Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

One of the greatest television programs of all time opens with a father and son walking down a dirt road, poles in hand, toward what appears to be their favorite fishin' hole.  This scene represents so much about fatherhood, portrays so much about what I am finding, and hope to find in my research on fathering, displays involvement, investment, and interest from a father to his child.  The opening of The Andy Griffith Show also strikes a personal chord with me, as one of the earliest memories I have of my father is leaving our house on Sage Street in Topeka, KS and heading off to Shawnee Lake with our fishing poles and a bucket of worms.  That early memory is only one of thousands that I have with my dad.
Over the years, my dad has been involved in my life.  He not only taught me how to bait a hook and cast a line all of those years ago, but he also taught me so many valuable life lessons, primarily just by being there as life was happening.  Dad was a scout leader so that he could be with me at meetings, and on camping trips.  Dad taught me to pitch a tent and shoot a gun.  He shared great nuggets of wisdom with me; measure twice, cut once; the best kind of food is the food you can eat with your hands; when in doubt turn on Walker, Texas Ranger.  Dad also taught me to study, to ask questions, and to never stop learning.  He was so involved in my life that when I was 8 he threw himself in front of a car just so I could learn about God's grace.  When he healed up, he baptized me into Christ.
Over the years, my dad has been invested in my life.  I played, or some might say, attempted to play a lot of sports growing up.  Whether I started or sat the bench, dad never missed a game.  He had a vested interest in every outcome.  He taught me to never quit, even when I was frustrated beyond belief.  Even in recent years Dad has been invested.  While I have made all of the cosmetic changes to my own children's rooms, dad has built all of the furniture, leaving his stamp on the next generation of Kern kids.
Over the years, my dad has taken an interest in me.  I posted a few weeks ago about my passion for sports teams, specifically the Broncos, and how while dad has always enjoyed sports, its obvious that he wouldn't be so passionate about this team if I wasn't.  Dad has done this a lot over the years - taking interest in things that maybe did not interest him, because he was interested in me.  I knew dad was proud of the PhD, but I never expected him to ask for a copy of my dissertation.  He asked so that he could read it.  He loves to ask about my research, my teaching, and my students as if he himself were a college professor.
Involvement, investment, and interest.  Not just in me, but in my sister as well.  I know that Amanda could share stories of dad's impact in her life too.  When we need something, he is there.  When we need to cry, he is the shoulder.  When we need to laugh, he is the joke teller.  When we need to chill, he is the fishing buddy.  Mainly he is just daddy.
This past Memorial Day, I got to show Lydia how to bait a hook and throw it in the water.  I was once again reminded of the opening to that great show.  I was once again taken back in time to an early memory of fishing with my dad.  I am convinced more than ever that I will be involved, invested, and interested in my kids.  I hope they will learn the same lessons from me that I learned from my dad.  In fact, I'd like to think that is what every daddy desires.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Surprise! Its a girl?

It occurred to me that I have dedicated this blog to writing about my desires as a daddy for my unborn son, to the neglect of the little princess that kicked off this whole daddy-hood adventure in the first place.  Anyone who knows me well might find this to be awkward since the majority of the past 3 years of my life have been dominated by the 2 D's - dissertation, and daughter.
My entire adult life I desired to be a daddy.  Of course becoming a daddy as a single youth minister was probably going to be frowned upon by the churches that I worked for.  And, as I think back, I really had no idea what it meant to be a daddy when I was younger.  I understood the physical part, I even understood that I could love a child, but I really had no idea what it was to be a father.
Time went on.  I met the love of my life (another desire fulfilled by the way).  Then came that morning when I woke up to find a card from my love telling me that I would no longer have to desire to be a daddy.  What a feeling of emotion that was.  I laughed.  I cried.  I completely freaked out.  Was I ready?  I was a grad student; an unemployed grad student.  Happiness gave way to fear.  Fear gave way to a numb feeling that I can't really explain other than to say that the full brunt of knowing that I knew nothing when it came to being a daddy hit me square in the chest.
A few months later we sat in an ultrasound room, our parents in the waiting room outside, and watched as the tech showed us picture confirming without doubt that our little baby was a little girl.  I laughed.  I cried.  I completely freaked out.  Was I ready? A girl?  I can't do hair.  I'm not much into dresses and frilly things.  Can I still teach her to throw a ball?  Happiness gave way to fear.  Fear gave way to a feeling that I can't really explain other than to say, well to be honest, I still can't explain what it is like to be a daddy to a little girl.
For the first two years of my princess' life I was able to be home with her.  Not many fathers get to say that.  I was truly blessed.  Taking her to daycare for the first time last year was probably the hardest day of my life.  Watching her grow and change, becoming a little lady have been some of the best.  I have grown as a man in the past three years.  I have learned so many lessons about who I am, and who I want to be.  Having a little girl with your exact personality will do that to you.
I hope my little girl knows how much her daddy loves her.  I hope she'll never not know that love.  A couple months ago, my uncle gave me some tips to being a good husband and father when you have a special needs child.  The one thing that stuck out to me was "don't forget about your other kids."  It was that thought really that inspired this post.
I am once again at a point where I have no idea.  I can only anticipate the challenges.  I can only imagine the emotion.  I can only consider how amazing the good days will be, and how hard the difficult days will be.  I will probably laugh.  I will probably cry.  Happiness will probably give way to fear, and fear into something else.  But this time, I don't think it will be a numb feeling.  I don't think it will be hard to explain.  I think it will be an amazingly easy feeling to define that can be summed up in one word, daddy!
I know this because I have learned from a beautiful little girl what it means to be a daddy.  I am learning still.  That princess teaches me a new lesson every day.  She crushes me with her tears, and melts me with her smile.  She lights up the darkest parts of me just by saying, "Good morning daddy!"  She will be the most loving, nurturing big sister.  She is one of my two greatest accomplishments.  She is my daughter.  And isn't that what every daddy desires?