Last night I assembled a baby’s crib. This is the third time in my life that I have assembled a crib. The first was for my now fifteen-year-old daughter, Katie. The second was just over a year ago for my son, Jake (aka “Goobie”). Last night, it was for Nellie who is due to come into our world within the next couple of weeks.
While I lay on the floor, trying to figure out how to put together the crib, I paused to take in the moment and consider some of the differences between the first time I assembled a crib and this time. Here are a few things that I realized:
I’m more mature and patient: When I was twenty-six years old, I was much more reactive to life. I was quick to worry. I routinely sought the approval of my parents and grandparents and others around me. I was more thin-skinned and worked hard to make sure that everyone agreed with the decisions I was making about my budding household and family.
At forty-one, I’m much less inclined to become hot-headed, worried or to spend a lot of time seeking the approval of others. For example, we plan to have a home birth with this baby. I know that many people have concerns and disagree with this plan. I’ve done the research and feel confident that it’s the right decision for my family at this time–end of discussion. (I guess I sound like my father when I say that.)
I’m no longer working three or four jobs: When Katie was born I not only held a full time job with my current employer but, I also managed a video store in the evenings, developed web pages for small businesses and did computer troubleshooting and repair on the side. As I look back, I’m not sure how I found time for my wife and baby. I was working hard to not only bring in extra money to support the family but, I was also learning about work ethic and developing the skills required to have a stable income and rewarding career.
As we wait for Nellie to arrive, I work a forty-hour workweek and try hard to be home in time for dinner each night. I’m able to do that more often than not. My part-time job consists of this blog and podcast that, doesn’t really bring in any extra income, but does have some earning potential and serves the secondary purposes of allowing our family to reflect on our lives and chronicle some of the sweetest memories that life will bring.
My family has different names and faces: Both then and now, I’ve been a family-focused person. My family means the world to me. However, today, with precious few exceptions, my family members have different names and different faces. I’ve been through a divorce and have a new wife. My parents have both died and I find myself leaning on my in-laws to fill those roles. Two of my grandparents have gone—one died and the other was whisked away by Alzheimer’s disease.
My Sunday afternoons playing basketball and gardening with extended family have been replaced by smaller gatherings of my dwindling family and a few close friends. At some point, I became the patriarch of my little family and I find myself thinking back to the examples of family leadership handed to me by my grandfathers and my father. I find myself planting new roots and cultivating new friendships.
I’m more confident: I remember, distinctively, a feeling of terror when my first daughter was being born. We were in a hospital. There were concerns about the delivery. There were lots of medications, tubes, bright lights and people swarming around, churning waves of medical anxiety. At one point, I prayed that God would keep my family alive. I even made promises that landed me in a church pew every Sunday for many years.
This time, I’m confident that our little one will come into this world in a calm, peaceful, loving manner. We have a birthing tub installed in our living room. We are well informed about what to expect. I’m not worried about working four jobs to be able to afford the basics in life. We know that our friends and family are all anxious to welcome this little girl into the world with us. Although I’m keeping an eye out for complications my gut tells me that very soon, a precious little girl will be coming into my life—my mountain—and will bring with her joy, hope, love, and perhaps a little healing for this father over forty.