To my stepdaughter

*Big thanks to a friend of mine who gave me permission to post this letter he wrote to his stepdaughter recently. Thank God for  step parents who do engage and don’t choose apathy.*

Kylie,

This is long. You will find it annoying and will likely skip entire paragraphs the first time you read it.  I ask that you please do me one favor: keep it, and revisit it again sometime in the future.

The truth can often be awkward, uncomfortable and even painful.  Life in the absence of truth often seems easier.  A little white lie, a misleading statement, an exaggeration or invented story, an ignored phone call, or simply failing to reveal what should be revealed all serve to selfishly better our positions in whatever circumstances that each moment presents us.  We are all guilty, each and every one of us.

Most people speak of the importance of the truth with the idea that a lack of truth will compound upon itself and create burdens and ever-increasing problems that ultimately collapses under its own weight.  This thinking is, for the most part, true.  However, examples of a lack of truth personally benefiting an individual and having no long-term negative results are also plentiful (politics is rife with examples).  Children, like politicians and everyone else, do not live a life guided entirely by truth.  The reason, despite what people claim, is simply because it is an effective strategy.  Dishonesty sometimes works out just fine.  It seems logical that if no benefit were to ever come from dishonesty, then dishonesty would slowly disappear.  That is not what I see.  I see a world that puts the truth on a pedestal, as if it is truly special and to be cherished.  This implies that genuine truth is more rare than dishonesty.  The problem, as I see it, is this: to not speak the truth is to stop genuine conversation, to have such little respect for another that you deny them the fundamental right to know, be it a good or bad truth.  A lack of truth is usually no more than a display of loving oneself more than another.

Without question, words can hurt.  Words are often designed specifically to hurt.  The words I spoke to you the other night were an example of exactly the kind of language that is designed and used to hurt another person; for that, I am truly sorry.  I am sorry that they came out of my mouth aimed at the young girl I try so hard to make feel exceptional.  It is the hurtful wording that I regret.  As for the message behind that wording – the simple truth is – I do not genuinely feel sorry.

I asked your Mother that night, “Why the hell would the guy that spoils her say that to her?”  She didn’t have an answer, and neither did I.  I have thought a lot about that question I asked your Mother, and I want to take a moment to explain what I believe is the answer.

Despite my questionable choice of words, my timing, and my tone of voice, I spoke the truth at that moment.  That doesn’t mean that you are forever labeled in my head as that person.  It simply means that in describing your treatment of your Mother at that very moment, I spoke with honesty.  What I said has come up a couple of times since, which tells me that you have thought about it.  You likely disagree, but it affected you enough to dwell a bit on it.  You likely called me a few choice names to your friends.  You probably got angry, maybe sad; the point is that you reacted with emotion just as I reacted with emotion.  Reacting with emotion is the opposite of not reacting at all, or apathy.  At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, apathy is essentially the opposite of love, which oddly puts love and anger on the same team and apathy on the opposing.  A child with a parent who truly doesn’t care about her actions is one of the saddest things.  It is a sin against that child, and against humanity.  You may know of such a child.  A child with apathetic parents can hide among their peers as a child with relaxed, or easy parents.  But they often feel unloved and unwanted, and sadly, to varying degrees, they are.

Our simplest, most basic of all desires is safety.  True safety is felt in a loving, respectful home.  It may not make sense right now, but reasonable expectations, discipline and punishment are critical in establishing a sense of safety.  Behavioral boundaries are set, children (specifically ages 2 and 13) consistently test those boundaries, and good parents consistently reinforce them.  Failure to establish and consistently reinforce behavioral boundaries results in chaos.  Inconsistent, unpredictable parenting makes for ill-behaved children. A parent who simply doesn’t care causes exceedingly more damage.  It is said that overly harsh disciplinarian style parents create children who need therapy, but apathetic parents create adults who need therapy.

The truth is subjective, meaning that the same event described by two witnesses may differ, not due to dishonesty but to individual differences.  In your world, in your subjective opinion, is the disrespectful attitude shown to your family any different from the way any other 13 year-old treats theirs with?  The answer is… I don’t have any idea.  Nor did it occur to me to even consider how other children speak to their mothers.

