My mom handed me a yellowed envelope yesterday. The envelope held a letter I’d written to my father over a decade ago. I was a new father of three toddlers at the time of the letter. I was knee deep in diapers, strollers, sleepless nights, struggling to provide for my family and already wondering how in the world I’d put three kids through college.
I’d hit one of those milestones in my own journey as a father where I’d developed a new level of respect for my father. I was just far enough along to stand in amazement of how he’d balanced marriage and family, work and responsibilities. I was astounded at how he’d juggled all these things, and managed to be the amazing man I’d grown up knowing and admiring.
It reminded me of the morning I called my mother on the phone after staying up all night bathing my three year old daughter and changing her sheets all through the night as she struggled her way through her first stomach virus, throwing up all over herself and her bedding all through the night. I called my mom to say “I’m officially initiated into parenthood now. I don’t think you know what you’re made of until you stay up all night with a throwing up child.”
At the time of the call and the letter, I was somewhere between ankle and knee deep. I’d barely waded out into the vast ocean of parenting. I’d only been knocked down a handful of times by significant waves at that point in the game. What seemed impossible to me in that moment was but a taste of what kind of waves I’d come up against in the next decade as I waded out waste deep.
Now that I’m a parent of three adolescents, I may be chest deep in the journey, moving toward being neck deep as I raise young adults and launch them out into the world on their own. Some days I feel under water. Some days the waves are so significant I can’t maintain my footing. All I know to do on those days is get back up, wipe off my eyes, get my footing again and keep moving.
What I do know is that as I wade deeper into the water, my perspective gets broader. My respect for my own father becomes greater. I should write him another letter right now.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12, NIV