Nearly 13 years ago Jeannie and I decided it was time to start a family. Like most people who make this conscious decision within a marriage it was like going on an adventure -- learning first of pregnancy, then traveling along the 40 weeks or so of doctor visits, sonograms, childbirth classes, and baby showers. Well, I don't know much about the baby showers, but you get the point.
Coby came along and he was our pride and joy. The cutest baby boy on the planet, in the history of the planet. Then less than a year later we discovered with a bit of shock that we were pregnant again, which happened to be Melody. Again, we were the proud parents of our first baby girl, the perfect match, a boy and a girl, separated by just 18 months or so.
That was our family, for eight years. We grew together, established our niches within the family structure, marked our territory. Jeannie and I had plenty of time to grow used to the different wants and needs of both our children, and we did everything we could to try and satisfy those wants and needs.
Then about four years ago, we got the idea that it was time to have another one. Coby and Melody had grown into strong young children of eight and nine years old, and my wife and I weren't getting any younger. The Lord somehow put it in our hearts that we needed another little one in our family, and Abby came into our lives on Dec. 27, 2006. She was everybody's baby, including ours, especially her older brother and sister. As her father, I admit I had gotten out of practice. We had some long nights and tough times there for a few months, with Jeannie patiently waiting out the growth spurts and feedings pretty much by herself because I frankly couldn't readjust. But in our minds, we were done, and Abby was going to be our baby forever.
Then of course two years later we got another little unannounced, not-asked-for gift from above when we found out we were pregnant with Lily. I don't think I ever adequately expressed the shock and total feeling of being unprepared for a fourth child in this blog, or to anyone, for that matter. For some reason, having three children is still considered an average family. But when you add a fourth -- and, as a man and father, you are turning 40 -- well, you have officially jumped into LARGE FAMILY status.
Large families must make sacrifices. Large families require a certain amount of order and preparedness that, quite frankly, has never been in my nature. Lily was born in July and we had four kids in a three-bedroom house. Another round of diapers and formula. Another round of doctor bills for both mom and baby. And so on, and so on...
Jeannie and I have had to realize that we are a large family. We have four children -- all of them precious and special in our hearts in their own special little ways -- and we would not trade the world for any of them. Coby, Melody, Abby and Lily -- separated by a total of 12 years between the locomotive (Coby) and the caboose (Lily) -- are our little family train.
But recent events have shown me that as their parents, Jeannie and I need to be better conductors. Me especially. I was more than willing to allow my precious wife to shoulder the load while I was away, treating life as though it were an amusement park in general rather than just one big rollercoaster. Because that's what I'd done 13 years ago, when we had just one child. Then it's what I'd done when the second one was born. And pretty much what I'd done ever since.
The last month or so has been eye-opening for me as both Jeannie's husband and my children's father. My job on earth is not to make sure I provide every little want and need in their life, because those things -- especially the true needs -- are taken care of every day by their heavenly Father. But my job as dad is to show them a way of doing things that allows them to prepare for their own lives. I am to be an example, not an afterthought. I owe an extreme apology to my wife and my family for simply not being the Biblical dad I have been called to be, whether to a small or a large family.
My wife is a real trooper. She trooped and trudged along trying to be mom until being mom AND dad simply was too much. We are continuing to work on finding a balance between our lives as individuals, as husband and wife, and as mom and dad. Our kids mean everything to us, but as Jeannie has pointed out over the years and I know now to be ultimately true, before the kids, there was US. We need to make more time for US while also being the Christian parents God has ordained us to be.
I know this post rambles and I know it's been six months or so since I last posted, but this was something I had to get off my chest. Thanks to all our friends and loved ones who have prayed us through the last few weeks. We have come through by the grace and leadership of our Lord and we are continuing to move forward. All six of us. And that sounds really, really, good.