I have felt bad after our conversation, but not for you or my son or myself. I feel bad for your brother.  He seemed to listen intently when we sat down and spoke.  He seemed concerned, not about being grounded, but about his mother.  I was shocked.  I expected the disrespectful disobedience that I have come to expect since meeting him.  He is older, not around much, and we never formed any sort of bond, but he cared.  I felt like he wanted me to be as upset with him as I was with you.  I really don’t know.  I have always thought I was doing everyone a favor by treating him as an adult.

I don’t know how this ends, or where things go from here.  Just know that it was anger and love that guided my words the other night, just as it was anger and love that guided my hand into your door.  People can question how that anger and love were displayed, but they cannot question their existence.  I’ll never lay an angry hand on any child, but where there is love and disappointment, there will be anger.  To not be angry at disrespect, to not be let down at finding an inappropriate video of you online, is fundamentally the same as not smiling at your dance moves, or feeling pride in your accomplishments.  Likewise, to provide for you and make no demands of your treatment of others is not only unjust to others but also to you.  There are only two ways that a stepparent cannot have the same expectations and make the same demands of their stepchild as they do their biological child…  apathy towards that child or ignorance of raising children in general (sadly, not uncommon).  This may sound harsh, but it is reality.

The truth is not in what’s said, but can be seen in the actions (or inactions) of many.  The idea that “She isn’t really mine, so how she ends up isn’t my problem” is sadly more common than not. You may even prefer that I feel that way.  If I could somehow care just enough about you to provide for you a good quality-of-life but refrain from caring enough to discipline you, you would have a great few years.  But the long-term consequences that your lack of discipline and lack of respect combined with receiving -without effort- the things you wish would be very damaging and very real.  You likely do not feel that way (neither does anyone else at 13), but I assure you, eventually you will.

In short, it is only my apathy, my ignorance, or your compliance to reasonable expectations that will ensure that the poorly worded sentence that came out of my mouth the other night will never come out again.  I care very much about you and about what and who you become.  Regardless of right or wrong, regardless of your own wishes, it is too late for apathy and ignorance.  I am not making an apathetic suggestion; I am making a demand, guided by love, that you change your current treatment of people in my home, or you will find yourself not welcome in it.

To demand any less from you is to not love you.

With much thought and love,

Your stepdad

Bad to the bone

My poor stepdad.

Celebrating my birthday, circa 1998

Celebrating my birthday, circa 1998

I know he loves my mom. Why else would you willingly marry a woman with FOUR little girls under the age of 12?

After our cat Ralph died, my poor stepdad was the lone male ranger in the ongoing and increasing estrogen fest. Even our dog, Watson, was a female (and yes, we named her Watson before we checked).

Until I was 13 years old, we had one bathroom. That’s right. One bathroom, five females, and poor Walter Allen. Needless to say, his potty time didn’t include thumbing through a stack of magazines. He had to get in and get out because all of us needed time for much more important things–crimping our hair, curling our hair, blow drying our hair, shaving our legs, applying makeup, and fussing over our troubled teenage skin in the mirror.

To add the mix, he has a daughter of his own, Sarah. Sarah lived with us periodically. So at times, poor Walt had FIVE teenage girls in the house. I have always loved the definition of insanity I heard in the rooms of recovery–doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But being the stepdad of four teenage girls AND the dad of another teenage girl, all living in the same house (at that point, thank God, we had two bathrooms), might be even closer to true insanity.

Bless his heart. For real.

Lucky for him, he had me :). I’m not what you’d call a girly girl. I do shave my armpits, have an unhealthy fear of moths, and have a few dresses. I’m not a total tomboy, but I was my stepdad’s best bet at an opportunity to enjoy more manly pastimes and pass on his love for said pastimes to one of his kids. While I didn’t enjoy camping due to the serious off-the-grid nature of my parents’ camping mentality–doesn’t work very well with five little girls, just so you know–I did enjoy fishing. I liked getting dirty. I wanted to play softball in the open lot with all the neighborhood boys instead of playing with dolls. I leaped out of a swing at its highest height and deliberately let my body free fall face first just to see what would happen (what happens, in case you’re wondering, is a face full of cuts, bruises, and gravel and mud in your mouth).

