Two years ago, I wrote this essay about the desperation I felt as a father to 3 boys, all under the age of four. It’s raw and dark and reflects the chaos and confusion I felt during those days.
I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’s dark outside, and the journey I find myself on is one that may have been charted by others, but it’s never been charted by me. And all I’m trying to do is get home.
But the travel is treacherous and my knuckles are as white as my eyes as I try to navigate my way out of here. Every day the thing that is required of me feels utterly outside of me and I am unable to access it.
I always thought being a dad would come much easier to me. That love would pour out of me simply and without effort. I am ashamed to admit that most days I am just looking forward to that blessed moment when they are asleep and it’s quiet again.
And all I’m trying to do it get home.
But what do you do if what you used to call home is no longer your home? Three boys under the age of four, with all of the sublime joy and teeth grinding chaos, is my new home. Two arms push my legs away from that which I’m engaged, so I will engage with them. Two eyes look up at me and one mouth cries out. So I pick up the eyes and arms and mouth. These are my sons. This is my home.
I can’t find my way around here. I keep smashing my shins into the coffee table that I didn’t know we had. I grope around in the dark for the light switch that should be there. I try to tell people about it and they want to understand, they try to understand, but they can’t; they’re not smashing their shins into my coffee table, I am.
So how do I make peace with this new home? How do I accept it?
Here are my suggestions two years later:
- Embrace imperfection. I had to let go of trying to be the ideal dad in every situation. When I lost it, I apologized. I prayed, “Lord, have mercy” a lot.
- Find some nourishing things in which to root yourself. I enrolled in a two-year course in spiritual formation that has taught me that the best thing I bring to any situation is my own transforming self, rooted in God’s invitations and grace.
- Get what you need. I knew I needed alone time before the kids got up every day, or else I would be the worst version of myself. So I set the alarm and got up, every day. And it has really helped.
What do you need in order to begin to accept your actual life?