February 24, 2010
My first child
Before I start telling about my son, I'm prefacing it with the idea that there is no experience like raising children. It's a wonderful, amazing process that takes at least twenty years, and some say a lifetime. And sometimes it gets interesting because children develop a mind of their own. And frankly it has to be that way. Our objective as a parent is to have our children grow up safely and make it on their own. It doesn't always happen that way though.
When I was a scout leader I experienced many broken families and parents who didn't really get what it means to nourish or help a child grow and develop. Some of those kids had some serious issues and not much help. One boy threatened to commit suicide the night before we were supposed to be going home after camp. I, along with others, stayed with that boy all night long, not sleeping a wink. When we delivered the boy back to his parents, his mom informed us, "Oh he always says that, just ignore him."
For the rest of my life I will never forget the impact we have on our children's hearts and minds and mental health. I tried to get help for that boy, and I hope he made it. I was thankful that our son was not in that position, and thankful that he had a lot of family members that cared about him. It does make a difference.
It always amazes me how easy it is to become a parent. There are no tests or training, and in many cases it just happens. Then you figure it out or you don't. In most cases the child grows up and moves on.
Back at the beginning when we realized we were going to have a baby, my wife and I were really excited. And yet, we did not have a clue what we were getting into. I was 20 and my wife was 18 when we got married and two years later our son was born. What we knew then was that we knew we would somehow figure it out. What we didn't know was what that meant for our lives. So we began a journey that we knew nothing about.
Our son was born prematurely in an Army hospital, 1300 miles away from our home-town and our families. He had jaundice and had to wear a heart monitor and stayed in the hospital until he regained 5 pounds. He was the size of a football. I'm serious. So tiny and fragile. And I'm still thankful that he was born where he was. It turns out that Ft. Hood had one of the top two premie intensive care units in the country at the time. He was in pretty good hands.
It was hard for both of us to leave him in the hospital before he was able to come home. But we soon found the real challenge came after they let us take him home. He developed colic. If you don't know what that is, imagine his miniature intestine tied up into a knot allowing gas buildup until it's unbearable. The poor baby cried and screamed almost non-stop day and night. None of us could sleep for weeks. But we all lived through it.
Then we left the Army about five months later and began a different kind of life. I went to college, worked a part-time job and my wife also worked. We were hardly prepared for life. But we had most of our family around us so that helped. And it made it better for us because growing up, our son was nearly a perfect child. He was so happy and full of love. And he still has a great sense of humor.
I have to tell this story, because it's funny. One day he came home from school and informed us that his teacher told his class that until they were thirty they were not adults. My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. We were both under thirty with a child in elementary school.
So where does the bad stuff come in? As I remember it, there were not really bad times with our son. There were growing pains, mostly in his late teens. There was a rough period before he left for college, but luckily we survived it. And I'm happy with the way he figured out how to move forward after college. All in all, my pride is not so much in being able to tell some miraculous success story, or brag about what he has done with his life, but it's really that he's a good man able to live life on his terms and able to figure things out.
Now our son is married, and who knows, they may have children, and I hope I get to be around to enjoy their first child. I do believe that he'll make a great father, just because I know my son's nature and what he's capable of.