“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
[Or maybe when just your wife and kids are watching.]
― John Wooden
(Towards the end of Summer's pregnancy I had stumbled upon a few of those "one second a day for a year" videos. As I laid in bed, again, while Caleb kept our family nurtured and well, I thought about how much I'd like to get a second a day, or perhaps a few seconds a week, on video of all Caleb does. I also realized how much I value the not-nearly-enough videos we have of my mom. To see someone move, and walk, and bend... gosh, I didn't know how much I'd miss seeing the way my mom drove a car or sat in a chair and then rose from it. But I do.
I had planned to give this to him on his birthday last year, but I didn't have as many video clips as I wanted. So I changed plans to Father's Day. THEN I get a new, enormous iPhone and I have so many clips I couldn't use them all! But here is a four-minute window into life with this wonderful man, who makes us the happiest three every day.)
Dad-Caleb is one of my favorite (probably Top Two) versions of Caleb. He's not only the best dad I've ever known, but the best parent. He's just SO good at this. And he believes in it. I think it's okay to highlight someone without giving a boatload of qualifiers and caveats, so I'll make this short: this has nothing to do in anyway with anyone else. I'm not minimizing or putting-down or intending to make someone feel bad for being different than this. Whether you don't want kids, are afraid to, are trying to and can't, wish your spouse did, and then on and so forth. I'm just telling about who Caleb is, and why I love it. We're all different. We all have our things. And these are some of Caleb's best things for our lives.
Caleb wasn't afraid to become a father. He was not just excited to share that part of our lives together, he was eager to. He was hoping we'd be able to have kids early in our marriage and he spent many hours anticipating what it would be like to get to know and love OUR children. He wasn't just willing, he wasn't assuming we'd do it at some point but "not for now", he wasn't worried about how we'd keep pursuing all of our "passions and interests" after becoming parent. There was an enormous faith, steadying peace, and God-like-ness about his longings to be a dad. He always spoke with fervency that life wouldn't "end" once we had kids, but it would open up and begin again. He was adamant that the babies would not take away from "us" but would add to our joy and connection. That "foolishness to the world" type of logic. "When you are weak then I am strong" type of stuff. Love casts out fear.
The God of The Universe decided that life, home, paradise, and everything would be better -- better to Him and heart! -- with a family room full of His children. That it was good if He was a Father to not just One, Jesus, but to many. He began, and continues, to gather His children with language all throughout scripture of rearing, teaching, feeding, delighting, comforting, holding, emboldening, correcting, shaping, enjoying. God insisted that at all costs experiencing the relationship of Parent-And-Child is worth it. Up to the very life of His perfect Son. Up to His own life. Let the little children come to me, for such belong the kingdom of Heaven.
On a core level it's tough to understand why He would "go through all the trouble" when His existence was perfect before. Love. Relationship. Intimacy. It's the most powerful "stuff" of the universe and beyond. And Caleb has this heart of welcome, and ability to have perspective on "the hard parts" of the magnificent, bowl-you-over role of parent. He is a diligent, selfless man. He does work hard for us and with us. But he has given us "not just the gospel of our God, but his very self." He has given us his childlike sense of wonder, his "yes!," his tenderness, his silliness, his attention, his care, his effort, his ideas, his music. He makes being a mother a seriously marvelous experience for me; as well as being a wife WHILE being a mother. He makes being a child magical, adventurous, and sweet. He doesn't love any work or mission or passion or calling more than he loves the three of us, and we feel it. He makes sure we do, too. In fact, he believes all other callings and missions and joys pass through the doorway that is our family and are not separate entities.
So, as a family, as we're called to serve and give to others in order that they may be pointed to God, we get to do it together. Caleb has never even hinted at us being the "ball and chain" or "life-sucking family back home." This is rare. This is beautiful. This is good. And it was in him long before we met. I'm merely the receiver of this gift, and the one who gets to flourish in its nourishment. I'm the one who stands inside the door with the bouncing babies while we hear him approaching...and, at last! reunited all-together again.
It is a joy to be able to say, without hesitation, that I am not a lonely, stifled, or ignored woman. I feel like my hearts-cares are known, and taken care of, and that I'm seen by him. I feel like my creativity and strengths are fostered. I feel like I'm a part of a true team, and not overwhelmed or overrun with imbalance. (In general and overall... there isn't a human alive that doesn't have "its moments" with any of these). This is a testament to Caleb's quality as we've been through some seasons of rigor, change, loss, struggle, and testing.
Thank you for doing anything with us, anywhere, and not listening to what "they" (those who bash children/parenthood. There are lots of lovely and wonderful "they's" out there too!) say... not letting perception, ego, challenge, being kind of crazy people ;) or anything else stand in the way of embracing us with your whole heart and life. Thank you for your vision, the one that began when you were just a boy yourself. Thank you for who you are when only we are watching. You are a good, good father.
I hope many get the chance to learn from you whether they have biological children, fostered or adopted children, or just choose to engage other people's children in a tender, loving way. You;d never toot your own horn, so I just have to every once in a while.
This is a hard post for me to write, and I'm tempted to just say "Happy Father's Day to the best dad ever!" because I know so many other sorts of reports and stories. The best words I can find to sum up my heart here is: "If these days are an outward delight, praise God. Celebrate and enjoy. Share the goodness with others. And if they are not, praise God. Celebrate and enjoy. Remember they're brief. Remember there is a long tomorrow and that long tomorrow is right in the face of our Father. It's right in His goodness. It's right in His arms." - @enjoyinggracestoryco