What I’ve Learned as a New Parent So Far

Real Men Change DiapersIt’s been eight weeks from yesterday since I became a new parent.

While Rebecca was pregnant with Madeline, the number one thing, by far, other parents told me was, “everything is going to change” (Even total strangers would say this to me, no joke). At the time, I had no idea why they felt this was profound wisdom. I knew things would change—it’s simple math that two is different than three—but I had no idea to what degree that change would be.

Right away when Madeline was born, it hit me: There’s no return receipt. She’s here in your arms. You’ve taken out a lease on a human for the next eighteen years. Hope you’re ready, Dad, because it’s happening anyways.

That sounds kind of scary (It was and sometimes still is) but I would never change it for the world. Now, almost two months into this game of parenthood, I’ve realized that the changes never stop and neither do the lessons. I by no means am an expert at parenting—not even close—but I’m learning tons of things through taking care of this little bundle of joy and diapers.

Here’s just a snapshot, in no particular order.

The Love of a Parent Is Different
That’s really the best way I can put it. Different.

It’s not the same kind of love I have for my wife. The love Rebecca and I have in our marriage is work (more on that later), and it was cultivated over a long period of time. I showed up at her house one evening and kept bugging her for two years until she married me. We have ups and we have downs. It’s beautiful and it’s terrifying. Our relationship has to be continually nurtured. If we were to completely ignore each other, our love would grow cold and stale. It’s hard but it’s amazing. That’s marriage.

But the love I have for Madeline is completely different. The second she arrived on this earth, I loved her. I was tired, she was slimy and screaming, but I loved her. We don’t really have a relationship yet because she doesn’t know English. She hasn’t contributed anything to our family except human waste. She hasn’t done anything to earn my love. But I love her. I delight in her. I could stare at her for hours while she just kicks her feet. I want to protect her and give her everything she needs. She doesn’t need to give me anything.

I imagine that’s similar to how the Father loves us. We are poop-covered, crying babies, and God looks at us with loving eyes—delighting in us. That’s grace.

It’s Easy to Neglect Your Marriage When a Parent
I’d heard this one before and seen it happen to other couples, but it was another thing to experience it.

Before Madeline was born, it was fairly simple to find quality time with my wife. It was only the two of us at home and so it would just organically and spontaneously happen. But with the baby here, we’ve been on a continuous three hour loop: feed the baby, change the baby’s diaper, play with the baby, put the baby to sleep, take a deep breath, rinse and repeat. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day but you get older and more sleepy.

On top of that cycle, I have full-time work at Ekklesia and my wife is also trying to take care of the apartment. Oh yes, and we have to do these things called eating and sleeping. Add all of that up and what you get is two really tired spouses who love watching TV and sitting on the couch.

It took us about seven and a half weeks to realize that wasn’t working very well. One day we actually talked (What a novel concept!) and it felt like being with an old friend who had just returned from a long trip. We’d spent hours upon hours together and yet it felt like we hadn’t seen each other for weeks.

It’s easy to fall into the routine of just coexisting in marriage. Kids can easily dominate your relationship and dictate everything. I don’t want to send Madeline off to college and then return home, look at my wife and say, “Who are you?”

Pray Continuously
As I’ve shared earlier, I’m prone to worry and control-freaking. Having a newborn is just one more chance for me to spaz out.

I have to continuously pray because it reminds me that although I am not in control, God is. He loves Madeline far more than I ever could. He has a plan for her far better than I could ever create.

Prayer allows me to place Madeline into God’s hands and feel okay about it. It’s actually a freeing thing to know you are not in control.

Prayer also reminds me Who this is all for. I am not a parent in order to fix my deep identity issues or validate myself as a man. I am a parent to glorify God, exemplify the love of the Father, and point Madeline to the Gospel.

These are lessons I am still learning and will continually learn. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

You Are Out of Control

This baby hates being helpless, just like me.

This baby hates being helpless, just like me.

On May 21st, I became a father. My daughter, Madeline, was born weighing a mere six pounds and three ounces. She is a tiny human being. Her hands are shorter than my thumbs. My hand is as long as her torso. When I carry her, I can tuck her into one arm like a football. She can’t defend herself. She can’t feed herself. She can’t even hold her own head up. When she gets hiccups she sounds like a chipmunk. She is completely helpless without my wife and me (mostly my wife). She controls nothing of her own life.

Madeline depends upon us for survival but I’ve also learned that my wife and I aren’t in control either—and it is terrifying. We can try to feed her on schedule, rock her to sleep, and give her vitamins and vaccines but none of that guarantees her safety or survival. None of that keeps her tiny heart beating and lungs pumping. Yes, her survival is dependent upon us in many ways, but in many ways it also isn’t.

I don’t have control and I know it, yet I still try to grasp for it. I freak out about every little sound Madeline makes while she sleeps. I always wonder if I’ve poked her soft spot too hard. I’ve never been much a of a germ-a-phobe but no one is coming near my daughter without having an acid-scrub bath. All of it is a futile attempt to bring about a desired outcome.

This isn’t the first time I’ve longed to be in control, and to my wife’s chagrin, it probably won’t be the last.

Why is it so hard for me to be out of control? I think it’s because there is something in me that would rather succeed (or fail) on the basis of my own efforts (That something is pride, if you were wondering). This is why I have a hard time accepting grace— or God’s sovereignty. I want control and I want say in the matter. The laughable thing is that it really is a denial of reality. I’m like a man locked in a mental institute who thinks he’s Napoleon Bonaparte, commanding my troops to honor and glory from within the padded white walls.

It takes a truly delusional person to think they can actually influence every aspect of their life.

The truth is, I can barely control myself, let alone a city (a state, a country, a world, etc.) full of autonomous human beings who are also trying to control themselves and everyone around them. Don’t forget about the weather.

I definitely don’t have this figured out yet, but I do know this: we don’t need to be afraid. In fact, the most common command in the Bible is, “Do not fear.” Although we don’t live in a world ruled by Kyle Hatfield (a hard to accept but probably comforting thought), we also don’t live in a world ruled by chance and cruel indifference to suffering. This is God’s world and He’s got a plan worked out. It’s a plan that’s far greater than anything my puny brain could cook up.

We’re like my daughter, a helpless baby, too small and too fragile for this world. We also have a Father who is watching over us. But this Father is in complete control—and He loves you.

So for now, I can rest from my worry and hold my daughter as her little heart beats.