Tech blogger Jeff Atwood took a detour from his usual nerd programming yesterday to address a nearly universal topic: parenthood. He expresses something about the joys of parenting in a way I completely understood and couldn’t have said half as well:
When I am holding Henry and I tickle him, I can feel him laughing all the way to his toes. And I realize, my God, I had forgotten, I had completely forgotten how unbelievably, inexplicably wonderful it is that any of us exist at all. Here I am with this tiny, warm body so close to me, breathing so fast he can barely catch up, sharing his newfound joy of simply being alive with me. The sublime joy of this moment, and all the other milestones – the first smile, the first laugh, the first “dada” or “mama”, the first kiss, the first time you hold hands. The highs are so incredibly high that you’ll get vertigo and wonder if you can ever reach that feeling again. But you peak ever higher and higher, with dizzying regularity. Being a new parent is both terrifying and exhilarating, a constant rollercoaster of extreme highs and lows.
Jeff’s oldest is only 2 1/2, so I won’t spoil it for him, but it doesn’t stop at age 4. The delight of parenting and seeing your kids learn those new things and experience life in new ways is still a joy when they’re 5 or 6 or 7. Even through the lows it is an amazing experience.
Yesterday afternoon we sat down on the couch with the girls to tell them that their Pops had passed away. Laura, at 7, immediately broke into sobs and cried for a good 5 minutes. And then she was OK. No more words. I wonder how she’s internalizing it, and if we’ll end up talking more about it later. She’s so much like me, it’s scary. But little Addie, only 5, didn’t have tears. She started to think about the news, and to talk through it. “So,” she said, “mom’s dad passed away.” Pause. “I’m glad I still have a dad and mom. I’d be sad if my dad passed away.” Then we talked about how Pops is so much happier and healthier now that he’s in heaven with Jesus, and about how we will see him again someday.
After that we spent a beautiful fall night in the backyard with burgers on the grill, cold beer (for me, not them), a fire in the firepit, marshmallows roasted, and friends who came by with ice cream. Then it was inside for pajamas, hugs and kisses, prayers, books, and bed. And quickly they slept, fresh to wake again as I was leaving for work this morning at some ungodly hour.
Some day future, God willing, my daughters and their families will sit out under the sky and raise a glass in memory of me. My prayer is that, when that time comes, they will be just as thankful and blessed as I was last night. God’s goodness continues from generation to generation.