Loving My Daughter – A Hard Love

I realized today that loving my daughter came easy, but it’s a hard love. Let me spend some time explaining that.

I don’t know what it is about guys but I’m sure many fathers out there will be able to relate. I instantly fell in love with my daughter at first sight… the ultrasound. Ultrasounds nowadays are so amazing, I could see details of her face, I could tell that she was going to look like me, and I could tell that she was going to love to cuddle. At that moment the world turned upside down and my life had new priorities, and the road to this hard love started.

I fell deeper in love when I first laid eyes on her in the delivery room. The waiting, hand-holding, nervousness, and watching my wife push all crescendoed into a big lunged cry as I surreally watched the nurse pass Lily to Kristin. I don’t remember the visual, but I remember that overwhelming feeling of love that poured out and resulted in me crying tears of joy. I’m pretty sure Kristin freeze-framed that look on my face when I first saw Lily (because I saw Lily before she did); she still talks about that moment. Yes, love came easy. I loved Lily before she was even born and I loved her so much more after she was born.

Fast-forward 8 months. I’m now in the grind at work, excelling at what I do and chipping away the barriers for a promotion. It’s spring now, that means extra duties to maintain the exterior of the home, not just the interior. The only thing I want to do when I get home is spend time with my ladies.

I knew I was signing up for a hard love when I asked Kristin to marry me (till death do us part, right?), but what I wasn’t expecting was the longing and ache to spend time with my daughter. I wasn’t expecting that my heart would absolutely melt by that easy smile she gives me and that I would be willing to do whatever it takes to get just one more smile. I wasn’t expecting to be sad when it’s time to put her down to bed. I wasn’t expecting to feel distress when I put her in her crib and she cries because she wants me to pick her up (I sit on the floor next to the crib to let her know it’s ok). I wasn’t expecting the pangs in my heart when I drop her off at her grandma’s house so I can go to work. Mornings are bittersweet, we spend time laughing, we get ready for the day (I get to pick out her outfit and dress her), I get to see the huge smile she gives her grandma in the morning, then I give her a kiss and back out of the front door; I know that she doesn’t understand why daddy is leaving. Grandma holds Lily up at the picture window so she can say goodbye to daddy while daddy goes to work. Sometimes I can’t bear to waive back… I white knuckle the steering wheel and drive forward, on to work.

But it’s all worth it. My life is infinitely better with my daughter in my life. I’m in a deep, hard love and there’s no turning back. The best part about it is that this is only the beginning.

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Tithing Doesn’t Make Sense

My household income statement would probably look a lot better if I didn’t tithe. My wife and I ran the numbers this week and tithe is the single largest expense in our budget. We have credit card debt, student loans, a mortgage, a car loan, and other monthly living expenses. This week we canceled our car wash membership, put our Hulu subscription on hold, lowered our cell phone plan, and gave our Tax Pro our tax info so we could get that refund money in the bank. We’re making it financially, but we’re not going to be able to pay down debt as fast as we’d like or go on a vacation anytime soon.

If we didn’t return tithe this year I could pay off all of our credit card debt and several of our smaller student loans. We could probably go on a really nice vacation with Lily to the beach. We would definitely be able to go to my cousin’s wedding in April that we think we won’t be able to go to because we don’t have the extra money to stay in a hotel for a couple of days. If I didn’t return tithe, we’d be able to get to a place a lot sooner where financially, Kristin wouldn’t have to work and could stay at home with Lily.

Did you know there are biblical arguments that say that tithing in the new testament wasn’t required and that churches should be supported by gifts and offerings? There are even arguments that tithing wasn’t required in the old testament (although I find them pretty weak). I could easily pick one of these arguments and cite it as a reason not to tithe.

I understand numbers… not a workday goes by when I don’t open a spreadsheet. I put all of our income and expenses on a spreadsheet, added formulas to assist with analysis, and filters so I could display relevant data in a few clicks. Paying tithe in my situation doesn’t make sense.

So I’m going to tell you why my wife and I make tithing a priority. I’ve never told anyone this before because it doesn’t make sense, which makes it hard to explain with words. The only people who understand are those that have had the same experience…

We’ve tested God and He has always come through for us.

There have been times when the numbers just don’t add up. When our budget was so negative that we thought we were going to get kicked out of our apartment, or maybe have to sell all of our things. There were times when the stress of money was so heavy that I didn’t want to get out of bed (and a few times when I gave in and didn’t get out of bed). Through all of that we tithed and God has always come through for us. Let me recount a few unexpected gifts that we can only attribute to God looking out for us, because the timing was so perfect that we can’t just say it was a coincidence.

