Almost parenting is hard. Almost fathering is the most taxing, emotionally and mentally demanding thing I’ve ever done and it isn’t even close. All the way through our pregnancy with Jonah we were simultaneously telling the medical community that we weren’t buying what they were selling. We were making the decision daily to choose to love our son in whatever physical form he would come and any mental capacity he had because we chose him from the beginning. The greatest dream I have ever had for myself was to be their dad, and finding places to connect to them when I can’t hold them just doesn’t always work. While seemingly all of the rest of my country is broken hearted one way or another, I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to hold myself together every day. Things just don’t feel how they used to for any of us.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how I’d talk to my children about what is going on in our world today. I would want to do it in a similar way to how I was brought up – bring light to both sides of the argument, explain that people are passionate about their beliefs because they are personal and the result of their convictions, and allow them the room to decide for themselves how their influence would be felt. I would tell them that real life sometimes means taking a stand when it isn’t popular because it’s the right thing, and I would also explain both the power and costs of silence. Of choosing their battle, and being prepared with information as the foundation of their views; that facts should drive opinions and not the other way around.
I feel the pressure to live these lessons out loud because at some level I know they’re watching and everything in me wants to make them proud to be my child. I want them to see me loving the people who don’t agree with me, and I want them to see out in front of everyone the power of surrounding yourself with people who challenge you. How we respond to our environment says plenty, but more than anything I find that how I respond when I’m by myself says more about my character than telling someone ever would. If we can go the day talking about our differences and end it with a full heart, if we can love people around us who have different beliefs than we do and value their place in our life, if we can trust that at the end of the day we are working to make life better for every single one of us then we are doing everything to keep our integrity intact as a people. If I can’t say that I’ve checked all of those boxes when I’m reflecting on my day I have failed my children and I have taken a step backwards.
I’m learning these days about the cost of love. Some days the cost shows in telling friends how excited I am about their babies and others it’s about scrolling past the post about the sleep they aren’t getting or the crying they wish would stop. Some days it’s about making sure to tell someone how happy I am that they are taken care of before I slip past their baby shower. But every single day, the impact they have had on my life is worth any price that could be asked. Almost a year after saying goodbye to Jonah I’m barely half as productive at work as I used to be and I feel like I’m half the man as well. Somehow time has started running and I’m walking behind, dragging my stick in the mud and wishing I knew a different kind of fatherhood than I’m living today.
In real life, though, this is every day. We have protests and marches because people care enough about their cause to say it out loud. We have people who voted – both ways – out of the perspective that this was what it would take to move us one step forward. And we have groups of people who are divided now but will ultimately come back together, because we’re all here for each other. On this day or the next, we will look each other in the eye and shake hands knowing we are trying to move toward the same goal – a better life for all of us. Our children are watching, taking note of how we talk and respond and move forward. It’s my prayer that they see me listening more than speaking and understanding more than pushing. Giving more than receiving. Living by the principle of love and trust. The cost of love has nothing to do with agreeing with those around you and everything to do with coming together in growth. If I went home today and walked into that nursery, picked up Jonah’s raccoon and urn and couldn’t tell him that I gave everything I had… I couldn’t also tell him I lived with love, and that’s what my almost fatherhood has been about all along – looking back and knowing that at full capacity or half, I gave everything. My prayer is that we can all say the same, for our sake and for that of our children.
Love in whole, go with integrity, and protect your heart. Second chances come at times of need, but we are never too far to have an impact – Lessons of my Jonah. I love you son