“Are you sure? The blue line looks kind of faint”…… or something like that came out of my mouth. Lori, my wife of nine months, was showing me a home pregnancy test that confirmed why she had been feeling sick for the past few weeks.
Lori was still finishing up her degree at Lee University. I had graduated just weeks earlier. We had a lot of love and big dreams, but no health insurance and nowhere near the income level I had imagined necessary to become a parent. I was terrified. The words of Kenny Chesney’s song There Goes My Life played through my head: “I’m just a kid myself….How’m I gonna raise one?”
Last week we celebrated Xavier’s 15th birthday. He is the only one of our kids who predates my military career. The boy is amazing. He has moved six times and endured two deployments. Xavier endured my impatient parenting style of the first half of his life. Yet he is full of love, patience and grace for his three younger siblings. Beyond that, he changed me.
I could not imagine what it would be like to be a father through the next few months of Lori’s pregnancy. Then something changed inside of me when I first saw him at birth. It was almost a physical feeling in my chest. I would help to shape him. He would change me in return.
Many years have passed. Lori and I have been blessed with another son and two daughters. They make life fun. Lori is a natural mother. It was a journey for me to become a graceful father. Early on, I expected my babies to reason as adults do. I could not understand why things that were minor annoyances to me caused them to have such strong emotional reactions. Childish imaginations did not make sense to my way of seeing the world. I had jaded on dreams in the short period of time after graduating from college. My heart was too hard.
Time, experience and Celebrate Recovery have been amazing teachers. In 2012 I finally learned how to enjoy the stages of my childrens’ growth, their curiosity, their vision of the world around them. The maturity I should have given to Xavier came late….but it did come. He says it’s okay that I wasn’t as good a dad as he deserved in the early years. I’m still working on forgiving myself. I can’t change the past. Fortunately, I can enjoy the present and future with all of my family.
Xavier is growing so quickly. It’s easy to lose sight of that with three younger ones in the house. I remember the age of 15 well. I left home at the age of 17 to attend Lee University. Lori and I married when I was 20. I became a father at 21. My eldest is quickly gaining on that season of life.
Time with my first son at home is ticking away. He will be an amazing man and father someday. Back to Chesney’s song, I know the day will soon come when he will drive away and I’ll feel that “There goes my life. There goes my future.” Even then, he will leave me transformed into a better man for the rest of my life.
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