Wednesday, May 21, 2008

He Said - The Diaper Years

I love my kids. They’re great. And not just because they’re nice to have around when I need another cup of coffee and don’t feel like going to the kitchen myself, or when it would really be nice for somebody to hand me the remote control because I already sat down, or on those occasions when I just feel like ordering someone around for no other reason than because I feel like it.

No surprise to me that some people call these the “wonder years.” I would agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, children do not come into this world directly into the “wonder years”. Prior to that is a much darker period of time known as the “diaper years”, and it is a time perhaps not quite filled so much with wonder as it is with something else altogether.

I learned many things during the diaper years. I learned that I had badly underestimated how expensive diapers are, not to mention how many are required for the daily care of a baby. I learned that there is no such thing as a “leak proof” diaper. I learned that the Diaper Genie we purchased to dispose of dirty diapers was a complete waste of money because the kitchen trash was much easier to use and would fill up so fast that you had to empty it every 4 hours anyway.

And, in one very memorable rookie mistake, I learned that you should never stick your finger inside of a baby’s diaper to see if it needs to be changed.

Because sometimes it does.

But the biggest thing I learned during these years is that I did not want to change a diaper AT ALL if I could possibly avoid it, and being a quick study, I did find a few ways to get out of it. Gentlemen, the information that follows is priceless knowledge that was gleaned from my own personal trials of slogging through many a diaper year. It is yours to use as you see fit. All that I would ask in return is that when you speak of me, speak well.

* Over-powder. Nothing will rankle your wife more than to have a cloud of baby powder shoot out of your baby’s diaper every time she picks them up or sets them down. It won’t be long before she starts saying those 5 blessed little words that you love to hear: “Just let me do it.” After that, it’s all football & Fritos, baby.

* Claim complete ignorance of the female anatomy. Only works for baby girls, obviously. The basis for this excuse is that you might possible hurt the baby and/or not clean them properly because, well, you’re completely ignorant of the female anatomy. The best part about this excuse is that you don’t have to lie to pull it off. (Note: To help illustrate your ignorance, take the time to earnestly question your wife about how it was again that she became pregnant in the first place.)

* Install Diapers Very Loosely. There’s nothing like a good poopy dribbling down your baby’s leg and onto her dress while she’s breastfeeding to get your wife’s attention. Also very cool when - much to her horror - Grandma or Grandpa pick the baby up and the diaper falls off completely. If asked, you put the diapers on loosely because you don’t want them to constrict the baby and cause them pain. Your wife won’t argue that point, but she will feel compelled to attempt to show you the right way to put the diaper on. Stick to your guns no matter how many times she does this and continue to tell her in your most adamant voice, “that’s exactly what I did!”. Eventually she’ll give up, but you may take a few shots before she does.

* Pretend That You’re “Right in the Middle of Something.” Tell your wife that you are at a “critical juncture” of a project and you can’t stop right at the moment because “you just mixed the epoxy”, and then run out of the room. Women don’t know what epoxy is or what it’s for, but that’s exactly why they won’t call your bluff. If the “project” in question is something on the “Honey-Do” list, so much the better, because they’re the ones that wanted it done in the first place. WARNING: Do not attempt this excuse if you’ve been sitting on the couch watching TV. She won’t buy it.

* Barter. Let’s face it, no new father wants to fold laundry, clean up the dishes, make the bed, or buy his wife that trip to Paris that she’s been begging for, but if you can’t fake your way out of diaper duty, there’s nothing dishonorable about buying your way out. Many a man has done it, and if my guess is correct, this is probably how the whole concept of “trade” was invented in the first place.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What He Won't Remember

(from the book "Finding Liberty")

We always felt fairly isolated in Orlando; homeschooling was frowned upon by almost everyone, churches were big & impersonal, and finding like-minded people who simply didn’t care what the “Jones'’” did were few and far between. Although it didn’t really bother Catherine and I for ourselves that we seemed a little isolated, it did bother us for our children, because there were so few other kids around for them to play with.