I also pooh-poohed the idea of puberty. I was disgusted at the idea of the birds and the bees, having a period, or any of the other sick stuff that goes along with being an Eve rather than an Adam. So disgusted, in fact, that I cried when I started my period. Not because I was hormonal–because I knew it was a life sentence of misery, complications, and yuckiness. And I was grounded for two months at the beginning of sixth grade due to my refusal to wear a bra. I did my best to avoid the reality of growing into a woman. Unfortunately, my best efforts failed me. It happened.

My stepdad, when he started dating my mom, was a real manly man. Grizzly Adams has nothing on the beard my stepdad sported. He wore wife beaters almost every day. He smelled like dirt and sweat. He liked steak. I remember once riding with him in his old beat up 70s model Chevy pick-up truck, half white and half rust. He cranked up the crackly radio, and “Bad To The Bone” came blaring out. This guy is super cool, I thought.

And even when I morphed into a hormonal, cranky teenage girl, my stepdad was willing to teach me how to throw a softball in the backyard when I decided to play ball after years of cheerleading, dancing, and gymnastics. He played “slap fight” with me, in spite of my mom’s protests. And for those of you who’ve wondered how I developed such an immature sense of humor and  13 year-old boy mentality regarding bodily functions, you have Walt to thank.

My parents showing off their moves, February 2013

My parents showing off their moves, February 2013

My relationship with my stepdad was not emotional or touchy feely or huggy or lovey dovey growing up. He always worked his tail off to pay our bills, but he wasn’t really ready to invest in us emotionally until I was in high school. I remember noticing a change in his behavior and attitude after he attended a Promise Keepers convention. It wasn’t an overnight change–just a slow evolution into a more caring, compassionate, spiritually minded, and patient father.

Today, we’re pretty close. He’s never going to be the mushiest guy on the block–thank God! But he coos over my daughter. And he tells me he is praying for me. And he works on his own spiritual and personal growth all the time. And–yes, this is true–he takes dancing lessons with my mom.

I love him for who he is. And I’m grateful for who he is. And I’m thankful that he survived the estrogen fest and now has a little more time to thumb through magazines in the bathroom.

Happy Father’s Day to the best and baddest guy on the block.

Day 28–The best he could

I’m very thankful to the guest writers who participated in the “28 days of love” project this month. It’s been inspiring to read about the various ways love and gratitude coincide in so many very different people’s lives. I had guest writers lined up every day, but a few people weren’t able to write their posts, and it left me wondering what to do about today’s post, the last of the series.

I have a nice generic piece about gratitude sitting in front of me on my desk that I thought about posting. It’s very well-written , but when I sat down to post it, something gave me pause. It was that same nagging feeling I get when I know something isn’t right or when God is trying to get my attention in that mysterious, silent way of His. So I took my hands off the keyboard, folded them in my lap for a moment, and said a very short prayer.

“God, if there’s something else you want me to write about, let me know right now.”

He answered.

With my dad, probably taken the year my parents got divorced

With my dad, probably taken the year my parents got divorced

“Your dad.”

Then I wished I hadn’t asked.

It’s not easy to write about. It never has been.

Once I attended a poetry workshop at Lyon College by my former professor, Andrea Hollander Budy, and a visiting writer, Peter Abbs, whose beautiful, smooth recitations still echo in my ears when I read his poetry seven years later.

One of our assignments was to write a poem, in similar fashion to one of his, about gifts we’d received from someone significant in our lives. I wrote about my mom and all the ways she’d impacted me. I know the poem hides in the recesses of a maroon binder in the bottom of a storage box in our quilting house next door, but I don’t have the time to find it today. Each stanza begins, “From my mother” and then lists a gift I’ve received from her, namely lessons and principles she has passed on to me.

