This week is the week leading up to Easter. If I were a good religious person I would write something Easter related. But I guess I’m just an average religious person who is more concerned about how we are going to survive this crazy weekend than focusing on the truly important things like I should be.
This week has been the week of historic Supreme Court arguments regarding same-sex marriage or marriage equality, your name choice depending on where along the political spectrum your personal seat happens to reside. If I were a truly committed civic-minded person, I would weigh in on this topic with keen insights that have probably only been shared 972,084 times already. But my committment to civic-mindedness is tenuous at best.
So instead, I’m going to be the truly self-indulgent person I am and talk about something that matters only to me.
In actuality, this week has been one of deep introspection for me, but sadly, it has little to do with Easter. The reasons for my introspection are two-fold. One, my wife and I recently discovered we are expecting our fifth child. Why this is a big deal is because, never in my wildest dreams did I expect to expect another child, period. And yet…here we are.
The second thing on my mind has been my good friend’s son leaving on a mission. In fact, his parents put him on a plane Wednesday morning. Both of these events have been causing me to think…a lot…about a lot of different things.
And one of the things that came to my mind was of a night almost 19 years ago in Manchester, England. That night, over 20 missionaries serving in the England Manchester Mission gathered at the mission home in Altringham-and after a wonderful dinner and a tear-jerking, heart-rending testimony meeting, a large group of us huddled around a television to watch the famous missionary video, Called to Serve.
I wish I could say it was a deeply moving expereince that reduced us all to tears as we reflected on the wondrous experiences we had all been a part of for the previous two years. But, in fact, it was nothing like that. Within minutes, we were all laughing at all the things the video left out. The things that had we known about them before we came…might have made us question whether we had the nerve to come at all?
Like what you ask? Well…
– The companion who revels in every last one of the 178 monstrous farts he produces each morning before you can get out the door at 9:30.
– The weekly dinner appointment with the lady who owns a number of cats well into the double digits and whose cats enjoy sampling your food while it sits on the kitchen counter waiting to be served.
– The Rain! The never ending Rain!! The Rain that causes you to think that every rainbow you’ve ever seen in your life is just a cruel “Gotcha” from God as you knock doors while the world’s second great flood descends upon you.
The list could go on and on, but I remember one elder commenting on a scene of two sister missionaries (I think) walking along in a light rain with their umbrellas more than adequately filling their water-redirecting needs. I remember he said something like, “Rain like that wouldn’t have been so bad. Where are the shots of me and Elder _____ holding our umbrellas out in front of us like shields as the rain pounds us for the 23rd straight day in winds up to 40 mph?” I remember thinking, “Fair question.”
Had I only known then that life is full of things like this. Life changing events we go into thinking we have some idea of what we are doing, only to realize we couldn’t possibly be more clueless. You know, the things that come after, “And they lived Happily Ever After.”
If you had told me at 22-years-0ld about some of the things my future would hold because of marriage, I would’ve smiled and nodded very apprehensively before turning and running to report you to the nearest mental health facility. Some examples:
– Owning both a VHS tape and a DVD copy of both The Sound of Music and Sense and Sensibility.
– The sheer number of hours I have spent clothes shopping. The total amassed time should have been enough to last me well into my 80’s.
– Buying tampons and pads from a teenage male clerk because I had the misfortune of passing a Walmart on my way home from work.
None of these, nor countless other examples were ever mentioned in the job interview. My wife has suffered similarly. She is mortified that one of my favorite passtimes is sharing her most embarrassing moments at family reunions and other social gatherings. And I suppose she’s right. But really, she has the best stories.
Now, what she probably sees as the ultimate bait-and-switch from that magical wedding day is that my favorite story of hers is (BLATANT BOOK PLUG APPROACHING) now captured for posterity’s sake in THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER (available now for pre-order on amazon.com or at Bookworms Bookstore in Thatcher. Like how I slipped that in? Of course you do.) So anyone familiar with the “Kyle McCain story”, be on the lookout, because it is in there.
But the most aggregious example of not knowing what you are getting into is child birth. Oh My Gosh, the things I have done. The Horrors!!! The volumes of books that could be filled with poop and spit up stories alone. It is almost impossible to comprehend. And then they start to grow up. There is a family joke about how my oldest daughter can coat every surface of an entire bathroom in vomit when she’s sick. At least it’s a joke to everyone except the person who has had to clean it up every time. For some reason, I still don’t find it that funny.
But when you have that first one, it’s all dreams of good smelling babies and cute little pictures of adorable children on your perfect family vacations. When the rest come along, you’re so delirious from the chaos, you hardly notice their arrival. But then…a day arrives when you put the high chair and crib away and you no longer have to shell out that $40 a paycheck for diapers and formula. It’s like a ray of sun cutting through the murkiest fog. Overnight, your life gets a little easier. Well, maybe not easier, but different. Raising a child is a young person’s game. And suddenly, you can sit back and smile lovingly (mock relentlessly) those young parents who are going through those stress-filled days that you have happily left behind.
Which brings me back to my friend’s missionary son. When I returned from my mission, I would have dreams about receiving a call to go back and do it all over again. These continued well into the early years of my marriage. I haven’t had one in a long time, but I still remember them vividly. For some, these dreams are a happy thing. For me, they were a nightmare. My mission was one of the most rewarding times of my life, but I would not jump at the chance to do it again. It was simply that hard.
Just like having a baby.
When we discovered our latest news, I panicked. To this day, I’m still scared. Because unlike my 25-year-old self, I know what’s coming. Not only that, I have had a glimpse of what life would have been like had we been done. It wasn’t a bad vision.
But then something happens like my experience yesterday. I came home from a business trip to Tucson and as I walked through the front door, each of my children greeted me with hugs and happiness. Even my too-hip, too-cool oldest. It was a good feeling. And I can’t imagine that scene playing out without each and every one of them there. They are by far, the most rewarding things I have ever done.
So I think I’m going to be okay. I still dread the exhaustion that will arrive in September. I can already feel the weight of having to argue with my wife over whose turn it is to change the latest poop-filled diaper. But I’m starting to remember other things. Like the unique feeling of holding a sleeping baby on your chest as you recline in a chair. There’s nothing like that. Or the cute things they say because their mouths won’t work right. Or eventually, experiencing a child’s first trip to Disneyland. Barring the unforeseen, I’ll get to do that one more time…and I can’t wait.
But that doesn’t mean five years from now, I won’t roll my eyes when I hear some first-time expentant parents prattling on about something of which they have no clue. It will be my mid-forties equivalent of watching Called to Serve. And I will laugh and I will laugh at the naivety. And why will I laugh? Because I will be done. And I can guarantee you one thing. We will not be doing this again!