  • Refund of health insurance premiums (something to do with ACA, I still don’t understand why)
  • Phantom money deposited to our bank account (it happened twice, we went to the bank and told them that money wasn’t ours and they told us that there was nothing they could do about it)
  • Unexpected gift cards or money in the mail that were sent “late” as presents (I’m convinced God held those birthday/Christmas presents back so they’d arrive just when we needed it)
  • Extra unrestricted college scholarships that we didn’t apply for (seriously, when does a school give you a scholarship that you don’t apply for? It happened to both Kristin and I)
  • Unexpected bonuses from work
  • Getting a ton of food for no reason (e.g. leftovers from a party or someone bought too much food and didn’t want it to go bad so they give it to us)

God doesn’t need my math, He doesn’t need my fancy pants spreadsheets and analysis; God doesn’t even need my money. Kristin and I know that God is faithful because he has shown us that he is faithful and so tithing is a priority. For us, tithing has gone beyond words in the bible and mere theology, beyond biblical stories and modern-day anecdotes. We’ve lived it! It’s our reality. So we’re going to keep tithing even when it doesn’t make financial sense.

God has blessed us. Did I mention that tithe is our biggest expense? Yep, it’s bigger than our mortgage, so that says something. I trust in God that things will work out for us financially; He’s never given us any reason to doubt it.

A few bible verses just because. Malachi 3:10-12, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Luke 6:38, Matthew 6:21, and Philippians 4:19.

Lily of the Valley

My extended family is cray, but one thing we do right is we love each other. We each have our different love languages and there’s no shortage of hugs and kisses when we see each other. My wife and I know that when we get together with my family, we have to start saying goodbye at least 15 minutes before we need to be out the door so we can hug and kiss each person that’s there.

That’s something that we hope to teach Lily. She’s only five months old right now but grandmas, grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins all shower her with love and she doesn’t know anything but love. I think that Lily is going to have a good problem, my family is going to want to show her that they love her all the time and the love will be overflowing.

But at what point does showing your love turn in to “spoiling” a child? At what point does receiving gifts from your loved ones turn into a sense of entitlement? Those are some pretty good questions that I don’t have an answer to. What I do know though, is that Lily is always going to have her needs met because even if I have a rough spot financially, my family will always be there for us.

Let’s get one thing straight, Lily doesn’t need toys. Yesterday I pulled out her toys from her closet and played with her. She has a little doll we call BeeGee, a little doll we call Maria (for la India Maria), Go-Rilla, Mexi-bear, Daisy-bear, Monkey (her favorite toy), Ann Marie (a sock monkey), Huey, Giranimal, and dozens more. Just for fun, I put her in her pack n play and put the toys all around her and there were enough toys to bury her.

Lily doesn’t need that $10 toy that you saw at Walmart that you think she’d love. Lily doesn’t need Anna and Elsa dolls. Lily doesn’t need that $100 tablet that’s easy for infants and toddlers to use. Lily needs you.

Lily needs you to be in her life. To come over and play with Beegee, Go-Rilla, and Monkey with her. To lay down on the floor at her level or sit her on your lap and just talk to her. To come over and take her to the park. To be that adult at the playground climbing to the top of the slide and actually sliding down with Lily (freaking out all of the helicopter moms).

At some point, Lily might think that she really needs a tablet, but remember that what she really needs is for you to be in her life.

During birthdays, Christmas, etc., please don’t feel obligated to buy Lily toys. Maybe a good present could be a trip to Science City, to the movies with you, or a water park; anything that gives you the opportunity to spend time with her. If you want to buy her something tangible buy her something that she needs, like clothes.

Better yet, buy her an empty box and fill it with love letters. The letters can be just a few sentences. “January 28: Lily, I was a meeting today and I got distracted because I was overwhelmed with a sense of how much I love you. I can’t wait to see you again and hang out.” This gift is worth more than a million Anna and Elsa dolls. I’d love it if Lily had so many love letters from her family that she could bury herself in them. When Lily has a rough time at school when she’s 11 years old, she can look back at her love letters and know that you love her. When she’s 18 years old and nervous about starting a new chapter in her life, she can go forward knowing that she has all the love and support from her extended family. When she gets married and has children of her own, her love cup will be so full that all that love will overflow to the new little one.