The last stanza, which has haunted me since writing it, is about my father.

“From my father,

nothing

worth having

or wanting.”

When I read the poem aloud after listening to beautiful odes to wonderful people by the other aspiring poets at the workshop, Peter Abbs had the reaction I always shoot for when writing last lines to poems.

“Hmmmm.”

What heavy words I’d written.

Sadly, they were true.

My father has nine biological children. He is currently raising one of them. The others were raised by their mothers or other generous people without financial support. He was consumed with other things. Drugs, namely.

Favorite softball season ever, with my dad as assistant coach

Favorite softball season ever, with my dad as assistant coach

My father is an addict. His addiction has led him to make countless poor decisions, hurtful decisions, which have cost him his relationships with almost all of his children and most of his grandchildren, not to mention the mothers of his children, his friends, and his other family members. During his periods of sobriety, he is brilliant, hilarious, animated, inspiring, loving, and thoughtful. During the periods when he is ravaged by addiction, he is not.

About five years ago, my father faced legal consequences for his addiction-related actions. He began attending 12-step meetings, and it changed his life. At the same time, I was working the steps in my own 12-step program for family members and loved ones of alcoholics. I reached the point of making a list of people I needed to make amends to. My father fell into the category of “maybe never,” meaning I knew I owed him an amends, but I was not ready yet, and I might never be.

God decided to move my dad up on the list, though. I began to feel that nagging feeling about making amends to my father. I called him on my way home from a meeting one night and managed to choke out the words.

“Dad, I need to make an amends to you. I have hated you my whole life for what you have done and haven’t done for me and my sisters. I hated you for the way you treated my mom. I want you to know I forgive you, and I know you have an addiction, and please let me know if there’s something I can do to make it up to you.”

Silence.

Then words wet with tears came through.

“You don’t need to do anything for me. I owe you an amends.”

So that day, in 2008, we made mutual amends to one another. For the first time in my life, I felt completely at peace with my father. Well into my late 20s, I had no desire to attempt to form some warm and fuzzy father-daughter bond with him. That seemed unrealistic. But I felt good knowing that we’d cleared the air between us, and we occasionally talked on the phone, and it wasn’t as awkward as it had been my whole life. When I said “I love you,” I meant it. I no longer felt forced to say “I love you” to someone who I felt had not demonstrated real love to me.

Things changed. My dad’s addiction got the best of him again. He served a prison sentence. He willingly placed his two youngest children in the care of other people. And the little girl in me felt her head drop in disappointment. It seemed the same old story just picked up where it had left off.

Today, I choose to refrain from contacting my father, and he knows why. But I see things a little differently today than I used to.

In my heart, thanks to my own spiritual growth and work in my recovery program, I’ve written a new closing stanza to that heavy poem.

“From my father,

four sisters and four brothers.

A shining memory of gifts

wrapped in aluminum foil

under a miniature Christmas tree.

A moment of complete

safety on the back of his Harley,

eyes closed, hugging him close

at five years old.

The most fun I’ve ever had

playing softball.

A dozen roses at 29,

the card reading, ‘Daddy loves you.’

From my father,

the best love

he could give

at the time

with what he had.”

The most meaningful bouquet I've ever received

The most meaningful bouquet I’ve ever received

 

Day 17–Restoration

*Today’s post as part of our “28 days of love” project is written by one of my best friends and my true soul sister. I’m thankful for her beautiful heart and willingness to share something very personal with all of us. Thank you, Amie!*

Amie and Chris

Amie and Chris

This afternoon, my husband and I were finishing up an overnight date by having lunch together at Cracker Barrel. My mom and stepmom wrangled our two younger children for the night so that Chris and I could celebrate our Valentine’s weekend together…. alone.  A rarity for sure.  As we were seated, my husband took my coat, pulled out my chair, and waited until I was seated to seat himself.  A few moments into our coffee as we scanned the breakfast menu, an older gentleman stopped by our table, leaned into my husband and shook his hand. “Son, I saw you take her coat and pull out her chair. Don’t ever stop doing that. It’s important to take care of her. My wife was suddenly taken Home 11 years ago. I’ve been a preacher for 57 years.  I’m just finishing up business here until I can join her.”

