When our first child was three months old, my husband and I decided to take a vacation together as a newly formed family. Thinking through the logistics and newness of traveling with an infant, we carefully chose an affordable beachside condo with the intent of keeping it simple, minimizing our expenses and complications while still looking build some memories and enjoy some time away. We rented a TV series on DVD for the evenings when our baby would need to be in bed and prepared ourselves mentally for a different kind of vacation, traveling for the first time as parents.
What we didn’t realize, however, was that our little place happened to connect to one of the most popular beachside bars in town. Every night the crowds would gather right next door to our bedroom wall. We would hear the pulse of the party, carefree laughter bouncing off the waves and over to us as we would pretend to be engaged in whatever was flashing on the television, while really we couldn’t help but feel cooped, trapped and just out of reach of where, apparently, the fun was really at… next door. I remember one night in particular, where, combined with my husband’s bad sunburn, it all came to head and we both found ourselves confessing how humbling and revealing this whole parenthood thing had suddenly become.
Although this lonely, painful place feels shameful to admit, now, five years later, I couldn’t be more thankful for that low point in our story. Because that sandy linoleum floor with the blaring dance beats was where the journey of falling in love with my husband as a father began.
We met at 19 years old, and from day one, were pretty much joined at the hip. Our college days were spent focused on finishing on the fast track so that we could, finally, tie the knot and begin our happily ever after. Neither of us would do anything differently as the past 11 years together have gone quickly and included incredible changes, but it’s not been without character-building sacrifice.
See, my hubs, he’s hard-wired for extremes and dreaming. It’s what I love most about him. He craves adventure. However, marrying at 21 and having four children by 30, it’s not the typical description of the death-defying, grandiose adventures of the explorers he’s always admired. And, though we wouldn’t trade anything about our blessed life, it doesn’t mean we aren’t sometimes plagued with “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality. If I’m being honest, I would admit that this has been one of our greatest struggles – learning to embrace our present blessings while acknowledging the sacrifices that must be made to leave the legacy our children deserve. This all being said, the journey of watching my husband do this has been one of the most challenging and inspiring experiences I could have ever hoped for.
Parenthood is an enormous honor, and it’s not one we take lightly. It’s one we’ve dreamed of and are humbled by daily. My husband has chosen devotion over danger. He chooses unity over ease, loyalty over convenience, supporting me in not just words (which he does, oh so fiercely), but in his continual, dedicated sacrifice. I asked him recently about the metamorphosis he’s gone through in these first few years of fatherhood.
“For the longest time, I was trying to manufacture adventure and invite my life into it. I’ve realize now that I am living the adventure, now.”
He’s chosen to find his adventure in our journey.
He then explained a recent conversation with another older father who recounted his dreams for making a 500-year plan for his family. As strange as this sounds, he explained that while we make new year’s resolutions or 5 -year plans for businesses, raising a family is no less of an undertaking and requires an even grander plan. A father is not simply a genetic contributor but the establisher of a bloodline, a legacy. For him, a 500-year plan means fixing his eyes on the values he wants to not only model but pass on to be carried out for generations to come.
“There are adventures and trips that will create memories for my lifetime, maybe 80 years, but who I mold my children to be are memories that are going to last for 500 years, the length of my bloodline.”
He then proceeded to share a new favorite quote of his with me.
“Your greatest contribution to society may not be something you do, but someone you raise.”
I noticed the other morning that he seemed a little sleepy. Asking him about it, he chuckled in response and said, “Well, there wasn’t much sleeping last night…” and then asked me to think about it.
Now, in case imaginations go wild, let me quickly recount where his night was spent. It’s fuzzy but I know the first half was spent on our family room couch, me sprawled across the majority of the cushions, ankles propped up on his knees while we both fell asleep to him rubbing my feet. After we stumbled upstairs and fell into bed, I vaguely remember hearing our three-year-old waking in the night crying for him. When I got up that morning, his space in our bed was empty but a few steps down the hall, I found his feet extending from under the camouflage Duck Dynasty blanket and both he and my son curled into each other, snoring.
Let me make a honest disclaimer. This is not what every evening looks like. We still struggle with being short-tempered, distracted and selfish. Our marriage is not smooth, nor flawless; in fact, like all, it is far from it. And yet, it’s through these character flaws, the growing pains, that we’re learning, many times me learning from him, to become the parents our children need. Together, we are establishing a legacy for generations to come and living our adventure.