I didn’t know about everything that would come with it. I knew about dirty diapers and doctor visits. I had an idea about science fairs and sleepovers. I looked forward to bedtime stories and notes tucked into lunchboxes.
But I wasn’t prepared for you. Not really.
How can you ever be prepared for the raw, unadulterated excitement over dandelion wishes and lightning bugs and tooth fairies? Over mud puddles and empty cardboard boxes and cookies shaped like animals? Over blanket forts and snow days and taking off the training wheels?
You can’t. You might think you’ll be prepared, but you won’t be. You might think you know, like I thought I knew; but the truth is, you won’t know and can’t know until you are in it. This joy can’t be described like what you had for dinner last night or what you bought on sale last week or what you wanted to be when you grew up when you were in kindergarten. It would be like trying to explain how you feel when you look at the stars and how small you feel in comparison and how big God seems in comparison and how you could almost reach up and stick one to your finger and pull it down from the sky and wipe it on your jeans.
But then there’s SOMETHING ELSE. Something else that comes with the Valentine’s boxes made from cereal boxes you had to empty into Tupperware because you forgot until the night before, and the ever-present bag of outgrown clothes you keep meaning to take to Goodwill and then you finally do but then there is another bag filled up already. There is something else, something you don’t hear about at baby showers. That SOMETHING ELSE is the very hardest heartbreak of having to be the bad guy, make the tough call, be the better man, take the higher road, take the heat, bear the load, shoulder the burden, keep them safe, keep them healthy, but eventually LETTING THEM GO.
Nothing can prepare you for that.
Sure, you’ll dream and you’ll plan, but one day you’ll find yourself IN DEEP, and you’ll realize you didn’t know anything before. You will learn as you go. You will get up and try again. Every. Single. Day. Some days it will come without effort, like soaking up sun while lying in the sand and listening to the ocean relentlessly roll towards your toes. Other days it will come with all the force of a bulldozer in a forgotten part of town, knocking you down and breaking you into crumbles to pave the way for something far better.
I knew my own life was going to be changed forever, but I had no idea it was going to be CHANGED FOREVER. I was totally unprepared for the task that was laid before me. I was completely incapable of doing things the way I had dreamed about doing them before. I realized this, and it was freeing and humbling and a little sad but mostly much better.
So to my greatest hardest things – to you, my children – know that you are loved, that you are worthy, and that you have made me a better me by simply being you. And know that if you should ever find yourself looking down into eyes that look to you for everything, you will be totally unprepared for what you see.
You will see me, you will see yourself, you will see God. You will see the past they’ve only heard about, you will see the future they can’t imagine, and you will see beauty even when they can’t see it in themselves.
And they will become your greatest hardest things.