What is your happiest part of the day? Is it going to bed? Dinner time? Going to work? School?
Long before I was married, I had heard people say that the butterfly feeling you get in your stomach when you are dating eventually disappears. They had said that when two people are together for a while, the infatuation feeling ends.
Now this isn’t going to be a blog that says that the statement isn’t true… because it is. Butterflies don’t flutter in my stomach when my wife comes home from work or from the store, or anything like that. This is a good thing. I can’t imagine my stomach feeling like that every time I see her. How could one live like that?
But that is not to say something doesn’t happen.
Before I go any further, I have to say that I am an introvert. I don’t mind keeping to myself, which makes writing such an enjoyable career. The people I mainly interact with are imaginary. Having that as part of my personality also means that I keep many of my emotions to myself. I don’t LOL or anything like that. I may have done that a few times in my life, but I don’t make a habit of it. (And I never post it on Facebook) I’m not effusive, which has led people to assume I’m stuck-up, snobby, moody, grumpy, or whatever else people want to believe. All this to say… what I feel inside isn’t necessarily shown on the outside, which brings me back to my point.
One of the happiest moments of my day (whether I show it or not) is when I see my wife pull in the driveway. It is not because I am at home with the children all day by myself. It is because I genuinely like her; I like being around her. It goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) that I obviously love her. But it’s more than that.
When she walks in the room, I am a happier person.
I look at her and think, “There is a person that knows me. Really knows me. And in spite of that, she loves me.”
You see, my wife doesn’t give me butterflies anymore, but what she does is make me smile. Frankly, I even still get excited at seeing her (though I usually don't show my excitement).
But this happens within, so most of this is probably news to her.
This goes to show you that what you see isn’t always what you get. Sometimes there is more, sometimes less. In the end, there is no big point to be made in today’s post other than the simple truth: my wife makes me smile (even if it is on the inside).
I'm not a quitter. Sort of. I can finish things, and I don't usually procrastinate.
But sometimes I kind of forget about things. Maybe it's on purpose, maybe not.
The funny thing is, even writing this post, I had such a hard time finishing it. Is that irony?
We have this new goal to have the girls read a certain number of books every month or they lose their screen time. We're not starting it until February, though. So...
I'm not really sure where I was going with that.
My wife was the one to bring this up. When I mentioned this new Reading idea to her, she thought it was a good idea, but then said that she doubted we would follow through with it.
I asked her what she meant by that, but really, I already knew.
See, we sometimes have "good ideas" like this that sort of just fizzle out. You want some examples?
Once we had this idea to all wake up early every morning and have a large, hot breakfast. At the time we were having a problem with the girls balking about their schoolwork. If we all got up early (before my wife went to work), we could eat breakfast together and start the day on a good note (that was the thought, anyway).
I think that plan lasted about a month, maybe 5 weeks. I'm not even sure why or when it stopped.
My wife had an idea for a chore chart, probably with stickers. I'm not sure how long that one lasted, but I don't think it was more than a week. (Frankly, I don't think she ever made the chart.)
I used to come up with a detailed daily schedule for school subjects, complete with lunch and snack times. It wasn't too long before those plans were derailed. I didn't even bother to do it this year.
As I'm typing this, I'm starting to see a trend. I think the reason we feel the need to start something new is because we're in a bad habit, and we see the need to get out of it, but to do that we need structure. And maybe a hard turn to get us out of the rut we're in.
In all of the scenarios that I've described, we just needed to redirect ourselves on a better path. Once we did that, we didn't have the need for the stringent system. We're not really Type A people, so we don't thrive with regular rigidity, but everyone needs a wake up call at some points in their lives.
We can follow through with things, I told my wife. After all, I worked for years to get published, we've directed many plays, we finish projects we start.
Having things fall through is not exactly the same as not following through.
We have this new goal because we see the kids aren't reading as much as we want them too. Hopefully this system is all we need to get back on the track we want them to be. And if it fizzles out, but we keep the good habit, all will be well.