I smiled listening to him. We chatted a minute and then he left.  I gushed at the man’s words. But, I also knew something that man did not know.

Just a few years ago, our relationship was so incredibly different. My husband wasn’t the chivalrous man he is today, nor was I one to respect and honor him. We had both come from failed marriages. We had both come from broken homes as children. I was raised by a single hard-working mother. I never had a marriage modeled for me, let alone a Godly one. When we married on October 16, 2004, the odds were highly stacked against us and our children to succeed as a family (I had a five year old daughter, Joey, and he, a 10 year old son, Dylan). Although we had both committed to follow Christ as teens, and we were crazy about one another, we both carried much baggage from broken hearts, mistreatments and past disappointments into our marriage…. a recipe for disaster.

 

Family photo taken in the midst of this difficult time

Family photo taken in the midst of this difficult time

Two years into our marriage, we had a child together, a little girl, Hollyn. Although she brought much happiness to our lives, it was about this time that our marriage began to deteriorate. You see, we still had no idea what we were doing, coupled with the fact that life just happens. We began to gripe. We began to fight. He had a vasectomy without my consent. I sobbed in the waiting room during the procedure, because God had once promised me I’d give birth to a son. Chris didn’t want more kids, so he just decided on the procedure himself. He didn’t talk to me anymore. He didn’t touch me anymore.  I hurt.  I was disrespectful to him and not supportive or understanding of him needing to spend long hours tending to the business we had just started. I complained about hunting trips and him spending time with his guy friends that helped him unwind.  I didn’t compliment or encourage him.  He hurt. We both were so concerned with ourselves, how our needs weren’t being met by the other, and rightfully so…. Needs are needs, and we didn’t care about trying to actually meet the needs of each other. What we didn’t realize is that love is like a bank account. In order for withdrawals to be made, there first must be deposits. We all know that when we spend and spend our money without depositing now and then, that money will run smooth out. Our “bank accounts” were dry… and we were suffering. I was needy and lonely, and he was bitter and emotionally checked out.

It was the summer of 2007. I made friends with a man who was single, and he quickly attached himself to our family. But, I didn’t mind. My companionship needs were being met. This man and I talked for hours. We loved the same music. He helped me with my kids when my husband worked long hours. My husband didn’t mind, at first, because someone else was doing his job for him, and he didn’t have to put forth the energy. But, obviously, this wouldn’t work for long. God didn’t design marriage to function like this. A husband and wife are meant to function as a unit, bonded by Him. We were functioning separately, and now, there was a parasite, so to speak, draining us of any life that remained in our marriage. Although I was not unfaithful sexually, I was unfaithful in my heart. The relationship was still wrong, and I couldn’t see it at the time. I had friends warning me, as did Chris, saying there were red flags all over this situation. I just didn’t understand. I began to lose friends. I was hitting rock bottom fast. Then I decided to seek God.

I remember after a horrible fight with Chris one night, crying in the shower, sobbing in fact. I yelled aloud to God. “What do you want me to do?! I have no idea what I’m doing! I have no idea how to fix this! You are the ONLY ONE who can do this…please help me!”

Then slowly, very slowly in the days ahead, God began to peel away the blinders from my eyes. I began to see this other man for what he was. By this time, he had wrong intentions. I began to pry myself away from the toxic friendship.  I dug into God’s word and every Christian relationship book I could get my hands on.  He revealed to me one day that the reason I was so needy was because I had an absent father my whole life. It hurt me to realize this flaw about myself. But, ever so lovingly, He promised to walk me through the healing process. He promised to be my Daddy, meeting my needs in ways I’d never known. I was elated to know I could relieve my husband of the pressure of being the one to make me happy and meet all my needs. Unbeknownst to me, my husband had found himself in a place of sheer brokenness as well, and also began crying out to God. He wanted our marriage to be restored as well. I started noticing him making efforts he had long stopped making. He began to romance me again. I was hesitant at first. But, after some time, I saw his efforts were sincere, not perfect, but sincere. He was really trying, and for the first time in awhile, I was too.

