10 Things I Know About My Kids’ Father

Because June is the month of Father’s Day AND my anniversary (eighteen years of wedded bliss), I feel it is quite appropriate to take some time to honor my hubby.  He is the very best man I know and deserves heartfelt recognition for the incredible job he is doing as a father and a husband.

Ten Things I Know About My Kids’ Father

 1.  He cried when each of our children were born.  As a matter of fact, he honestly wept when the first born, our daughter, finally made her appearance.  I knew right then and there that he would make a great daddy.

2.  He prays for and with our kids every day.  This is teaching them some very important lessons.  First, they are learning that prayer is vitally important to a life lived abundantly.   Also, they hear with their own ears how important each one of them is to Dad as he prays for them.   And finally, they are learning how much God cares for them and the details of their lives – details like lost retainers, difficult teachers, and friend issues.  My hubby does a great job of teaching by example when it comes to prayer.

3.  For years, he handled the morning shift of kid duty so that I could leave at 6AM for my part-time job.  This involved getting up to three children under the age of six out of bed, dressed, and fed before 8AM.  All this was done while he attempted to get himself ready for his day of work – shirt, tie, dress pants, the works.  Once ready to go, he had to corral the squirmy munchins into their respective car seats with all the required diaper bags and paraphernalia and chauffer them to Grandma’s, the babysitter’s or daycare.  I know this was an extremely stressful time for him but he did it without complaint.

4.  He is almost always the first one awake if one of the kids stirs in the middle of the night.  Even now, with our youngest son almost nine years old, no one even gets up to use the privy without Dad knowing about it.  I feel very safe in the knowledge that nobody – child or thief – will be able to sneak around our home unnoticed.

5.  He is very involved in the educational process.  From the time the kids were in preschool, he has made every effort to be at parent/teacher conferences, band concerts, and school plays.  He has helped in the classroom on occasion, chaperoned field trips and helped with Sport and Spirit Day.  He is definitely the “Go To” guy for science fair projects and math homework.   He is not over the top.  He does not hover.  But our kids know that he cares about their education.

6.  He is playful and knows how to have a good time with the kids.   When our daughter was younger and he had more hair, he would let her wash his hair and style it – with barrettes, ponytails and tiaras. He is always willing to play kickball or stickball in the back yard.  And he does potty humor like a pro.  This, of course, is a huge hit with the boys.  I think laughter is a great gift to share with your kids.

7.  He is a great encourager, giving compliments to our kids when they look good or accomplish something.  He is also very skilled at helping the kids gain a balanced perspective when they are disappointed in themselves or the world around them.  My hubby is a very wise man and our kids benefit from his wisdom on a regular basis.  They may not appreciate it very much now, but I know some day they will.

8.  If he leaves for work extra early, he calls our daughter to wish her a good day at school.  The two of them are usually the first people up in our family in the morning and they spend those quiet moments together preparing for the day ahead.  I think it is such a sweet gesture that he checks in with her by phone if he can’t be there in person to give her a hug.

9.  He is willing to set aside more urgent things to throw ball or pitch for batting practice with the boys when they ask.  I can’t decide if this is a true sacrifice or not.  My hubby loves baseball and loves that his sons love baseball.  Throwing ball around in the backyard really is not a hardship for him.  But the boys have the uncanny knack of asking Dad when he has 101 more pressing things to do or when the stresses of the day are wearing him down.  And yet, more often than not, he will still do it.  Whether it is a sacrifice or not, taking the time to be with his sons means the world to them and creates memories they will have forever.

10.  Every day, with words and actions, my husband shows our kids how much he loves me, their mother.   He believes that is one of the very best things he can do as a father and he takes it seriously.  (His father gave him this piece of advice, by the way.)  The kids don’t particularly like all the hugging and kissing now that they are older and know a few things about the facts of life.  But there is no doubt in their minds how Mom and Dad feel about each other.  And there is a feeling of security for them that our mutual affection and respect creates that probably can’t be demonstrated any other way.  By the way, I benefit from this at least as much as the kids do.

Did I marry the perfect man?  Do my kids have the perfect father?  Um, no.  But I’m far from perfect myself and so are my three chicks.  We don’t expect perfection.  What we do have is a man who strives to live a godly and excellent life and does it pretty well.  And we all benefit from his attempts to love and care for us.  Today I thank God for my husband and the father of my children.  He fills our lives with love, humor, and an enthusiastic passion for life and I could not have asked for a better man to spend my life with.