I don’t know where all the kids in the neighborhood went when they came home from school – to their TV’s, computers, and video games, I guess – but they sure weren’t outside. I’m not just exaggerating either; you never saw them.

One morning Catherine was talking to a neighbor across the street and our son David, who was about 6 years old then, came up and asked our neighbor if her boys could come out to play. She kind of hemmed & hawed and then said that maybe they could come out to play around 3 O’clock. Well, to David this was firm date set in stone, and as the hours clicked away our little boy got more and more excited. But Cat & I knew that this lady never let her kids play with anyone in the neighborhood, and even as David’s excitement grew, we became more unsettled about what would actually happen.

3 O’clock finally rolled around, and David was ready to play. He was so excited! With something almost like dread, we took him outside where he ran to the end of the driveway and just stood there looking across the street – so excited and expectant – as he waited for a playmate who would never come. They weren’t home. Of course they weren’t home; she never had any intention of letting her boys play with David. I had known that, and Catherine had known that, but David didn’t.

I can still see him there; standing at first, then eventually sitting with his hands folded on his lap, so patient and happy, even as we tried to gently make excuses for why there would be no one for him to play with that day. “Just a few more minutes Daddy”, he would say, and then patiently continue to wait, eyes watching the empty house across the street.

My heart cried for my son that day. Why would you not want your kids to play with this beautiful little boy? He doesn’t swear, he doesn’t smart off, he doesn’t bully; he’s polite, he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and he has an imagination that is pure and joyful. Isn’t that the kind of boy you want your kids to play with? I don’t care if you hurt me, but don’t hurt my son. Not that way.

I mention that incident because shortly after moving to Liberty, David was invited to a birthday party. After living for years in a world almost sterile of friends for our kids, this was as much a joy for Cat & I as it was for David, and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

When we arrived, the 8 or so boys already at the party were playing Whiffle-Ball in the backyard, and David was invited to join in. It came his time to bat, and after several swings he was able to hit the ball. I was so proud.

And then he just stood there. The other kids were screaming at him, “Run! Run! Run!”, and after a few confused moments and many pointing fingers he finally took off and made it to first base. I stood there watching and felt my heart crack a little.

The next batter came to the plate and hit the first pitch. And David, so excited to be included and playing a game with other kids, just stood there on first base, not knowing what to do.

Again, the boys all began screaming, “Run! Run! Run!”, and my heart broke into pieces as I watched my beautiful little boy start running after the ball instead of towards 2nd base.

He didn’t know how to play baseball. I had never taught him.

I stood there hurting and embarrassed for this little boy named after a noble king. I stood there helplessly, watching him flounder in bewildered confusion as he tried so hard to do good, while bearing the brunt of mockery and laughter and screaming, and not even understanding why.

If there could be this much pain involved just watching my son get ridiculed by others, how much more must there have been for God when He watched His get murdered?

To their credit, the other boys didn’t give David too hard of a time, and once they learned that he had simply never played before, they did a pretty good job taking him under their wing and helping him out. In other words, doing what I should have already done long ago.

And just where had I been all that time? What had I been doing?

Like so many of those around me in that past world, I had been doing all of those things which were important to me, but not to my son. David never cared whether or not his dad closed “that big deal”, or that he was successful at “leveraging partnerships”, or that his management skills resulted in “good synergy” within the workplace. Those aren’t things that have any meaning to him whatsoever. They don’t affect his life at all, and he won’t remember me for them.

What he will remember me for is how well I’ve prepared him for this world that I brought him into. He’ll remember me for what I teach him about life & love, anger & fear, and honor & integrity. He’ll remember me for teaching him about losing with dignity & winning with grace, coping with rejection & acknowledging praise, doing what is right & leading by example, and standing your ground for what you believe in, even if others don’t like it.

Regardless of how good or bad I may do those things, he’ll at least remember that I tried, and if nothing else, he’ll have a starting point from which he can then further develop his own ideas and values as he goes through his life. That’s the only real legacy that I can give him. Those are the things that he will remember me for.

To my shame, however, he’ll never remember me for teaching him how to play baseball.