I didn’t want to be a father. I didn’t want to have children. I based my decision on several logical facts.
Growing up I was told that children were difficult. I was told that I was difficult. “Your mother and I never fought until we had kids,” My father would say. “You were a mistake.” The later point proven true by the fact that I am 7 years younger than my next sibling, my sister Nancy.
My father was 43 when I was born. I thought that he was just too old to want to spend much time with me, which is why he didn’t. My mother was often sick, and seemed to have endless chores to do around the house. She certainly couldn’t dedicate time just for me. This all made perfect sense.
How could I attract their attention? I had nothing to offer. I was reminded that I was an expense that required food, clothing, and a roof over my head. I was always wasting electricity by leaving the lights on, wasting hot water by leaving the tap on, and wasting time when I should have been “helping around the house.” Clearly children were a terrible burden. Clearly I was a terrible burden.
I knew that I would be a terrible father. I had no skills in parenting, and no model to pattern my behavior by. To want children would have been crazy and foolhardy. Why would I want something that would require time, effort, and money? Why would I want something that required teaching and training? Having a child would only change my life for the worse. Kids take everything and return nothing. The answer was crystal clear, no children, not ever.
I was comfortable with this decision. I had discussed my thoughts with my first wife, and she was in agreement. Life moved forward.
God seems to enjoy throwing me curveballs. The usual scenario is that he stresses me about something to the point that I am confused and upset. Only later do I realize that the curveball was quite intentional, and intentionally powerful. Its impact much more significant than I could ever have imagined.
My first marriage was in deep trouble. My life was highly stressed by that relationship, medical school, and impending decisions about my future life. It was then that I found out that my first wife was pregnant. My stress increased exponentially. I angrily asked God, “Why is this happening now? You know that I don’t have the ability to be a good parent. I don’t even know how to parent. I’m on the verge of divorce. I don’t have two pennies to rub together. Why are you f**** with me!” There was no answer.
My wife was pregnant, we were in the process of divorcing, and I was garbage picking furniture out of alleys for a future apartment. Awesome.
On January 27, 1983 my daughter Anne was born. Amazingly cute and cuddly, with wispy hair and penetrating blue eyes.
She needed to be held, and so I held her. She needed to be fed, and so I fed her. She needed someone to talk to her, and so I talked to her. I figured that as a newborn she wouldn’t know that I didn’t know how to parent, so I would just do the best job that I could. I would explain to her why I was a bad parent when she was old enough to understand such things.
I was now in my own basement apartment and I was trying to turn it into a home. My friend Sue bought me a highchair for $4 at a garage sale. I bought a pullout couch on clearance from Sears. When Anne would visit she could have my bed. The couch wasn’t so bad if I ignored the bar that would stick me in the back.
I bought her Fisher Price toys at garage sales, and cloths at K-Mart and Venture. My chief resident’s salary added $100 a month to my miserable paycheck. After paying the bills and child support there was almost nothing left. When she was old enough I would let her know that I didn’t have enough money to buy her more expensive clothes, like a better parent would have.
I mostly cooked at home as it was too expensive to eat out. Anne was very particular in what she would eat, and because of this we had a lot of Banquet chicken nuggets and apple sauce. When she was old enough I would let her know that I fed her nuggets because I didn’t want her to go hungry. A better parent would have thought of a better solution.
With so little money we did mostly free things. I would get on the floor and play with her. We would go to park. We would visit my sisters. I wasn’t much. When she got older I would let her know why I didn’t take her to Disney World. I was doing the best that I could, I was never meant to be a parent.
On Sunday night I would take her back to her mother’s. I would return home and sit in the dark and cry. Why did I miss her so much, I just saw her? I didn’t need to tell her about my ridiculous weaknesses when she grew up.
The years past. The adventures changed. Life went on. I was never meant to be a parent, I just did the best that I could.
God had thrown me a curveball, and in the process he showed me that I was capable of doing something that I absolutely felt that I was incapable of doing. He showed me that I was capable of loving someone without restriction. That love based strictly on the connection with them. The ability to love someone without expectation or demand is one of the highest gifts that I have ever received. A gift that initially presented itself wrapped in stress and confusion. What a trickster.
Eventually I remarried, and we decided to have another child. What I thought would be an easy process proved to be arduous and lengthy. Eventually my Kathryn was born, then my Gracie. At age 48 I welcomed my son William into my life. I still don’t know how to properly parent. All I know is to meet my kids needs, spend time with them, listen to them, and love them fully and without restriction. That will have to do, I can explain to them when they get older why I didn’t do a better job.
Today my goal is to be ever thankful of the four miracles that have been entrusted to me. They have changed my life in more ways than I could list in 100 blog posts. Life moves forward.