Mother Love

In the beautifully written novel Snowflower and the Secret Fan, author Lisa See explores the life of Chinese women in the Hunan Province during the 19th century.  Through the main character, Lily, we gain insight into the process of footbinding, arranged marriages, women’s relationships, and a secret women’s writing called nu shu.  The novel itself creates an incredible sense of time and place, illustrating with detail the cultural atmosphere of that era.  Lisa See transports you to rural China with ease and seduces you to stay awhile.

One of the most interesting and difficult passages of the book for me to read was Lily’s footbinding ordeal.  At about age seven, Lily, her younger sister, and her cousin are confined to the women’s rooms and for two years endure the torture of having their feet crippled into lily feet.  Lily’s binding was especially important because the village matchmaker believed her properly bound feet would make her an excellent marriage match.

The process of footbinding involved folding the toes under the feet and then binding the feet so that they were in line with the legs.  The girls were forced to walk on these bound feet daily with the goal being to break the toes and arches.  Once that goal was achieved, the feet were bound tighter and tighter.  Muscle atrophy began and the feet started to shrink.  This system continued until the desired effect was achieved – tiny lily feet, considered to be extremely beautiful and sexually appealing.

I cannot fathom the pain and suffering these little girls endured.  And who was responsible for this torture?  Their own mothers!!!   They bound the girls’ feet, they made them walk on the broken bones, and punished them when they did not obey.   It is true that footbinding was a way for these girls to marry well, to increase their status in society, and to bring honor to their families – lofty goals for women at that time in Chinese history.  And certainly goals any mother would desire for her daughter. As repulsive as I found the ritual itself and the mothers’ behavior to be, the reality was that this was a completely acceptable and expected cultural practice.

Through Lily and her mother, Lisa See introduces a concept called mother love.

“In our country we call this type of mother love teng ai.  My son has told me that in men’s writing it is composed of two characters.  The first means pain, the second means love.  That is a mother’s love.”                                                                                                                                                   Snowflower and the Secret Fan

I really, really wanted to reject this concept with my entire being.  My modern mommy brain struggled (and is still struggling) to grasp this entire concept.  That a mother would willingly inflict that level of pain and suffering on her own child for the possibility of a better life for her daughter and honor for herself was beyond me.   I was certain I could never love my child in a way that would hurt them.  But, as it turns out, I am a hypocrite.  For two weeks I practiced my very own form of mother love, willfully hurting my own child for what I believe to be his greater, long term good.

My youngest son has a mouthful of teeth that requires a great deal of expensive orthodontic intervention.  The beginning of this long process was the placement of a palate expander, a device placed in the roof of the mouth and attached to molars.  With the turn of a small key, the expander pushes against the upper jaw, widening it and making space for the crowded teeth.  I was the bearer and turner of the key, mostly because my hands are smaller than my husband’s and can fit more easily into the small space of my son’s mouth.

The first two turns were done at the orthodontist’s office.  Looking into my son’s face, I knew the pain was instant and severe.   Pain has to be pretty intense for this guy to complain.  He once fell out of the tub, whacked his head on the toilet so hard that he chipped the tank and dented his forehead and he didn’t even whimper.   Well, the palate expander did him in.  He asked for Tylenol like it was candy and spent entire days dreading the evening key turning ordeal.  For fourteen days, we both had to endure the trauma of cranking the palate expander.

I thought a lot about teng ai during those two weeks.  I was willfully injuring my son because I believed that the outcome would improve his quality of life.  It hurt my heart to do it, but it didn’t stop me.  And if I had to do another two week stint (which was a possibility), I would have done that, too.  His teeth needed work.  They were affecting his ability to speak clearly and would ultimately affect his appearance.  If I am going to be completely honest with myself, I believe what I have done will help my little boy be the best he can be in this life.

I am not really comparing a palate expander to footbinding.  But I am comparing my motives to Lily’s mother’s, and we are not so very different.  We both desire the best in life for our children.  We want them to be better people than we are, to have a better life than we do.  Those expectations mixed with our own pride and ambition are what create mother love.  And it doesn’t have to be physical pain that we inflict.  Sometimes, the emotional pain caused by pushing and prodding our children to be what we want them to be instead of who they are can be more damaging than any physical mark.  I firmly believe mother love is universal – not just confined to China in the 19th century or my own experience.

I thank God that I don’t have to be a mother on my own.  He tempers my mother love with a heavenly view of what real love looks like – forgiveness, compassion, grace, mercy, and unconditional acceptance with no strings attached.  Instead of wanting worldly success for my children, He desires them to have a heart for Him.  Today, I lay my mother love at His feet, knowing that he will take my imperfect efforts and turn them into something beautiful.  Or into three beautiful someones – my daughter and two sons.