Groan. 5 a.m. Why is it that most toddlers and preschoolers think this is the perfect time to start their day? Each day, without fail, I awaken at this ungodly hour to my calcium-addicted son’s request, “Daddy, can I have a glass of milk, please?”
“No. Go back to sleep Caleb. The sun isn’t up yet”. After several more requests for milk and a failed 10-minute attempt to drift back to sleep, I realize it’s time for the Chaos to begin. So…. on your mark, get set, GO!
Stumble out of bed. Give my son, Caleb, a glass of milk. Grab a quick shower. Pull my pants out of the dryer. Wake up my daughters, Catherine ad Rebecca. Brush my teeth. Give the girls their milk. Change Rebecca’s diaper, then two, three, four. I’ve lost count.
“Who wants toast?” Horrible screams of NO!!!! Okay, Okay.
“Who wants pop-tarts?” Squeals of delight follow.
Argue with Rebecca because she sneaks into the cabinet to get some doughnuts. Argue with Caty because she wants to put Barbie in her backpack. Argue with Caleb because he wants to wear his UK football jersey to school AGAIN! Kiss my wife good-bye as she leaves the house to head to Todd County Middle School, where she is a special education teacher.
CRASH! I don’t even want to know what happened. Pull outfits for the kids out of the dryer. Why is the dryer now our closet? Throw the dishes in the sink. Change another one of Rebecca’s diapers.
Thump! WAHH! Is there blood? No? Good, because I can’t find the Spider-Man and/or Barbie Band-Aids. Quick game of Candy Land. Wipe down the counter. Brush the kids teeth. Go to the bathroom. Guess what? Found the Band-Aids. All 50 of them stuck to the toilet seat. Become public enemy number one because I won’t turn on the TV. Glance at the clock, 7 a.m. PRAISE GOD! I can now load them into the car and drop them off at school. I take the girls to Holly Tree Daycare and when I see Mrs. Christy Farmer’s face, she is like my personal angel because she is the one who will be caring for the girls while daddy goes to work at the church. Then, back in the car and drive to drop Caleb off at Stevenson Elementary where Caleb and I are greeted every morning by the assistant principal Mr. Tipkins. How can it be only 7 a.m. when I am ready to call it a day?
Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. It’s fatherhood. The most endearing, challenging, humorous, tiresome and unpredictable responsibility we’ll ever love….usually.
Prior to moving to Kentucky, I was a Pastor at a church in Atlanta, GA and I was asked to speak at a Men’s Prayer Breakfast and describe fatherhood to a group of young guys who were about to become dads for the very first time. What should I say? What is fatherhood? After having three children in three years. I still didn’t have an answer. Fatherhood is unadulterated joy and abysmal worry; it is unbridled compassion and utter despair. It is everything in between and nothing what I expected.
Prior to fatherhood, I had all the answers to parenting. Perhaps we all did. At the grocery store, I would quickly judge the parents pacifying screaming toddler with candy while struggled with a cumbersome cart. At the bank, I’d send disdainful looks to the family with the little boy who kept stepping on my foot. While traveling, I cringed when I occupied a flight with a baby (I knew how the other side of that feels when I boarded an airplane back in 2006 with my then 1 month old son Caleb, and NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE wanted to sit next to me).
I silently ascertained that these people had no control and were bad parents. Good Lord, I was naïve…. and down-right stupid. I understand now because I have had those moments when my kids are screaming on airplanes or hanging on the ropes in the bank line. And, yes, I, too, have had to shell out cookie after cookie to my battling children so I can decide which coupon gives me the best deal on 50 tubs of pudding and 400 boxes of macaroni.
Now here I sit wondering what fatherhood is. Is it putting up with the toddler tantrums or infant tribulations? Is it kissing the tears, sweat and blood of our children? Could it be more than just providing an endless stream of encouragement mixed with the right doses of discipline?
Will kissing my daughter’s tear-laden cheek put me in the “Father Hall of Fame?” Does it boil down to becoming an expert at answering the phone, changing a diaper, searching for the “white blankie”, trying to write my sermon for Sunday, paying the student loan payments, all the while trying to defrost that Antartic-ally Frozen lasagna 30 minutes before dinner? Yes, fatherhood is all these things and more. It challenges our beliefs and well-being while tugging at our heartstrings and shredding our patience.
Fatherhood is about being happy, sad, joyous, confused and uncertain. It is knowing that you may never live up to your paternal expectations but that you are fulfilling your children’s. You are just what they need. They need you to giggle, cry and hold them tight. They also need you to yell, fail and not always be right. They need you to be a human; they need you to be a father.
Fatherhood is about treasuring the moments from diapers to Pull-Ups and Under-roos all the way to training bras (Lord, help me), boxers and beyond. It’s about not crying over spilled milk or soiled linens. It’s about playing yet another game of Candy Land or Go Fish. Fatherhood is about believing in yourself and your children through the chaos. So even on those days – okay, every day – when there is food on the ceiling, underwear in the refrigerator and Band-Aids stuck to the toilet, we need to remember that this is the stuff that fatherhood is made of. Don’t wish it away. I thank God every day that he has blessed me with Caleb, Catherine and Rebecca. They have changed my life for the better. I am a better man, a better husband and a better Pastor because of them.
Man, now that I think about it, mothers have it made! Now, if you believe that, I have some oceanfront property in Todd County that I would love to sell to you.
God Bless and GO CATS!
Rev. Scott Murphy is the Pastor at the First Christian Church in Russellville.