Becoming a father was the most life-changing thing that ever occurred to me. I say this even though I probably should be saying that my salvation was the most life-changing thing. But I'd have to lie to do that. You see, God has taught me so much through my children, and I firmly believe that only through my children have I come to understand who God is and what his love means. I can't credit my children with saving me, but they helped point me in the right direction.
Becoming a father changes absolutely everything. Much of this may sound a bit mystical to some folks, but it is a true and necessary mysticism. From the first moment I held my firstborn, I knew that a change had come over me. The full nature of that change didn't come to me right away. But change was obvious. I was a bit of a reluctant father. Shan and I told each other we would wait five years after our marriage before having children. It seemed the best choice considering how young we married (I was just 19). Even when that five-year deadline came to pass, I was still unsure about becoming a parent. Shan was the one who brought the subject back up. I agreed, but it was more for her than for me.
At only four weeks into the pregnancy, we got a scare. Our doctor (Shan's obstetrician as well as our GP) scheduled a sonogram, as he was concerned it might be a tubal pregnancy. Thankfully, the sonogram revealed a normal pregnancy, and at four weeks we could see a heartbeat on the monitor. We still have a black-and-white Polaroid picture of that little bump that was our son Brian. I knew then by the fear in my heart that I was a father, and a different man. We went through all the pregnancy rituals; childbirth classes, talking to the baby, acquiring the myriad of stuff that babies require.
But when I held that perfect little person, felt the warmth of his skin, and the beating of his heart, and the movement of his little arms and legs, I was lost forever. Such a wave of love came over me as I had never felt. In that one moment, I knew just a bit of how God loves us. I knew I would gladly trade my life for my son's. It was stronger, in a way, than the love I felt for Shan. It was instant, and total, and completely involuntary.
I felt that same thing with my other children, first Duncan, then Rachel. Instant love, instant responsibility, instant willingness to take on the world to defend that little life.
My kids aren't so little anymore. My youngest is 16. But I still have that same willingness to sacrifice anything, even life, for them.
And it is a sacrifice to be a father or mother. For our children we give up time, money, attention, sometimes even our dreams. Having a child changes your life totally. And I wouldn't go back for anything. In spite of the problems, in spite of the mess, the expense, and the time, I wouldn't trade any of the time with my children. Just the opposite. I wish I had spent more time doing the little things with them—reading a book, playing a game, listening to them talk, just sitting with them. There never seems to be enough time. But I take satisfaction in knowing that my time with them is not over. No, they aren't little kids anymore. Now they are becoming more like friends. That's good, too.
There are lots of folks who will not willingly make the sacrifice that children require. There are lots more who start to do so and fail to keep their commitments down the road. Neither of those alternatives has any appeal to me. My greatest joys, my greatest triumphs have come to me through fatherhood. Also my darkest times and greatest failures. And I'd never want it to be any other way.
Happy belated Father's Day to all the fathers. And to my children: thank you for making me the man that I am.