Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Open Letter to Moms - a Dad's Perspective

A couple weeks ago, I spoke to our church's MOPS group. They wanted me to talk about life from a Man's perspective, particularly a father of pre-schoolers. At first, I thought "easy!" - but as I contemplated sitting in a room with 25 women, I became more and more intimidated. How could I speak for their husbands? How could I keep from them going home and saying "you need to act more like Bridgette's husband" - or more likely, the opposite. How could I keep them from simply writing me off, because I'm a pastor? So, I hit on an idea. Instead of speaking about myself directly, I'd speak indirectly and try to "peel back the layer" on men just a bit for them. Put enough me in it to be honest, but not specific enough that they couldn't see their husbands in it. And then, use it as a spring board for further discussion. I think it worked. So, I'm posting it here. Enjoy!

A Dad's Perspective
I’m a man. I’m a husband. I’m a dad. And somewhere inside, I’m also a little boy who thinks he’s his mom’s favourite, looks up to his dad – whether I admit it or not, grew up thinking he had a realistic shot of being a professional athlete or James Bond, got those dreams crushed at some point around age 27, but secretly hopes at some point in life he’s going to have one last shot…

In the meantime, I’ve put together a “nice” life for myself. I’m married to you, we have 2 wonderful children and one on the way, we’ve got a nice house, and a decent car – we go on fun vacations and I’m working my way up in my field, so that some day, when I get called up to the Majors… I’ll have a difficult decision, because then I’ll really love my job and feel it’s meaningful, and I’ll have to turn down the offer. But secretly, I’m worried that at some point, something’s going to happen, and it’s all going to come crashing down…

So… I put that thought in a box. In a very similar spot to the box that contains my dreams of being a pro-ball player, right next to my dream of being a rockstar, and not too far from my fears about losing my job, my fears that I’m not good enough at my job, the box that’s labeled “family of origin” and the box that’s labeled “junior high” – or in some cases “middle school.” Because, let’s face it. If I had to think about all of those things, all at once, I’d never get anything done. So, I compartmentalize everything, nice and orderly, which allows me to sit on this couch and watch the game, despite the fact that the dishes are piling up, the laundry is piling up, the baby won’t seem to fall asleep and you’re trying to tell me about that conversation you had with your friend from college…

Did I mention that I was feeling in the mood…?

Anyway, I know exactly what you’re thinking. You’re thinking – “how in the world can he just sit there? How in the world can he ignore all of the things that are going on around us? How can he ignore me?” And if the truth is told, I’m not ignoring you, it’s just that I’ve gotten so good at this box-thing, that sometimes I forget to transfer a thought I had while working in 1 box, to it’s rightful place. And sometimes, I get so good at being in the box I’m in, that I forget there are other boxes out there. I mean, just the other day, I was thinking about getting you flowers, a baby-sitter and taking you out for dinner – and not just on Mother’s Day. But, then I had to turn my attention to the proposal that was due in an hour, and I haven’t thought about it again until just now. And I know we need to spend more time together, and I want to spend a little more time with you and the kids, but I’m just so exhausted – emotionally, that when I get home, all of those nice thoughts get left in the “car-ride-home” box, and all I want to do is veg out.

Now, let me be clear on a few things. Whether you’ve ever heard this from my lips or not, I do love you. And I do love our kids. And I do want to grow old with you – although I’m really hoping that you don’t end up looking like your mom when you’re her age… But in some ways, I ticked you all off my life to-do list a few years ago, and things are on cruise control a bit right now, ‘cause I still haven’t been able to check off “pro athlete,” “James Bond – International Spy,” and “Top Dog” at the company. So, here’s the deal:

I need your help.

Now, I’m probably not going to say this to you. I mean, despite the whole “equality” thing, there’s still something about asking for help that makes me feel like a little boy again, and not the kind of little boy who’s having fun, playing ball. I mean, when’s the last time I stopped and asked for directions?

But, I do need your help.

This whole parenting toddlers & pre-schoolers has totally thrown me for a loop. I thought they were tough those first few months when we weren’t sleeping – or, when you weren’t sleeping. But now, they’re talking back, they’re disobeying, and it feels like with each passing day, there’s more of them! Now, I love them, but sometimes, I come home in the evening and I look at them and I go – “I’ve got no idea what I’m supposed to say to them, let alone do with them.” You’re such a good mom, and I only see them a couple hours a day, if that, and I’m a little intimidated. Can you… help me? Can you give me some suggestions – not nagging, over-and-over, beating me over the head with something. Just ideas – that way, I can feel like I’m figuring it out on my own, but not feel like I am alone.

Which leads me to the other thing I need help with… you. Honestly, I don’t completely get you. I love you. But sometimes, that love gets buried really deep by the stress of our busy lives, the hurts that pile up, the lack of sleep… and I think I’ve forgotten all that dating stuff. I mean, I checked off “married” – and I kinda figured things would take care of themselves. But I’m realizing, not just because you keep bringing it up, that I think I need to do some things for you to help you understand that I love you. But I’m not entirely sure I know what that looks like. So, I need your help. I know that’s not sexy or romantic for you to tell me – but it’s probably the only way I’m going to figure it out again. You used to tell me – again, not nag, you used to tell me – or maybe I just paid more attention to your subtle signals – but with the kids and everything, it’s getting harder for me – so can you spell it out for me?

And speaking of spelling it out… here’s what I really need from you. I kinda get, that I’m never going to get called up to the big leagues, and I’m not going to be the next James Bond… so I need you to make me feel like my job’s that important. I need you to make me feel like I’m special, like I make a difference when I’m gone all day – and all week. If you could do that for me… If you could let me know that you appreciate me, that you value what I do, that you… admire me. Man, that will go along way. Oooh, the game’s back on… do you want to sit and watch it with me?

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