Something changes inside you when it happens. I can understand how the birth of a child can give you the power to flush bad habits and begin again. Alcoholics have turned sober. Drug addicts have trampled their habit. Anger has been tamed. That's the amazing effect becoming a father has. I was not (or am not) any of the aforementioned descriptions, but something definitely changed in me. When my first daughter, Madison, was born I may not have became an entirely new person, but rather an enhanced one. Certain emotions were unleashed. Revealed. As if they had been waiting for this specific moment to present themselves. Even the air I breathed seemed crisp. My senses more keen. I no longer took the act inhaling and exhaling for granted. I was given a new life. In more ways than one.
Holding her for the first time - our song playing in the background - I knew I wasn't holding just my first child, my daughter, but rather something more precious than anything I had ever touched before. This beautiful creation was bequeathed to me by my Heavenly Father and was my responsibility. I was also given something else. Power. The power to build and the power to destroy.
Little did I know then just how precious and fragile my baby girl would remain. Little did I know how making the right decisions (and some wrong ones) for my child could off-set her fragility. Before I knew it, I was going to bed each night kicking myself for not being...perfect. I am somewhat of a perfectionist, but I have never wanted to be more perfect at anything else. Is it okay to say that nothing highlights your imperfections more than being a parent? The older Madison gets, the more tested I feel. The more courage I need to muster. My baby is not a baby. She's blossoming...has been blossoming into the incredible woman she's destined to become for quite awhile. The courage comes into play when you have to decide when it's okay to sugar-coat something or when to deal the tough-love card.
My job is to mold her to a certain point before she's a grown woman setting sail into the real world. It's my job to give her the basics. Teach her that nothing is more important than God and family. Kindness and forgiveness are best served when others are deserving of it. Character is the person you are when no one is looking. And grace saved all of us once and will keep reminding us a million more times all through life.
One of the best parts of having children is that it's unlike any other gift you have ever received. Most gifts, upon reception, we show our gratitude for the thoughtfulness shown by the giver. We place it on a shelf and it becomes a beautiful addition to our beautiful home...but almost forgotten as it blends in with the surrounding decorations. With a gift of a child you are reminded every moment of the day - every day - that you have a gift. A gift that you don't get to open, but you get to observe being opened as they explore and become beautiful and poetic creatures.
I cannot imagine Madison becoming more beautiful and poetic than she already is. But God's beauty is without borders. It cannot be contained. Madison will continue to grow into an incredible woman and raise the bar of grace and character to all of those around her. Although I know this will happen, I can only see shadows of it. For what I see in front of me now is all that I need to see. Yesterday's bad choices are not today's. However, yesterday's good choices are colored in character today.
Madison continues to impress me...amaze me really. Her determination leaves tires tracks of fire not even a DeLorean can match. When she decides to learn something, she will sit herself down and learn it. She has done this with rubber band bracelets as well as all of her math facts to twelve. You don't realize how much I want to take her into my 5th grade classroom and have her teach my students the same thing. She's also a reading machine. Her mother and I have read to her every single night of her life since she was only months old. And now she's reading (and comprehending) 5th grade books (in 3rd grade).
Her talents don't stop there. She loves to write and to draw and hopefully this spring she'll show the world how great she'll be at softball or soccer.
I don't push her, but I strongly encourage her with certain things and this is where we butt heads a little. This is when I see her as a teenage more clearly than I would like to. I only hope she will look back on these days of her childhood and know that yes, I was imperfect, but that I loved her perfectly. I hope she realizes that I was just doing my best to prepare her for life of making good choices. I admit I have a fear and that is that I will lose not her love, but her friendship. I want nothing more to be best friends with all three of my daughters. To dance with them at their weddings. To hold their children. To have them confide in me and always hug and kiss me and for me to reciprocate.
I'm sitting and writing this on her 9th birthday. Snow is covering the ground every where I turn, but we aren't home because of snow, but rather the cold. How great it is to be home - and not at school - with my girls and my mom to celebrate the birth of my first daughter. Madison woke up with balloons covering her floor - a tradition my wife and I started years ago. We have plans to go out to lunch and then a surprise bowling outing. It will be the first time any of our daughters have bowled. Then she'll open presents with cupcakes later on tonight. Tomorrow we celebrate with some friends at Chuck E Cheese.
Madison, I tell you this quite often, but I'm going to tell you again. I never ever want you to forget this. I love being your Daddy. Being your daddy is a blessing that I express my gratitude for every time I pray. You have a heart and an imagination like no other. Your beauty and creativity are inspiring. May my words never destroy you, but if you are ever knocked down (for whatever reason) know that I will not hesitate for the slightest second to pick you up and carry you. Words cannot describe how much I love you. Nor can words describe how blessed we are as a family to have you. You are a truly magnificent child. I love you from here to the moon and back again a million times.
Forgive me for my shortcomings and know that nothing is more important to me than our Jesus-centered family.
Happy 9th, Madison! I love, adore and cherish every day with you. "Please stay a child somewhere in your heart."
With Unconditional Love,
And though I'd like to say I can't wait to dance with you at our wedding to our song, Original of the Species, the truth is I can wait...for a very long time. But I cannot wait to dance with you today to our song.
Link to live version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKaQTSVJRKk
"Original Of The Species"