Chris and Amie's gift from God, baby Sawyer

Chris and Amie’s gift from God, baby Sawyer

That was a two year process from beginning to end. Near the end of that dark time, when the extra friendship was over, when we could finally see bright light at the end of the tunnel, Chris came to me and revealed that God had been pressing him to reverse his vasectomy. I have to believe this was God because I do not believe any man would want to do this procedure of his own accord, without some sort of prodding. He did, and a few months later we conceived. And, yes, it was my son, Sawyer.  A beautiful gift we received from a loving Father who walked us through the hurt and turmoil. We were broken into separate piles of rubble. God picked up the pieces and began building us back up, but this time… together. He taught us what love really was…. serving one another above ourselves, no matter what. He is so faithful, and He loves us so much. I am eternally grateful for the miracle God worked in and through us, and how even now He still is leading and growing us.

Thank you, God, for the man I call husband and friend.

Day 5–Remembering rightly

*Big thanks to Brandon Davidson for agreeing to serve as today’s guest writer in my “28 days of love” project. His post speaks to me personally; I can relate to his story. I’m sure some of you can as well. I’m grateful for the chance to see love bloom in unlikely places.*

Remembering Rightly.

emilyMy Daughter loves my Dad. I’m learning to love him again. It’s hard.

Not long ago I went back to my hometown of Batesville, AR. 

I had just finished reading Miroslav Volf’s book: The End of Memory. Simply put, it is brilliant.

Volf is now Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He has also been a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

You’re probably wondering what this book by a Croatian theologian has to do with this picture taken in the second oldest town in Arkansas? (If you’re not wondering, you should probably stop reading.)

Volf was once considered a national security threat in Yugoslavia. He was tortured and interrogated for months.

My parents didn’t get married until I was three. My mom then 18, loaded me on a Greyhound bus and headed toward San Antonio, Texas. My dad was in his early twenties and had strong doubts as to whether or not I was his son. He still does.

My brother was born when I was five. I was sexually and physically abused for the next few years by family members and neighbors. Both of my parents used drugs, and my dad had a problem with alcohol and his temper. I often found myself being beaten with whatever was handy. I still scratch at these wounds. Mental illness is no stranger to my family tree.

Volf found himself confronted with his memories of abuse during the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. He replayed the hours of interrogation and saw the faces of the perpetrators.

In his book he talks about “remembering rightly.”
Not adding anything to it. He said he found himself having imaginary conversations with his accusers.

I have had more imaginary conversations with my dad than real ones.

I cannot change what happened to me. I will not forget it either. But, I would be repaying his mistakes with a double mistake of my own.

To be honest, I am not sure what kind of relationship Emily will have with my dad, if any.

I know that I will never leave them alone together. I know what little time they have been together has done great things for my soul. I watched them collect “rollie-pollies” and construct a habitat for them. All of Emily’s memories of my dad are positive. 100%
It doesn’t change who he is. It doesn’t change what he’s done.

I am forever grateful for seeing him through her eyes.

I will remember a tyrant.

She will remember a “rollie-pollie” catching old man.

We’re both right.
me[Brandon is a New Media Journalist at the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Tyler, Texas. He tries his damnedest to be a loving husband and father. He also performs stand-up comedy across Texas and hopefully close to you soon. He’s sorry this post isn’t funny. Follow him on twitter for that stuff @brandondavidson] 

Counting on Counting Bob

*Thank you, Teresa Burns Murphy, for stepping in as today’s guest contributor. Check out Teresa’s website for information on her novel.*

