Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Four Years Ago at Chick-Fil-A: An Open Letter to My Kids


I often wonder what the kids will think of the blog when they get older. I’m pretty sure they will enjoy it. It’s always fun to read about yourself as a child J Also, I’m the worst about keeping up with things. I can literally lose a 6-foot stuffed giraffe (That has happened. Twice. Hahaha.) So, that’s one of the reasons I chronicle our lives on here. A reflection of a time that will be special to us when they are grown and gone. I’ve realized that over the years that this blog has been around I’ve always written about my kids, but never to them. That’s what this is. Something for them to read when they are older. Granted there are many things I keep private and close to the chest for just the kids, but this specific story I want to share with everyone else too.

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To Stevie, Neela, Titus, and Olive:

Last weekend, we were eating dinner with my kids at Chick-fil-A. It was such a pleasant, little peaceful meal. During the middle of it, a memory flooded over my brain... About four years ago, we were eating at the same Chick-fil-A on another chilly fall evening. The two events were almost identical. We were even sitting in the same area of the restaurant, same time of day, and identical time of year. My brain instantly started making connections between the two seemingly separate, but also connected events. Life for all of us was so different then. I want to share with you guys what went through my mind when comparing the two dinners.

Fall of 2013 was a heavy part of my life. I guess that’s how I would describe it. Me and your mom were still married, but the signs and symptoms of a failing marriage were beginning to surface. More and more, it was just you guys and me. I was completely overwhelmed. Little things I had taken for granted were presenting themselves. The shock of this new life was like jumping into an ice-cold spring in December. It was a struggle to simply not shut down. Even just small things seemed to overwhelm me. For example: Mornings. Getting everyone up, fed, dressed, ready for school/daycare, commuting these places was beyond difficult. I’m sorry for the many, many times I took out my frustration on you. It was so unfair to make you with my overreactions while simultaneously trying to figure out and processing what was going on with mom.  

So back to that Chick-fil-A meal. I had done things in the past with just you guys and me; however, I was going on a few days solo. I was extremely tired remember we having to run a few errands before dinner. Chick-fil-A was your treat. Your ages were 5, 4, just turned 3, and 1. We arrived at dinner, and you guys had kinda had it from all the business prior to dinner. You (and I) were all hungry and cranky. I was holding Olive with one arm while trying to remove shoes from the older three so they could play while I order food. I get that done and stand in line holding Olive waiting to order. Success. I was able to order, get the food to the table, get shoes on everyone, and pass out everyone’s dinner. Then it happened. I still remember it so vividly. Someone spilled their drink all over the food, your clothes, and the floor. There was a lot of crying in that moment. Then, I can’t really remember what exactly happened, but I believe someone hopped out of the booth, slipped on the wet floor, and got hurt. I was that parent at that moment. I’m sure onlookers were in shock at the total wreck of a dinner situation that was happening in our booth. I remember trying to make eye contact with someone to ask them to get me some napkins. Hahahaha, but no one would even look in my direction. It was at that moment that the truth of what single parenting might look like began to set in. It caused me to internally panic. It’s hard to explain what was going in my head at that moment. My brain was flooded, but I couldn’t muster a single thought.
  
Eventually, I gained my composure and herded us to the condiment station to get us cleaned up and of course Chick-fil-A gave us new food because they are the best. While you guys ate, I just sat there complicating how this was going to work and how long I could physically, mentally, and emotionally do it. Because remember, me and mom were still married. I was 143% committed to your mom. It wasn’t for over a year later, when I gave in and agreed to the divorce. I was convinced this solo parenting was a season. Things would eventually go back to normal and I would be able to sink back into my comfortable role as a “normal dad”. As I waited for that role to come back, I found myself being stretched/prepared for an even better role in your lives. The more responsibility was placed on my shoulders, the more I was forced to grow. I like to explain it as I was some old, dry play-dough being shoved through a mold.

Four years ago, I was simply clueless to what would lie ahead. In between the treasure hunts, art projects, fights, nature adventures, late night snacks, doctor’s appointments, arguments, and endless laundry piles, God has brought us together in the most amazing way. Am I glad your mom and I divorced? Of course, not. I hate you growing up with a split family environment. Do I believe God can and will use your life for good? Yes! You each have a light that radiates from inside you. As each of you grow older and learn more about mistakes both me and your mom made, I hope that you will continue to show that forgiving spirit that’s so evident in each of you.

Fast forward to last Saturday. It’s still just us five sitting in that booth eating our chicken and waffle fries. We laugh and talk. I study each of your faces to see how much you have all grown. There’s no more baby teeth, toddler curls in your hair, or diapers. However, I do notice one thing hasn’t changed. Wanting to hold daddy’s hand when we were walking into the restaurant. I’m sure that, like everything will change, but for now I love when you reach each reach out your hands for me to hold. And if there are no available dad hands, you will still hold onto my pants leg. I have grown to love the responsibility of being your caretaker. It gives me pride that you guys each feel safe and secure in being yourself.

With all the things I love and find joy in, I’m still so sorry for all you have seen and experienced. Those are things that no kid should have to go through. Somethings even as your dad, I won’t be able to take care of or shield you from. Remember to be open with your feelings and most importantly pray. I mean really pray. Kneeling on the floor, tears streaming praying. One of my prayers is that I can set that example for you.

Stevie, Neela, Titus, & Olive, I’m so incredibly proud of you each. You’ve learned about and demonstrate forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and unity in ways that amaze me. You’ve seen the absolute best and the complete worst of me. You’ve been subject to my venting, yelling, and frustration that you should never had to hear. Even in the midst my screw-ups, each of you are full of grace and love. I just count myself blessed that I get to be your dad. I couldn’t pick a more fulfilling life for myself than to spend every day with each of you. I can’t wait to see the amazing teenagers and adults you will grow up to be.

I love you.
-Daddy  

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