Jul 30, 2015

15 for 15: Kids

So here's the rundown.  Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

Up to this point, I have tried my best to not make these posts about our kids.  We love our kids, but once you have children, it is very easy to lose the couple at the core of the family.  So I have spent these posts looking at things that focus more on me and Heather.  However, an incomplete picture would be painted if I neglected our children in this project.

For a lot of couples, they have time to establish themselves as a married couple before children enter the picture.  We did not really follow that schedule.  We found out about our first baby four months into our married life.  He arrived one month after our first anniversary.  So we have had kids almost as long as we have been married.  It is hard to think of being married without also thinking of being parents.  That certainly has been a challenge at times - still trying out how to live with one other person and then suddenly having a brood to handle.  But it also has been immensely rewarding. 

Thanks to Heather’s medical training, we have had a unique situation in our home.  I have been staying home with our kids for over six years now.  (WHaaaaa?  That long??)  So we both have had a LOT of time with these little monkeys.  We both have had the opportunity to stay home with them, which is not something many parents are able to do these days.  So we both have experienced the joys, pains, and adventures that comes with hanging out with kids all day. 

Over the years, I have posted articles about each child on this website.  And we share their stories frequently on social media.  So, if you know us, you probably have a good idea of what our kids are like.  They are funny, smart, cute, talented, and a little bit strange.  This makes sense, with us being their parents.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time rehashing stories for each kid.  Rather, there are some very interesting things about our kids in relation to us that is more appropriate to put here.

First, it is really fascinating to see how much our kids are a blend of each of us.  It is tempting to say that Josiah is just like me, because he looks so much like me and acts so much like I did at his age.  But that really limits who he is as a person.  He may favor me in looks, but there are many things about him that are far more like Heather than like me.  The same goes for Natalie.  She has so many obvious things that seem like duplications of Heather.  But there are elements that are very much her father.  And Gabe is a very unique blend of not only us, but other family members.  His behavior more closely matches his Uncle Mike at that age than either of his parents. 

That is one of the really neat things about children.  You can see elements in them that remind you of both sides of the family.  Natalie has my mother’s eyes; they are almost identical.  Gabe’s eyes are colored in some ways like my dad, but the patterns in them are like Heather’s.  Some of his baby pictures looked like Heather’s dad’s pictures. His teeth are like Heather’s mom’s family.  I find it so cool to see what elements of a person are actually hereditary and not just flukes, like elements of personality and eyebrow shape.

The whole process of two families joining together to make a child is actually very cool, when you think about it.  Two histories, two legacies merging together in a person.  Very neat stuff.  My mom’s side of the family is very artistic - a long lineage of artists, sculptors, bakers, architects.  Heather’s mom’s side of the family has a lot of technically gifted people - engineers, computer scientists, programmers.  (And, yes, there are artists on that side and techy people on the other.  Just go with me here.)  What happens when those sides mash up?  You get Josiah and Gabe.  Both are very artistic, but also very techy.  So they are drawn to areas where they can use both.  I had a great discussion with Josiah the other day about how much he loved creating things on Minecraft.  He loves the creation of it - roller coasters, guillotines, traps.  And I told him how there are people who use their art skills and merge it with design and technology to create amusement parks.  It really struck a nerve with him. 

Second, I have grown to recognize how people who love me, love my kids.  And that really shows how deep the friendship is.  There have been times over the years, especially when we were the first of our friend group to have kids, where our friends saw our kids as an annoyance or inconvenience.  They didn’t get it, and the friendship was damaged by that.  But when I think of our deep friends now, they are people who love our kids because they are part of us.  And I feel the same about their kids.

I’m not one of those people who could just wander into an elementary classroom and be like, “Ooooo, kiddos!  I want to take them all home with me.”  (Admittedly, if I was that type of person I would probably be typing this from a cell as a kid-napper.  Literally.)  I am not an elementary teacher.  Heather loves kids.  She’s going to be a pediatrician.  I intentionally did NOT choose that as a career.  I do great with teenagers and college students.  But, generally I am not a big “kid” person. 

When it comes to my friends and family, though, I love their children like my own.  And Heather feels the same way.  We would protect our nieces and nephews like our own babies.  We have friends where we extend our parental protective bubble around their children.  Recently, we had some very good friends from Florida spend a couple nights with us with their kids.  Our kids adore their kids.  And so do we.  I wanted to see how they were doing and make sure they were happy.  We made sure their stay was special and that they felt loved.

As a parent, when I see one of my friends taking an interest in my kids and trying to care for them, it makes me feel even more loved.  Our friends, the Willsons, that recently abandoned us and moved to the UK (still bitter, yes), they were great at showing this.  They went to Josiah’s performances at school.  They remembered everything our kids were into and would specifically ask them about it.  Christina worked at Josiah’s school and kept an eye out for him.  Whenever I see that, I know that person really cares about me.  They know my children are incredibly important to me, so my friends make my kids important too. 

Third, parents have to choose if children will break them up or pull them together. There have been times where parenting our little ones has been the most stressful thing in our marriage.  We didn’t see eye to eye on things.  We would argue about how to discipline, how loud was too loud, what constituted “yelling at someone.”  Two people with two different backgrounds were trying to find common ground on how to raise virtual clones of themselves.  It can be frustrating.  Very frustrating.

But I never feel closer to Heather than when we are on the same page with our kids.  Sometimes, it feels like us against them, and it is nice to have an ally in the fight.  But, more than that, it is wonderful to know that you are not navigating the maelstrom of puberty alone, or trying to figure out why your kid won’t settle down without anyone to help.  Even if it is just being able to throw your hands up in exasperation and have the other person say, “I know.  I know.  I don’t get it either.” 

We even have our own private jokes about things with this.  I have this theory that sometimes God will get a parent’s back with a child.  Let’s just say that there have been many times where one of the kids will mouth off or disobey and then trip or run into a wall as they turn to flee.  It is like God looks down and says, “I got your back.”  I’ve told Heather this before.  So, invariably Gabe will yell about something and then run into a door.  I look over to Heather and say, “God’s got our back.”  (If I had finished seminary, I probably wouldn’t write that.)  We used to call Natalie’s meltdowns “Natalanches.”  When Gabe is arguing with us non-stop, I will say, “I really hope that he at least puts this stubbornness to good use - like a lawyer or advocate for the mistreated.  Just so we didn’t go through this for nothing.” 

When I was young and naive, the picture I had of a parent was so simplistic.  It consisted of sitting there, playing and being silly or baking, reading and watching tv.  I didn’t understand just how much went into parenting.  I didn’t grasp that it is a perpetual effort.  But I also didn’t really get just how much blessing would come from having children.  It isn’t limited to cute pictures, stories, and baby pictures, either.  It reveals more about your family, your friends, your spouse, and yourself. 

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