Author Teresa Burns Murphy’s father

My dad has a reputation for being good with numbers.  This is one of the reasons he has been the official attendance taker at church and Sunday school for many years.  He also has a reputation for being good with children, and that’s how he got the word Counting affixed to his first name, Bob.  He frequently allows one of the children to help him sound the bell to signal that Sunday school is over and church is about to begin.  This is a coveted honor among the children of the church, and several years ago one of the children remarked to her mother that she wanted to help “Counting Bob” ring the bell.  Before he was “Counting Bob,” he was “Mr. Burns” to hundreds of students at Batesville High School.  In addition to helping students find their way through the often-murky waters of adolescence, he taught mathematics. Mathematics has been defined as “the study of quantity, structure, space, and change,” a discipline that “seeks out patterns to form new conjectures.”  Always the mathematician, my dad was and continues to be a problem solver.

I strongly suspect my sister, Liz, and I presented my dad with many of his greatest problems.  One problem in particular occurred when were we small and shared a bedroom as well as a bed.  As all parents know, sending their children to bed doesn’t equal their children’s going to sleep.  Liz and I could be counted among those youngsters who are sleep resistant.  In fact, we developed a nightly bedtime “pattern” of behavior that began with whispering and crescendoed into a full-blown giggle-fest.  For us, this was so much fun we wanted to stay awake and keep the party going.  Night after night, we fervently fought sleep, but exhaustion ultimately overpowered us.  Still not wanting to give in to sleep, we resorted to arguing and tussling, leaving our bedding in a tangle and our parents in a less-than-pleased frame of mind.

One evening when we had wreaked particularly violent havoc with our bedding, my dad decided to put the quietus on our late-night antics by giving us a spanking.  While my dad has never been a fan of corporal punishment, I suspect this was an action of last resort brought on by the exhaustion of an early bird who had to contend constantly with two rambunctious night owls. I’m not sure about Liz, but I believe this is the only spanking I ever got from my dad.  I’m pretty sure it didn’t halt our nightly roughhousing, but it set my dad to speculating about a more viable solution.

First, he looked at the “quantity” of the entities involved and came up with the conclusion that one bed and two girls were never going to add up to a restful night’s sleep.  Soon thereafter, we received a set of twin beds.  While that change in “structure” didn’t totally solve the problem – we still argued – it kept us in line until we were in junior high school and my parents built a new house that included enough “space” for us to have our own bedrooms. We still managed to have a tiff now and then; but, when we did, my parents could send us to our respective rooms.  This “change” in our sleeping quarters kept our house much more peaceful.

I’m grateful that my dad is good with both children and math and that he has for years put his expertise to practical use, solving problems in and out of the classroom.  Early on, he adopted the philosophy of another mathematician – Benjamin Peirce –  who defined mathematics as “the science that draws necessary conclusions.”

 

Girly gratitude

Monday, we learned that we are having a baby girl in November. Both of us have been praying for a healthy baby, regardless of the sex. I will admit, though, that I’ve also thrown in a few “God, if you don’t mind, I’d kind of REALLY like to have a baby girl” prayers along the way. I know that I’d enjoy having a boy, too, though. I have thoroughly been enamored with and amused by all of my nephews.

Having experienced some of the joys of raising a daughter already with the blessing of my former stepdaughter, who’s still a huge part of my life, I am biased. I love girls. I love the emotional and sensitive nature most girls possess. I am drawn to lavender and other pastels. I look forward to watching my daughter grow and develop into her own person, whether she likes climbing trees, playing with dolls, or going hunting and fishing more. I can’t wait to answer all the “why’s” and build trust between us.

And in some ways, the blessing of having a baby girl feels like the most redemptive opportunity. Having missed out on a relationship with my biological father, and really only developing a close relationship with my stepfather as an adult, I am thrilled to know that my daughter will have the best father in the world from the very beginning. She will understand what a real man is, and she will have no doubts that her daddy would do anything for her. She will not stare blankly when preachers give sermons about God as our Father; she will think the analogy is perfect. She will never wonder if her father loves her or cares for her and will never seek the love of other men to fill emotional holes inside her. She will be loved.

My daughter already has the best life ever, along with one very grateful mom.