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life

A Word to "Bro" Culture

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If you're a guy and you do not have a girlfriend, wife, and children... please read the following words carefully. If you are a guy who does have a girlfriend (whom you respect, I hope), a wife, and children then I'm sure you'll relate to the following. 

I recently became the father to a darling little baby girl. She's gorgeous and precious and very important to her mother and I. I can also assure you that during her formative years I'm going to do my best to love her so well that it wrecks any chance some young kid thinks he has with her. If some kid wants to win my daughter over he'll have to really out-do her daddy. I want the best for her, and some dude is going to have to that as well. Too many girls settle for dudes who will treat them like garbage in the end, and that's sad. What's even more sad is that there seems to be an ample supply of guys who are really just perpetual teenagers running loose out there. Some of them even have drivers licenses. 

Case in point: a while back, shortly before my little girl was born, I followed the most curious gentleman on my way to work. He was driving a Ford F-250 that he himself, in what I can only imagine was  a moment of sheer boredom (?), had given a customized paint job by way of spray paint. It was a really horrible abomination of automotive customization, but that wasn't even the most offensive part. No, that title would go to the sticker he so proudly displayed in his rear window. The sticker read, verbatim:

MY OTHER RIDES YOUR DAUGHTER

Yup, that's actually what it said. 

In what way is such a thing even remotely acceptable? Sadly, someone running a two-bit sticker printing operation thought it was funny enough to make, and someone with disposable income decided it was funny enough to purchase. 

Let's call a spade a spade here: such a thing as this is pure stupidity, and I'll tell you why. 

For starters, a guy driving a poorly spray painted truck probably knows very little about women beyond a simple, "Hey... that's a girl." So we'll give him a couple points for that at least. However, any man with at least a shred of dignity would never display such a sticker in a crass attempt to be witty or clever. It's neither of those things. It's pretty gross if you really think about it, champ. 

Secondly, it's pretty offensive to those of us with daughters who don't even know the person with such a sticker. What particular joy would one get out of someone with a little girl seeing that sticker? If you're a grown man and believe so foolishly that such a sentiment is hilarious, congratulations, you're still working from a frame of reference that is equivalent to junior high locker room humor, at best. The 1% of people who will find it amusing are the same people who also have one on their vehicles as well. I hear they're giving out badges to all members of the Mutual Admiration Society for Fools Like You. Go on get'cha some, bruh!  Here's your free tickets to the Nickelback concert next week. 

Lastly, you just make yourself look like a goon to the world around you. No one admires that behavior. If someone rolls up to my home to call on my daughter and I see that sticker in their car window, they'll know the feeling of having a door jammed in the face and the sound of sirens coming to investigate a prowler. I don't have time for that...

So let's just cut to the chase for all you darling young fellows out there who believe "MY OTHER RIDES YOUR DAUGHTER" stickers are awesome: get yourself together. No self-respecting girl wants anything to do with that sort of thing, and there's a contingency of hostile dads just waiting to run you off the road. You don't want that sort of heat, guy. 

Put yourself in the hypothetical situation of having a daughter of your own and how you would feel upon seeing such a thing from another drive. I know, it's hard to think about anyone but yourself, because that's how we got into this predicament to begin with, but try hard. The world doesn't need one more boy trying to wear man pants. The world needs more grown-up, responsible adult males who respond to the rising of each morning's sun with respect and purpose to their lives. Much more, there are a legion of girls out there waiting to be treasured, respected, encouraged, and loved. If you continue on a track as such a sticker would indicate, you're going to wind up wrecking someone's little girl and assuring yourself a place in the Hall of the Worst Human Beings Ever. There's no glory in that, so why try so hard? Try harder to be a person worthy of respect and admiration and worthy of imitation by other men around you. People see your truck and your sticker and they Instagram/Tweet/Facebook a picture of it in an attempt to mock you, not celebrate you. 

I know for some my words will seem self-serving since I just brought home a little girl of my one, but bear in mind that I was once a teacher to middle school students. This isn't something that I'm only attuned to only now because I have a daughter. No, I've seen it happening for years now. Fathers, love your little girls well. I cannot implore you enough to love them well because, as a I stated earlier, there seems to be no shortage of dudes out there who have no interest in loving your daughters well. They intend to disrespect them, and ultimately, ruin them. Spoil them not in the materialistic sense, but in the way you treasure, lead, honor, and love them so gents such as the one described above don't have a chance. Empower your little girl to have a standard for their future boyfriend/husband. 

And also, Fathers with sons: Teach them how to love, honor, and respect women. If you see this truck and this sticker, take a few minutes to teach your sons why such a thing is just stupid and that you better never catch them engaging in such a thing. 

Time Gives Perspective

It is not my intention to write and make someone sad, but lament is a part of life. Our failure to lament and instead simply think "happy thoughts" while smiling like weirdos robs us of so much in this life. I hope to update anyone who knows our family on the current status of my wife's pregnancy, and communicate the importance of treasuring the days you have with a loved one.

My wife is a mere 2 days away from being 40 weeks pregnant. That is full-term as far as pregnancies go. And, if your wife is all of 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighs less than 120 pounds, typically the baby bump is all out front. Serious: when my wife has her back turned to you, you cannot even tell she's pregnant. Her chiropractor has noted on several occasions now that the baby is so out front it's putting an immense amount of stress on her back. And, within the last couple weeks it really has started to take an increasing toll.

