Friday, April 17, 2009

Knock - Breathe - Shine...

To any and all of my friends who provided me with sage wisdom/advice/warnings of how when our kid arrived, my world and Ashley’s world – individually and collectively – would radically, drastically, and forever shift: man. You guys weren’t kidding.

Before we get into Things I’ve Learned In The Last Three Weeks™ since Kai showed up on the scene, I just wanted to mention a few more items of note that matter to, well, me, if no one else:

  • I have been brimming over with nostalgia on my iPod. I guess every so often, I get this tickle in the back of my brain that makes me hum/sing songs I’ve not heard in YEARS (since I was in college/high school), and it makes me hit up eBay to find old CD’s that have long since gone the way of the dodo in my own collection. Jacob’s Trouble? Crumbacher? Giant? How and WHY do I remember the lyrics to the songs by artists that no one else may? If there’s ever a trivia challenge on old Contemporary Christian Music, I imagine that I would be the equivalent of Mark Waid on this panel. – wow; I just mixed my nerd metaphors.
  • Season three of THE X-FILES was much better than season two. I know this, because what else the heck am I supposed to watch all the time when I have sleep deprivation? I’m burning through DVD sets, and Netflixing the heck out of shows that were on when I was a kid that, sadly, deserve to remain a distant memory, as they were much cooler when I was six years old (ARK II, anyone?)
  • Have you ever gotten an email that just touched you so much that you had an emotional reaction (translation: cried) when reading it? I did yesterday – it was an email I received from the Over the Rhine mailing list. I’m not going to quote it here, but it hit me square between the valves of my heart and made me stop and think – especially since my breath was taken away. Maybe later I can share the part that got to me, but not right now. I need to internalize a bit more.

Let’s talk baby-rearin’.

Most of my friends know me, and know that prior to the birth of my own kid, I could calculate on both hands the total number of days I had probably spent with a newborn, toddler, child, or any other classification you’d care to give for a kid that’s under the age of 13 (no, I don’t count the Sundays I spent working KidMo at Compass in this equation – that was not really me CHOOSING to be around those kids because I wanted to; it was more of me filling a need to work with them than a passion that drove me to jump around on a stage like an idiot). In fact, Ashley and I had half-way joked that before Kai got here, she could take care of him until he hits puberty, then he’d be all mine. We were going to play to our respective strengths in relation to childcare.

Many of you have heard the stories of Kai’s day of birth (the emergency C-section), the fam staying with us (Ash’s mom, and my mom and sister), the friends who have brought us food and love, and of the other incidentals surrounding the little monkey. I ask you indulge me a moment to reflect on my own thoughts and ruminations on being a dad:

It feels natural. Almost unnaturally natural. For someone who prior to three weeks ago really couldn’t have even described HOW to change a diaper let alone have changed one – for someone who was almost terrified they would fracture the skull of a baby simply by touching it – for someone who about 48 hours before the birth confessed through tears welling up that he was scared to death about taking care of this little critter…it’s bizarre how almost all of that has melted away and I keep thinking that I must just be remembering about the life of someone I read about, or saw on TV once. There’s no WAY that could have been me who thought and felt all that, who was so scared.

Maybe it’s the unique parallel that Ash and I give when we think back on just before we got married; so many people – with the best of intentions – kept telling us how different that things would be once we were married. How we’d be different. How we’d have intense fights over small, incidental things. How we’d see the other one change so much. How we didn’t know what we were in store for.

I honestly and with no reservation can state that I almost don’t remember my life before Ashley. That to me, it’s like we’ve always been a team. We’ve never been two separate people, but we have always been together – and that we have managed to stay individuals with individual outlets of expression and renewal as well as combined, “couple” things that all married people need and should have…well, I think we kinda buck the trend. It’s as if we’re – oddly enough – some kind of poster children for a healthy, loving relationship…something that I find all too often that the students we work with have never seen played out in their own lives, either through the example given them by their biological parents or through the string of broken relationships in their lives.

It’s the same way with Kai – I hate to defer to a cliché, but man. Nothing makes me smile like seeing the faces this little thing makes. I love the weird “Ehh, ehh” noises he makes when trying to communicate something (oh, shut up – I don’t care if he’s less than a month old; this kid is clearly expressing his opinions on some things). I adore the fact he’s already taking an interest in classic DOCTOR WHO stores (Tom Baker = funny, bright colors to watch). And I honestly feel like I’ve been in training to be a dad my whole life.

True story: the day of my wedding to Ashley, I almost completely broke down outside of the chapel area (and to this day, only Bryan knew this) because I confessed to him that after everything I’d been through in my life, I never felt like I deserved to be or that I would be as happy as I felt that day. It was like I was being given this smile and hug by God to say “Look, I know that things have been rough – but I’ve never stopped loving you. I’ve never stopped caring. You’ve just finally stopped running long enough to let the joy I’ve wanted to give you catch up, and it finally has. Now you’re swimming in it, and it’s almost overbearing to your senses. But just let it wash over you, and realize that this – this joy, this peace, this contentment in your personal life – IS what I’ve wanted for you all along.”

I hear that prayer echoed in every coo that comes from Kai. I feel the warmth of my Father (and the gentle smile of both of my dads in heaven) when I hold this kicking little bundle of excitement.

And I never, ever feel my biological age.

“You okay Jim? How do you feel?”

“Young. I feel young.”

(That last bit was just for you, Jane.)

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