This Father's Day, as I spend time with my own dear father who is recovering from heart surgery (thank you all for your prayers!), I want to introduce you to a wonderful new blog.
Ready To Stand is described by its co-authors as "born of our desire to stand up for all life and all people. We are pro-life, pro-family, pro-God’s mercy, pro-forgiveness, pro-healing, and pro-recovery. We believe in the dignity of each human being and seek to uphold that dignity through conveying the truth about God’s love and mercy. We come from different pasts and backgrounds, and desire to share our thoughts and reflections on pro-life causes, family life, healing and recovery, and our experiences with God’s truth and love."
One of the authors, Cullen Herout, is a young husband, father, and counselor. This is one of his posts at Ready To Stand, and I think it's perfect for Father's Day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
I’m not on Twitter, and I couldn’t tell you a single song that has cracked the top 40 in the last five years. Though if you were to make me guess on that, I’d say Taylor Swift, right? I don’t stay up late, I’m not the life of a party, and I don’t really stand out in a crowd. I pretty much never watch television, and therefore have no idea what’s going on in Game of Thrones, NCIS, or any other popular show.
But there is one thing I’ve done that’s pretty amazing. In fact, it trumps all the other things I’ve done, with ease. It’s something that I’m incredibly proud of, and talk about at every chance I get. I gloat about it, actually.
So while marrying my wife is easily the best decision I’ve ever made, having a child is easily the coolest thing I’ve ever done.
There are a number of reasons that having a little man has been the coolest thing I’ve done. For one, it’s uniquely counter-cultural. For some strange reason, being child-free is the seen as the hip, trendy, fashionable choice these days. I suppose that in these days of rampant selfism, having a child is perceived as dreadfully inconvenient.
I was at the mall earlier today to get a haircut, and every time I step foot in the mall, I’m amazed at the consumerism I encounter. Each time I pass a 20-foot-high billboard with some guy or girl in a swimsuit and sunglasses, I am reminded that the whole goal of consumerism is to make people believe that they have a product you cannot live without. This pair of sunglasses is trendy; that style of shirt will make you happy; if you just think about your clothes a little bit more, you can have the perfect outfit that will help you fit in. With the exception of a store here or there, none of it is marketed toward people concerned with children; it is marketed toward people concerned with themselves.
I’ve fallen for this before. I have a pair of “cool” sunglasses, a trendy looking swimsuit that I never use, and I’ve bought clothes with the idea of “looking better”. But I’ve found that this cultural need to “fit in” doesn’t cut it for me. What cuts it for me is pushing my son in a playground swing, and rubbing his back when he is having trouble falling asleep. Lying on our living room floor and watching the fan go around is infinitely more enjoyable to me than going to a movie.
Maybe it’s just me, but everything our culture says I need and want, I find completely empty. Yet, that which our culture thinks is an inconvenience and a burden, I find thoroughly fulfilling.
Having a child is also easily the most manly thing I’ve ever done. Guys here will know what I’m talking about: there is nothing manlier than hanging out with your offspring. I know manhood has been dragged through the trenches, beaten with a stick, tied to a car and hauled around town to the point that it is hardly recognizable anymore. But just when I think I’ve completely forgotten what manliness is, I take my son on a trip to the Dairy Queen (don’t tell his mom), and I remember that spending time with my son is the manliest thing I do.
Now that my wife is pregnant and our second son is on the way, I feel an extra sense of bravado when I step out with them. There is something inherently masculine about taking care of a family, being the guardian and the protector, the strong one. This flies in the face of our society wherein dads are practically disposable in some areas and seen as unnecessary in others. Yet, there’s a paradox here. Deadbeat dads are seen as losers. This is because having a family and caring for it is inherently a manly thing to do. We know that dads are needed, even if sometimes our society pretends that they are not.
My little man has also given me a chance to build strength of character. As I noted in this piece here, virtue can be developed through the promulgation of children. Patience is a wonderful thing. I remember a time a month or so after we had brought our son home from the hospital. It was the middle of the night and I was giving him a bottle, my wife sound asleep. I remember thinking, “This is what being a parent is all about”. Since that night, I’ve had countless opportunities to practice and grow in patience. Some of those tests I’ve passed, in others I’ve fallen short. But you can bet I’ll be working hard to be ready for the next opportunity.
Having a child has given me the chance to be more selfless. I have spent less time worrying about myself or my own useless worries. I have someone more important to worry about than my own trivial and petty problems. I noticed that some of the things that used to irritate or upset me, no longer bother me. Things that used to get me fired up, no longer do so.
Having a child has further allowed me to see the world through simpler eyes. When we are out on walks, he points to every bunny rabbit, bird, tree, and squirrel. If it were me, I’d probably walk by and not even notice. But to him, those animals are new every time, each one different and unique, one he’s never seen before. It’s beautiful. It makes me want to be like that. By the way, you should see this kid laugh. It’s amazing the way that children laugh with abandon, no insecurity at all. They are not worried about what you think of them. When he gets going, it is the funniest, most wonderful sound you’ve ever heard.
My mini-me is a never-ending source of amusement. I had to read The Crunching Munching Caterpillar 224 times before my son could finally pick out the bumblebee. But you should see how proud he gets when he recognizes it now. He points at it like he’s saying “I actually knew that was it all along, Dad, I was just seeing how many times you would read me this book”. Very funny, son.
Whether we are playing cars in the hallway or chasing a ball around the circle, he’s a wonder to behold. I have completely forgotten what life was ever like before I had a child. Something about fantasy baseball, free time, I can’t really remember. Looking back on it now, I’m pretty sure it was incredibly boring. I probably got to sleep more and could stay out later. I probably didn’t have to plan all morning activities to be done by noon so we could get home for naptime. I definitely didn’t haul a diaper bag everywhere, and I never packed extra food for myself because I might get fussy. Actually, nevermind, I did that. I never had to wash bottles or set three napkins on the table for one person at mealtimes.
But I can’t imagine a life where I was so selfish that all those things would bother me. I can’t imagine not being willing to give of myself, my time, or even, GASP, my sleep, for the good of my child. But then again, maybe that’s all true only because I’ve grown in patience and selflessness. Maybe if you had asked me before, I would not have considered it possible to give of myself in this way. It’s fairly impossible to have a child and not grow in those things. And see, that’s just it: having a child has made me a better person.
I pray more. I pray for my family, and with my family. I do things for them. I am concerned with them. I am looking out for ways to take care of them, and while I am certainly not perfect in this, I do try. I express insane amounts of gratitude for things I have been given, whereas before these things might go unnoticed. I notice the miracle of life more than I did before, and I see it not only in the people I know, but also in the people I don’t know.
Most of all, I love more. I love my wife more. She is a wonderful mother and a constant reminder of all the good God has done in my life. I love my son more every day. I want to be around them all the time. I miss them when they are not here. I think about them constantly, and I try to be a good dad even when I’m not with them.
My family has brought me more love, happiness and fulfillment than I ever thought was possible. Not only that, but it keeps on growing every single day. Every day brings a little more love, happiness, and fulfillment than the day before.
And that’s just cool.
Read more from Cullen Herout and co-author Heather Bernt here.