It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes it can be absolutely joy-giving. For example:
- The morning when my two-year-old daughter wanted me to teach her how to shave, so I plopped her on the bathroom vanity, covered her face with cream, and gave her a razor (no… not a real one. Don’t call Child Protective Services).
- Having a 45-minute dance party on Labor Day morning, and hearing Jake reply that he likes that Disco song best. The one called “Booger Shoes.”
Uh… that’s “Boogie Shoes,” Jake. From Saturday Night Fever.
Other times being a dad can be soul-sucking. For example:
- Hearing my daughter yell, for the 482nd time, “Daaaaaady! Come wipe my bottom!”
- Waking up at 2am to have your son puke on you.
Come to think of it, that’s a little like my college experience.
For better or for worse, parenthood is a blessing. You get to see the wonders of the world – the beauty and the mess – all wrapped up in a 34-pound package. It also comes with its fair share of responsibility. And, as a former missionary trying to keep livin’ like I oughtta’, that means teaching kids about service.
Recently, my wife and I decided that we should expose the kids to some volunteer opportunities. Granted, at 2 and 4 years old, their contributions are small. But it’s all about the ministry of presence, right?
We had been talking for months about going to serve at a homeless kitchen in Nashville run by a woman from our church. We finally got around to calling her to set up a time to come visit.
The day came to go to serve. As we got ready to leave the house, I squatted down next to the kids. I was fully prepared to give the “we’re going to serve people less fortunate than us, so be on your best behavior” speech. Like something from the psychic hotline, Gabby sensed what I was about to say, and interrupted.
“Hey kids! You wanna’ go eat lunch with some new friends!?”
They were so excited, we might as well have told them they were going to live in a house made of Twizzlers and cotton candy. Score one for Gabby. I was just about to set up the giver/taker dynamic without even thinking about it. Idiot.
When we arrived, the kids ran around like crazy people. Jake was loud. Audrey talked to everyone. We finally corralled the kids and gave them their jobs. Jake’s role was to hand out ketchup packets to folks in line. Audrey was on mayo and mustard. Gabby and I simply made sure they didn’t smash the packets into a Technicolor array of condiment art.
The kids were amazing. They chatted with people. They offered packets. They said “Have a nice day!” They got distracted by the cookies on peoples’ trays.
But what didn’t distract them were the people. Young and old, every color of the rainbow. One guy dressed in a sport coat, another in tatters. Mental illness. Prison time. The kids just smiled. Shook hands. Made connections.
And had lunch with new friends.
Fatherhood. It’s a double-edged sword.
Just when you think you’re doing the teaching, you’re the one learning all the lessons.