For the past two weeks I have assumed the role of main caregiver for our five oldest kids, and main caretaker of our household stuff. It’s something I’ve done following the birth of each of the past four kids (pretty sure it started with our daughter, Kirsten) and something I always really look forward to.
This time was no different. Just even more fun!
I am definitely a very “hands-on” Dad, even when I am filling the perhaps more “traditional” role of main bread-winner. I am often the one preparing meals, involved in many aspects of the kids days (usually do bath and bedtime stuff) and I love my days off when I get to be with the kids the whole day. (Oh, I even like house work… which is probably kind of odd…)
What I love so much about the post-baby “vacations” is that I really get to fully enjoy my time with all of the kids. It’s not after I’ve already spent a lot of myself on work or other people or whatever… it’s all of me from the start of my day to the finish. It’s definitely a different dynamic for me when I can do that, and I’d imagine it is for the kiddos.
As I reflect on the past couple weeks, one thing that keeps coming to the forefront is the help and kindness of friends and family who have been around the past couple weeks. From friends bringing and making meals for us, to our two Dads fixing, building, and installing lots of great things … we’ve enjoyed all of the ways the people we love have loved us.
The Dads? Built and installed a gate for the kids on our deck, purchased and installed a new faucet for our kitchen sink, purchased and installed a new ceiling fan for our dining room, fixed the dishwasher, washing machine, bedroom air conditioner, removed weeds from around our house, fixed the vacuum cleaner and I bet there are a few things I’m forgetting! They were busy!!
We’ve had lots of visits with friends who came to see Cameron, but also just to enjoy a day of life together. It’s nice to have good friends who don’t really need a reason to hang out, just enjoy being together.
We even got a visit from my sister! (She doesn’t like to leave her house…) 🙂
So, beyond the time with my kiddos, I am also very grateful for all of the relationships God has reminded me that we are blessed to have.
You’ll recall that this past week I posted some thoughts on Psalm 127, which was a nice reminder to me of how God has blessed me (us) with this amazing group of small people who call me Dad. One of the best parts of this time with them has been to get to know them better. When we spend all day doing life together, I really get to see more and more the very cool people God has made them to be!
Ian, our oldest, is a very sensitive fellow. He cares a lot about what people think about him. I believe it is an extension of his compassionate heart. Unfortunately, in a not-compassionate world, he has also learned to guard that tender heart by striking first. He often is the one making fun of, or pointing out flaws: things that when done in reverse are the most painful to him. This has also in recent months spilled over into his relationship with Mom & Dad. He has had a hard time receiving instruction. Over the past two weeks he and I have had many opportunities to work through that together, reading from the Bible and other smart books that remind young peoples that there is no greater source of wisdom than your father’s instruction and your mother’s teaching. Not sure what all has gone into it, but I definitely see a much more receptive heart, and a much softer attitude and greater perception of how his words and actions might make others feel. He is such a smart, perceptive boy… so nice to see his heart learning to beat for other people, too. So cool.
Alex has the passion in our family. Everything he does, he does! That can work against him in that he often erupts in quick outbursts of anger. Sometimes it turns inward, too, and he just sheds tears of frustration, not knowing what to do with all this emotion. Over the past couple weeks we’ve worked on being able to recognize and have self-discipline to stop the instant reactions, and consider the situations from the other person’s (usually big brother Ian’s) perspective. He’s doing so great with it, and I love seeing his little heart want to live in healthy relationships. God made him so relational. He loves, loves, LOVES people. Totally. He is the most generous, friendly, people-conscious of all of our kiddos. Love to see how he can direct the inborn passion for the good of his siblings, his family, and really anyone God puts in front of him!
Kirstie is a sweetie! She’s so tender-hearted and just a lover. LOVES to hug and be hugged. She’s packed full of compassionate emotion and definitely understands the concept of relational harmony. If it’s not there, she’s troubled – until she can help fix it. Kirstie is five, though, and so there are a great many conflicts with her next oldest and next youngest siblings throughout any given day. I’d say besides just having lots of fun picking out clothes each day and reading library books together and all the other fun stuff a day has to offer, we probably most worked on just thinking about other people … treating them the way you want to be treated. It’s so cool to see her beginning to grasp that. She’s a great helper, and I love, love, LOVE to get hugs from her!
Since she is only three years old, you may think it’s hard to know who Julia is, but strangely, she is the most amazing kid of all! (Yes, the others know we think that…) 🙂 Somehow God seems to have packed into her the best qualities of both her Mom and her Dad! She is so kind hearted (like you wouldn’t believe) and yet she is so bluntly open and honest about whatever she is thinking. She is not affected (much) by the opinion of others, or what they might think. That gives her great freedom to say what needs to be said. And yes, she can and does! (Even though she’s only three.)
When she was two years old, she was being watched by a church nursery helper who asked how old she was. She replied that she was two. “No, you can’t be two… you talk so well!” Julia answered, again, matter-of-factly, “Yes, I am two, and I can talk well.” 🙂
Julia has been a great help (LOVES to help Dad with laundry, dishes, and anything really) and is the most caring member of our family. She recognizes when hurtful words have been spoken or actions have been taken and helps to remedy the situation. Again, I so love to see how our kids are grasping that. It’s so important. To be honest about how you feel, and forthcoming about it, all toward the goal of resolving conflict … treating others the way you would want to be treated. She’s so great at it! It’s really unbelievable!
Of all the five kids that I had charge of for the past weeks, Emma had been the least known to me and has been the most fun to get to know. She’s only 17 months old, so she’s still “coming into her own” … but I got to know her so well over these two weeks. I know what she means when she lets out her little “words” (that are not words!) and I know how to read her, and I can see the precious heart that God has placed in her. She is very deliberate, determined, and knows what she likes and doesn’t like. But she is as loving and caring as her brothers and sisters.
Jen was particularly tired this previous pregnancy – which was a lot of Emma’s most formative months – and so baby Emma was not very responsive to any instruction. We had some pretty intense confrontations in the first day or two of my full-time care of her, but my loving firmness (and God’s help, I’m convinced) turned around her sweet heart in literally only a few days. She is now so good at submitting to Dad & Mom’s instruction (simple things like, “come here”, and “bring me a diaper”, and even using sign language (“please”, “all done”, and “more”), which she did not do before.
Despite her “tough” exterior, she is a lover, too. When I get her from naps, or when we’re going upstairs to lay down she will rest her head on my shoulder and just enjoy the closeness with Dad. I love it! It’s been so, so great to see her develop an even deeper understanding of my love for her and a greater trust in me (and my instruction). She’s so great!!
For the time being, God is providing for our family through the talents and abilities that I have. I am so blessed to be able to work from home for a large number of very varied clients in web and graphic design work. He has given me the work and it continues to come in, so I will faithfully (and gratefully) continue to do that as long as he continues to provide it. We are so thankful for the ways he has provided. Gives me great flexibility to still be greatly involved in parenting our kiddos.
I do hope for more. I hope that some day there will be a way that I can do more of what I was able to over the past two weeks (and not just at the expense of my sleep or energy in general). We’re not sure what that would look like, but think that perhaps God will provide such an opportunity in the (near?) future. That would be super amazing and awesome.
For now, I am so, SO grateful for the past two weeks and can’t wait for the next baby to come along! 🙂
Whatever comes next, I could not be more thankful for the life God has given me and the people he has placed under my care, and the beautiful wife he has given me to raise those people with. I’ll be asking God to allow her to see and enjoy the greatness he has packed into all six of our kids as she takes on the greater portion of the load of kid care and house care.
It’s quite a job! A wonderful job.