were bright moments, but I simplified things by seeing their relationship as one big mistake.
Yesterday, my wife and I had visitors over, and my newborn son started crying — probably because he was tired and needed to go to sleep. We tried to play it cool while attempting to calm him down. We even gave our visitors a shot at soothing him, but none of it worked. He kept on crying, so I finally left the room and went upstairs to console him. It took 30 minutes, and it required a lot of creativity.
Last night, my daughters were in the living room where my newborn son was sleeping in a bouncy seat on the floor. I went to the bathroom after explicitly saying, “Please be quiet around your brother.” I should have just taken the baby to the bathroom with me.
Right now, I’m looking across the room at my son, a newborn baby boy curled against my wife’s chest. She’s nursing him, which takes a lot more effort than you would imagine. And speaking of effort, there are a host of other little tasks that somehow manage to take up nearly the whole day. We don’t mind it, but we’ve come a long way since our first two children were infants.
Last weekend was pretty intense at our house. One of my six-year-old’s front two teeth was ready to fall out, but she was terrified of the pain she might feel if it did.