R. Justin Shepherd | PART-TIME PUNDIT


Fatherhood
25.June.2008, 10.01 am
Filed under: daddyhood, faith, life | Tags: , ,

Exhibit A: Five days ago, this little guy was a virtual unknown. The facts were, it was a “he,” it was kicking around in my wife Shelley’s belly, and it was to be released at a to-be-determined date.

Now, he’s Owen Andrew Shepherd, a 7-some-pound healthy baby boy, spending his time sleeping and eating and occasionally crying, here in my own house.

We got little sleep last night, as Owen couldn’t decide if he’d had enough to eat. He’d cry, we’d get up and try to feed him, and he’d fall back asleep. We did this a few times over, before he finally decided to give up and submit to slumber… at 5 in the morning.

I want him to have everything: A happy childhood, an intelligent mind, a fit and coordinated body, a high-school sweetheart and college education and six-figure job and a house with granite countertops and an undermount sink. And I fear he’ll miss out on at least some of it, due to some unforeseen error on my part.

And, of course, I want him to know the Lord… but if fathers are children’s primary examples of God, I feel very sorry for the little guy.

Exhibit B: Two years ago this Saturday, I was feeling a little of the same for this guy, Lewis Christian. He had a traumatic entry into the world, marked by 10 days of only supervised parental interaction due to a blood infection. It was traumatic, too, for us, as we wondered how God could mar such a beautiful moment with such a stupid circumstance.

Two years later, I still love this boy with all my heart, and yet he frustrates me as few other things do. He’s yet to say a single word, and this causes all kinds of problems for Shelley and me. His only ways to communicate are to cry/yell/moan, and to grab your hand and drag you around. The big problem with this is that he doesn’t understand (or pretends not to understand?) any attempt to tell him no, or to divert him to a different activity. Still groggy from last night, I was met with a Lewis who, after waking and watching “Elmo’s World,” wanted immediately to go outside and walk around the block in already stifling heat. If I tell him no, he cries and whines and is generally not fun to be around, so I’m more or less forced to give way to his will.

I want everything for him, too, but more than anything my concerns for him are in the here and now: God, why won’t you give this child a voice? Why won’t you give him the will to use a spoon on his own? Why is his mind so quick and his manipulative instinct so sharp, and yet his communicative skills nearly nonexistent?

There are no answers here, at least not yet. And that makes me—God forgive me—hopeless. Hopeless. Hopeless in the face of these two miracles, these two God-breathed lives that are so utterly connected to me. My own dreams seem shattered to a million pieces, and that would be OK… if only my vicarious dreams for Lewis and Owen would show themselves on a march of progress. But Owen’s too young, and Lewis too frustrating. I’m being honest here, not righteous.

I’ve suffered little, I suppose, and Shelley probably feels these things far worse than I. Maybe you feel them, too, whether you’re childless or fruitful, married or single. Maybe we all feel it, somewhere, at some time. But it’s rather new to me… My only real hope, for now, is that this is simply God’s inoculation against something far worse. But the needle is thick and the sting is real, and I’m left reeling in both bone and blood.

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1 Comment so far
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Congrats on your two little guys. They’re lucky to have you two for parents.

Comment by kate




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