Diapers, Snot, and Books…#NovelDad

Lessons Learned from a Father who writes

I think it is safe to say that I’ve been absent for quite some time. Well over two months in fact. If asked I’m sure I could provide a list of ideas about where I’ve been. Everything from flying around in a TARDIS with the Doctor to shooting Cowboys with Wyatt Earp to… Well you get the point. However, I feel I can justify my absence without an imaginative stretch, I mean my excuse is a pretty good one.

bennett1On August 2st my wife and I welcomed our second son Bennett Lucas Johnson. That’s him to the right hanging out with a pretty good looking guy. While he has been the polar opposite from his older brother (Who was Colic, Jaundice, Screaming through the night…) he still comes with a list of constant needs that must be met. I mean, all babies have their moments when you feel as if you are ready to pound your head threw a wall because knocking yourself out may be the only option to guarantee sleep and a small moment of peace and calm.

I make it sound so horrible don’t I… I will stop with the drama. The truth is, I don’t mind it. It’s a joyful occasion filled with moments I capture in my memory. Years from now I hope to lean back and study a picture, maybe find myself triggering one of those sleepless nights. Will I laugh? Cry? Or just sit and wonder where the time went… Regardless, I hold on to these small chapters I have.

So there you have it. My excuse for my absence. But let’s take it a step further. It’s not that I have just been taking care of a newborn, I’ve learned a few lessons over the past few weeks as well. In fact, two very important principles come to mind.

1)      First- I am a very selfish man.

To an extent I believe we all are. If we were to step back and look in the mirror and really study the reflection, I don’t think we would be all that shocked to discover our own Mr. Hyde’s starring back at us… We all value our own self-worth to an extent. We all want that moment to our self, that extra hour of sleep, a moment to finally sit and watch the show that’s been on our DVR for weeks… We may not admit it or recognize it, but it’s there. We need to please ourselves, and normally that’s found it time.

Now, is there anything wrong with that? Not really. Taking a break keeps our minds fresh, and let’s face it, our spouses probably enjoy our company more as well. But there are moments in life where we have to put ourselves second. That’s been my challenge.

bennett6I tend to get frustrated way to easy. I want time to write, the house is messy and I feel I need to stop and clean, I don’t have time to do this or that… The list goes on and on. My selfish tendency get to me, but it’s the things that I’m selfish about that bother me. Because those things are un-eternal and small. My boys have taught me that to ignore their desires in order to meet mine, really destroys the impactful moments I can have on them. I’m scared to death to see the world my children will grow up in. So much I changing, and not for the good I’m afraid. If I want them to stand for the truth, God’s truth in a way that is honorable and bold- Then I need to take every moment I have to influence their lives.

Does that mean I give up writing, give up my dreams, working out, a healthy diet, my personal goals…? No. But it does mean I might need to give up that one TV show everyone watches in order to meet both my desires and theirs.

2)     Second- I am nowhere near Joyful enough.

I often describe my oldest son Miles as a possessed freight train that flies through the house destroying everything in sight. In many ways he is. He moves from one toy to the next toy. After a few minutes he’ll skip to terrorizing our two Miniature Chihuahuas, to grabbing the cats tail and dragging him through the house, diving off the couch onto his bean bag chair, to pulling every DVD case out of the cabinet, to screaming and stomping around the house when I tell him he can’t have another cookie, to unrolling an entire roll of toilet paper and stuffing it all in the toilet… The point is he is quite active. But one thing remains consistent… He is always smiling.

I have found I don’t smile or laugh near as much as I should. I’m not sure why. I have everything to be happy about. You see, I have had to learn that life isn’t about the things I don’t get, or that I don’t get accomplished. It’s about knowing God, making him known, and being with those you love. Being with my wife and kids somehow gives me the moments when to smile, is what I needed most. My kids, my wife, they give me those moments.

A few weeks ago I walked through the house picking up toys Miles had scattered across three different rooms. It was late, I was exhausted, and knew that work the next morning would require both black coffee and a Red Bull to survive. I asked a simple question, more rhetorical. Actually I was talking out loud to myself. I said- “Miles, are you ready for bed?” I wasn’t asking the question to be answered, it was my hint to my wife that I was exhausted and was ready for bed. 

Now let me clear a few things up about Miles. He wasn’t quite two yet. His vocabulary consisted of the words No, More, Snack, Bye, Uh Oh, and Water.  That’s it. I don’t think he truly understood the meaning of any of those words. But in that moment, as soon as I asked the question, he took his binky out of his mouth and said in a very matter of fact tone- No.

To many reading this, I’m certain you could care less. But to me, in that moment, being that tired, I found myself laughing hysterically. I’m not really so sure why I laughed that hard, but I did. And I realized I needed more moments like that with my children. Moments where they made me laugh and enjoy life.

bennett5Now, I don’t claim to have a ton of wisdom. Nor do I feel as though I have the answers to all of life’s problems. But one thing I do know for sure. I’m a dad who loves to write stories, and my God, wife, and kids are my inspiration to do so. When I watch my children I see them enjoying life, even little Bennett who is just learning to smile. I pray I always remember to do so myself.

I’m happy when I’m zoned in, working hard on a story, a story I hope others enjoy. That’s my desire and hope. To tell a simple story. My boys help me get there, and drive me forward.

They are a part of a reason I do what I do…