Our first child could probably considered a normal, run-of-the-mill labor that most women who have had children would be envious of. She was scheduled to be induced  about 2 weeks early because of mild-Preeclampsia that was quickly becoming full-blown Preeclampsia, and that's a worrisome situation. However, 2 days before her induction date... little man decided he was going to come on his own. My wife was at work sitting in a team meeting, her water broke, she went to the hospital, a few hours later had an epidural, and then a few hours later she pushed for less than 30 minutes and we had a healthy little baby boy at 6 pounds 15 bounces born at 4 a.m. I think she as in labor a total of 8 hours. You see? Some ladies would consider that a lottery win for child birth. 

This time around, however, it's different. No signs of Preeclampsia, at all, and in 2 days we'll be at 40 weeks. Last Thursday evening she texted me, during rehearsal (which freaked me out), to tell me she was having contractions 10 minutes apart. This continued throughout the night, and Friday morning we went to a pre-scheduled baby appointment where they told her to be on the lookout, because these were not Braxton-Hicks contractions, which my wife had been having for months already. No, these were actual contractions. Keep watch, if they get to the point where they are consistently 5 minutes apart and you can't finish a sentence... go the hospital is what we were told. The only hitch was that the baby was still up too high. Fair enough. We went home, and over the course of the next 2 hours the contractions slowly become more unpleasant, and were hitting right about 5-6 minutes apart consistent. My got up to go stuff the last few items into her hospital bag, came back downstairs and the contractions went back up to 10-13 minutes apart. However, soon after she sat down again, they ratcheted back up in intensity and frequency. My mother had arrived to watch our then sleeping 2 year-old in case we had to bolt to the hospital. My wife's contractions were starting to creep into the sub-5 minute range and were quite unpleasant for her as well. So, we bolted for the hospital. Once we got there and my wife was put on a bed and her belly hooked up to monitor the contractions and baby girl's heart rate, the contractions had backed away again. However, they grew more frequent and more unpleasant again. Still, they weren't consistent enough and baby girl was still riding too high, so we were sent home. Since that time, my wife has had contractions probably every 10-20 minutes and the intensity varies. 

This morning we had another baby appointment to see how she was progressing, but there has been no change since our last checkup on Friday. This... was utterly disappointing. And it's disappointing for three reasons:

1.) This is not a case of false labor. No, it is just her body ramping things up really early. So, it's real.

2.) Our first child came quickly and calmly. This one is seemingly putting up a fight and is content to make us all wait on her. Drama queen. 

3.) It is difficult to see your wife in such physical discomfort from the contractions and the back ache and there be next to nothing that you can do for her but encourage her and hope and pray this baby drops and we can light this fire.

We both went home this morning and I was frustrated. "Are you serious? We may have to wait for ANOTHER WEEK for this baby to come? This is silly," was the thought running circles through my mind. But, that's all a product of my drive-thru mentality, I guess. After 9 months of waiting you get to the end and just want that little human to be in your life and not the womb anymore. You want to hear the cries and the coos and enjoy the scent of a newborn child nestled up on your chest.  But the prospect of waiting another week for baby girl to arrive is, quite simply put, frustrating beyond description.

So what is the point? Well, all of this seemed like an incredible inconvenience on my life this morning, until I arrived at work.

I sat down at our normal Tuesday morning meeting and heard the story of a woman who was given the sad news that she had, literally, a few weeks left to live. 

Devastated.

Suddenly all gravity of the frailty and miracle of life came crashing into perspective resulting in a moment of clarity I can't say I've ever experienced before. The juxtaposition of waiting for a life to burst forth into this world against waiting for a life to leave this world left me nearly incapacitated. While I am busy pleading that our little girl would enter into this world quickly, somewhere a family is pleading for more time with their loved one. While I am frustrated my little girl isn't here yet, someone else is devastated that their loved one is leaving. Suddenly I am reminded that, again, I am not the center of this universe.

This makes life real, and puts much into perspective. I ask myself, Shaun, what happens when she finally does get here? 

As much of a fit as I'm pitching that she isn't here yet, will that move me to treasure her existence all the more when she actually arrives? Will it move me all the more to put work or my iPhone down to hold her, play with her, watch her, lead her all the more when she's here in flesh and bone? Because it should. 

And it should because one day one of us will leave this earth. God, please don't let it be her before me. Regardless, I would hope that Perspective would win each and every day so that when the time comes we are mourning not because we didn't treasure our time together enough, but because we did, and it was so joyful that we wish it could have lasted forever. 

I shouldn't be so selfish as to forget we've waited this long for her to be here with us that having to wait a few more days would be such a terrible inconvenience to me. And I say that because I can't imagine the pain involved with knowing you only have a few more days to spend with a loved one. Life is precious, and we should treat it that way. We should treasure it. 

Our little girl will come at the time that has been appointed, and not a second sooner. Until then we will wait in anticipation, and shun any frustration. And I hope and pray that every day I look at her face I am reminded to love her well, love my wife well, love my son well, and to love well the people I know who must grieve their way through loss. I can't imagine being in that position. I can't imagine the pain. My heart grieves for families who find themselves in that spot and my prayers and thoughts go out to them. As we celebrate the arrival of a life, let us not forget to love well those who are grieving the loss of a life. And in between let's remember to not play the martyr over what we consider to be inconveniences. Chances are they aren't. We're so good at making mountains out of mole hills. 

Life: treasure every second of it. 

There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[Photo Credit: Steve A Johnson]