Lily doesn’t need toys, Lily needs you.

Note: my favorite version of Lily of the Valley is by Johnny Cash.

Confession

I feel like I’ve been hiding something that I need to get off my chest. Lily sleeps in the bed with Kristin and I.

Yup, I said it. And we do it knowing the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of avoiding bed-sharing (but recommending room-sharing).

I would be lying if I said that we made the decision after careful consideration and assessing all options. Truth is, we brought her to bed because we were so darned tired. At first we tried putting her to sleep in her crib and some nights she would sleep for six hours straight. But most nights she woke up every two hours to eat.

We didn’t go in planning on bed-sharing and we tried to set ourselves up for successfully having Lily sleep in a bassinet or crib. We even put the recliner in Lily’s nursery so that in case we fell asleep feeding Lily, at least we wouldn’t be bed-sharing (turns out sleeping with a baby on the couch is just as dangerous if not more dangerous). source

The bottom line is that there was no way we could stay awake while feeding Lily. In our pregnancy class we learned about breastfeeding with the side-lying position, and even though the nurses in the hospital said that we shouldn’t use this position with a newborn, I told Kristin that I recommended that we try it. I have no regrets.

I was so scared that I barely slept that night. I had a body pillow between me and my baby and I’m pretty sure I only slept in 5 minute increments. We later figured out that our humidifier has a blue night light on it that gives off just enough light that we can see at night and we started sleeping with it on. Kristin said that she can easily see to help Lily latch on during feedings and I was again losing sleep, but this time because I was swooning watching Lily sleep. I later found out that there’s some controversy over the AAP’s recommendations, but that just provided an excuse to bed-share after we’d already made the decision to bed-share.

I truly think that we are making the best decision for Lily’s well-being. I can tell that Lily sleeps better when she sleeps within arms length of a parent (and there’s research that shows this). We take safety precautions, Lily sleeps on her back and is an arms length away from Kristin while I sleep on the far end of the bed away from her. We also sleep on an extra firm mattress so there’s no worry of Lily sinking in to the mattress. One thing we’re careful not to do is sleep right next to Lily to prevent suffocation (and we don’t want Lily to wake up with her head smelling like an armpit). Because Lily sleeps better, mommy and daddy sleep better.

As Lily gets a little older we’ve started transitioning her to her crib. Lily takes naps in her crib just fine and at night we put her in her crib so that she sleeps in it to start out with, but when she wakes up to eat we bring her to bed with us.

As any parent that’s slept with a baby knows, there’s nothing like waking up to being kicked in the face by your baby, but I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.

Flowers at Work

So I bought my wife some flowers today. Of course, her coworkers asked her what she did to deserve it (or what I did wrong), and she simply says that I bought them “just because”. See, the “just because” is actually a lot, but I think that society as a whole tends to devalue the contribution of a mother/wife/career-woman.

This weekend I started thinking about what my wife’s workday schedule has turned into (shame on me that it took me a couple of months to realize this).

  • 4:30AM – Feed Lily
  • 5AM-6:30AM – Start getting ready for the day, pump milk for later that morning, eat breakfast, pack baby’s diaper bag so it’s ready for grandma’s house (baby sitter)
  • 6:30AM Feed Lily
  • 7AM Kisses me and Lily goodbye and goes to work
  • 7AM-1PM Work a full schedule and squeeze in time to pump milk, which means that she doesn’t have any breaks, because when she’s not “working” she’s making sure that our baby has the most nutritious thing possible to sustain our daughter by pumping milk
  • 1PM-2PM Goes to her mom’s house, eats something quickly and feeds Lily
  • 2PM-5PM Full schedule, squeeze in a pumping session
  • 5PM Pick up Lily
  • 5:45PM Drop Lily and her stuff off at home. Wash clothes, dishes, or one of the dozens of other things that need to be done around the house
  • 6:15PM Go to work out at the gym
  • 6:30PM-7:30PM Zumba time (workout/destress)
  • 8PM-9PM Eat something light, get ready for bed

Where are the breaks? Where is the chance to just sit down and relax? If she’s not working out at the gym then she’s cleaning up the house or doing one of the other million wife/mom things.

I bought my wife flowers today and society thinks I’m a great husband. Well, I think we need to take a second a think about all the things that wives and mommies do, and ask yourself if just flowers are enough.