And, look, I finished this blog post. I guess I'm not so much of a quitter after all.
Over the years of fathering, I've noticed a sickness that spreads through our children quicker than rotavirus. Liz and I are immune to it, and this may be (although this is not scientific, merely experiential) more prevalent in the house filled with four daughters than it is with four sons.
Usually for this virus to spread through the family, one of the older children must get it first. It begins harmless enough and may even seem a bit isolated. The first symptoms are usually whining over something innocuous, like the back of an earring is lost, or an article of clothing is not clean, or one is merely a wee bit hungry (like it's 11:05, and lunch is at 11:30).
This is how it spreads through our family:
Whining begins and quickly devolves into tears. If Child A is not quarantined immediately, the virus will spread, though it will remain dormant until Child A has recovered.
Then, symptoms pop up in Child B soon thereafter. And usually Child B shows no symptoms of whining, her body begins immediately convulsing in tears, over yet another minor infraction.
Similarly, Child C is stricken only when Child B has recovered.
Warning: There is no immunity to this, so that at anytime, Child A or Child B could come down with this virus as soon as 5 minutes following recovery.
This cycle could last for hours, with brief periods of enforced peace (kid sent to room or outside, weather depending). What's worse is when the younger ones get this virus, the ones with whom there is no reasoning. Because when they get sick, it can last for hours, ending only with nap time or bedtime. Though there have been rare reports where a simple distraction works.
This virus is always lingering just beneath the surface. It is simply known as Crying.
A lot of times, major symptoms of the virus are:
There is no immunization to this. One can only hope that within the next twenty years their bodies will be able to fight against it.
Parents, while they aren't stricken with the virus, do exhibit side effects from being so close to exposure. Usually this can be cured by child bedtime and a bottle of beer or a glass of wine.
What’s my priority in life? What’s the most important thing? When I die, what am I going to regret that I did or didn’t do?
I find my thoughts leaning this way lately, probably because of the New Year beginning, maybe because I’m in a pensive mood, or maybe because I’m in the midst of a midlife crisis, who knows.
There may be a misconception that I’m only a stay-at-home Dad because I can’t find a job. That’s somewhat true, but the reality is that if I weren’t the stay at home parent, my wife would be. She just happened to find the job outside of the home first, and I haven’t been able to find one as good. If I do, the roles will reverse.
Sometimes people might say, “Oh, that’s so nice that you can homeschool. That’s so lucky that you can have one parent stay at home with the kids.”
While that may be true in the sense that we are blessed that my wife has a job that makes (mostly) enough to cover all the bills, the reality is that we have to sacrifice a lot to make this happen (and it doesn’t always happen). I won’t go into it, but I’m sure you can imagine the many things we are not able to do because of our choice to have four children and have a parent stay at home with them. I guess it’s obvious that we don’t really see these peripheral things as being that important to us. Otherwise, perhaps we would make different life choices.
It all comes down to priorities.
This is the way it is for most people, I know. For the people who take family trips every year or invest in a large house or put in an in-ground pool or send their kids to private school, that’s their priority, that’s where they feel their family will benefit. I would not say to them, “Wow, you are really lucky” to do that. Those people have worked hard to make those things happen. And I’m sure they had to sacrifice things in life to do that.
I’m not a resolution type of person, but if I were, I would say that this year I want to make sure that I’m making the choices and choosing the priorities that are the best for my family. My wife and I have to ask ourselves, what will benefit our children the most? What do they need? For, if they were given to us, the expectation is that we must find out what they need, what will help them grow, what will make them thoughtful, caring, God-honoring adults.
What’s most important for a kid?
Is it putting them to bed at 7:00 or spending more time with them? Is it sending them to an institutional school or homeschooling? Is it being in gymnastics or playing on a soccer team? Are academics more important than learning empathy and compassion?
The battle for The Most Important Thing is constantly at play. My goal is to honestly and continually challenge myself to make the best decisions that I can at the moment that will hopefully set a foundation for our children that will carry them into the future.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.