The sun has been shining non-stop each day for the month of September, and we’ve spent almost every morning taking a walk—myself and my two sons in our epic double stroller.
There was a season when I used to think of how much I wasn’t getting done compared to other people because I spend the morning with our kids. When E, our toddler, was a newborn, I used to really resent the times when his naps ended prematurely. When I can’t catch a break with our current newborn, B, there are times when I can hardly stomp my feet hard enough with frustration.
Today was one of those mornings where nothing seemed to be going right.
B needed his bottle during our walk within a half block of our home. Then he needed to be burped. Then he needed a new diaper within another half block. Then he fussed and fretted, whining for his pacifier but not actually sucking on it.
After forty-five minutes of sticking the pacifier back in his mouth repeatedly, I relented and strapped him into the Ergo Carrier where he immediately dozed off. We cut our snail-paced walk short and beat it to the playground where E was eager to kick his ball around on the tennis court.
“Ten-is court!” he said over and over again.
We kicked and tossed his ball around at the tennis court, but he soon transitioned to the playground, lugging his ball along and looking over his shoulder to make sure we were following him as he trucked ahead. The sun continued to blaze in the sky, and I hung back in the shade whenever I could.
He zipped down the slide, scaled the steep steps, and ventured up a ladder. He even climbed a new ladder on the other end of the playground after I encouraged him to give it a shot. B hardly moved a muscle all morning, his docile face still with his hands balled up in little fists that eventually fell limp.
As E scampered from one slide to another, I paused to reflect on the moment. I wasn’t anxious, resentful, or distracted. I wasn’t wishing I could have a steady 9-5 job that paid more reliably than freelancing. I was present for a change.
This is something I’ve been working on.
It’s not that I don’t want to be a dad or to stay home with our kids during the mornings. It’s just that I’ve tried to balance the need to earn some money with my parenting, and it’s easy to let the money side of things win. When my anxiety came to a head last June and I struggled to fall asleep each night, I hit a point where I had to just let go of control.
I can work hard when I’m working, but I also need to play hard when I’m with the kids. Who would have thought that I need to learn how to play again?
I’ve spent so much time wishing I was somewhere else with my life with more stability and with more opportunities that I failed to see all of the blessings in my present. And when I failed to see the blessings of the present, I worried about all that wasn’t going right.
I used to think I was building something, creating something big and meaningful that I can leave behind some day. It’s not quite like that.
Yes, my writing work can be quite meaningful. Other days it’s just something to pay the bills. Still, it’s all something that I’m able to do and that I generally enjoy doing. But I used to place so much stock in my identity as a writer and provider for my family that I lost sight of everything else.
I’m trying to see what I’d overlooked.
I am being undone, unraveled, one day at a time. I’m demolishing that false identity that, quite frankly, was falling to pieces anyway under the weight of my expectations and comparisons with others.
I’m seeing the sun. I’m seeing my son’s delight in black walnuts and the way he holds them out toward a squirrel and says, “Yum! Yum! Yum!”
I punt E’s ball as high as I can and he tracks it down before settling it and giving it a kick of his own. These days his kicks are shockingly accurate for a two-year-old.
I’m grateful for babies who nap and who can be satisfied with something as simple as a baby carrier strapped to my chest.
I’m starting to see God’s hand all around me. I’m receiving these gifts he’s given me: the sunshine, my children, and a walk in the park. I’ve stopped looking for gifts and blessings in the future. There’s too much to take in right now.
God is present among us, and I never realized how much my “forward thinking” prevented me from sensing that. I never saw how looking ahead could turn into a steady upheaval of anxiety discontent.
I’ve worried about so many things, but only one thing has been necessary. If I’m not careful, I may actually end up enjoying my life.
There’s theology everywhere—even at the playground.