Faith and Hope and Charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number.
Watching Amy talk and play with our little Beatrice, I fall in love all over again. She's such an amazing mother that I can get my head around the fact that as of a year and a half ago she wasn't. An amazing wife and friend, yes, but Mama A and Daddy K weren't part of the playbook then.
New Year's Eve morning, 2007: It was early as it always is for me. I lay there reflecting on the previous 10 years of our lives together, perfectly content and happy not wanting children, and then the more recent six-month conception roller coaster we'd been on after changing our minds.
Amy woke up and asked:
"Should I take the test?"
It was still three full days from her next cycle, but she wouldn't have asked if she didn't think maybe. I told her let's do it and she popped out of bed into the bathroom. I followed. She took to test. Positive. We were thrilled. And completely scared out of our minds. We left the pregnancy stick on the bathroom counter and went about our day.
Periodically I'd be in the bathroom, glance down at it, and call out to Amy, "It's still positive."
Just to confirm, you know, that we weren't hallucinating. That's how we began 2008 – with Baby B in Mama's belly. Four weeks later the first ultrasound of peanut-shaped B left no doubt – listening to the rapid-fire heartbeat tethered us to heaven's lamppost.
Then, from our 10-seconds of fame on GMA airing our little pregnancy video announcement on their "My Three Words" segment, to our first international trip with belly B to China, to the 20-week ultrasound with my proud parents, to celebrating college and high school graduations with family, to Mama A's heroic six-month pregnant hike in Yosemite, to the final preparations with our midwife, to the over-dramatic but true birth story (thanks for plan B, Bea), to the first three months of cherub care, to baby's first Thanksgiving with Amy's family in Nevada, and finally to baby's first Christmas with my parents in Oregon.
New Year's Eve morning, 2008: It was early as it always is for me. I lay there reflecting on the past year of our lives together, perfectly content and thankful for our blessings. I have no resolutions, though.
It's not that I don't think that resolutions can be powerful and motivating for change – there are some great daddy resolutions posted at Building Camelot – it's just that life isn't as neat and clean as a linear trek we treat it each year. You don't get to the end of the year and say, "Now I'll change for the better, dad-gummit. Next year gives me a clean slate." That will lead you to failure, because eventually it'll be the next year and you'll say, "Now I'll change for the better, dad-gummit. Next year gives me a clean slate." Every day should be treated as New Year's Day. No time like your presence and neglecting action today gets you to nowheresville tomorrow, daddy-o's.
I've stumbled and been humbled enough to know that each man makes his own way at some point; you've got to experiment, fail and try again, like folding new ingredients into life's batter until you come up with a bake sale winner (not really the most manly of metaphors, but forgive me – my SJSU Spartans fell apart this year, and don't even get me started about the Raiders, but at least they won their last game today). You've got to be a selfless doer, not a blamer. It is a wonderful life, George Bailey, and I aspire to the Bailey spirit (with a little heavenly help of course). It also helps that I live in America, mostly free from oppression with the opportunities at hand for me to be a positive influence on my own life, my family's life and others. Get off the ground, I tell you.
Now, I know I only have my first 3 ½-month-old baby girl and have a lot to learn about parenting and daddying, but years ago I stopped making New Year's resolutions because every day my mindful resolve has been and will continue to be filled with:
Responsibility. This is one of my biggest creeds. Adults and parents, fathers especially, must be personally responsible for their actions, their words, their lives, their families, their communities – if you keep playing that forward, pretty positive things can happen in the world. Mothers are genetically programmed to be personally responsible (yes, I know there are exceptions), but with a little gene therapy and persistence, fathers can do it too. Do what you say AND what you do.
No regrets. If you live responsibly, then there is no reason to live with regrets. Doesn't mean that you won't do stupid things. Most daddies do. I certainly still do. But you should never be sorry for living responsibly and passing that on to your children.
No fear. I grew up an introverted scared little boy, but my mother's love and guidance and my father's no-nonsense approach to learning and living – and a vacuum of fearful living in my twenties – all helped me to finally find the courage to eventually live right and stay grounded to it.
Transparency. It's a term being used more and more in business marketing and public relations, but it's applicable to parenting as well. If you put too much spin on your life – lie and deceive for whatever the reasons and hide behind the great Oz curtain – it will bite you in the proverbial ass at some point. It always does. I understand that there are privacy issues that parents and children alike contend with (I can't wait until Bea wants to get on Facebook and refuses to friend me – ack), but be honest and humane with your spouse and children. You will make mistakes. Own up to them and pass the lessons along.
Tolerance. Whether you travel down the street or around the world, teach tolerance of others and foster open-mindedness in your children. They will thank you for it someday. There can be no room for prejudice, anger and fear in a happy heart.
Making the time. No matter how busy your lives become, no matter how much you have to work, make time for your family. You can always make time. I don't believe in "I just didn't have the time to read to my child." You can always make time, and should.
Participate. See Making the time. Be involved in your child's life. My biological father didn't watch Sesame Street with me (or do anything with me really). I just watched it again for the first time in years with my Bea. Loved it. Today's letter was M, for many monsters.
Fiscal soundness. 2008 was a lesson in living beyond our means – from Wall Street to Main Street. Don't do it unless it's within your means no matter how badly you want the Wii console and Rock Band drum kit (for your children, of course, not yourself).
Good health. That means physically, emotionally and spiritually. Exercise and eat right – all in moderation. Don't obsess about diets or working out. Just do it (a Nike nod). Stay active with your families. Get your butts off the couch and get outside. We love hiking and taking Bea for walks along the water. Express your feelings with your spouse and children. Keeping them cooped up makes them volatile over time not to mention really stinky. Keep the heart healthy and healed. Feed your soul and your families – Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, Pagan – build a family foundation on thousands of years of tested faith. And keep that faith positive and tolerant.
Tradition. Goes hand in hand with a foundation of faith. My parents always like to do a candle-lighting-say-something-nice-about-the-person-next-to-you-and-then-light-their-candle tradition at Christmastime. We will continue this one amongst many other holiday and non-holiday traditions new and old with Bea.
Take Note – and Pictures too. Keep journal entries about your family in the traditional baby books, blogs or other online parent/child social networking sites like TotSpot (which we use). The repeated cliché that it all goes so fast is probably true, so I don't want to miss a thing and keep the written word close by, along with pictures and video (thanks for that fever, Mom).
Being on the same page as parents. Something Amy and I have discussed a lot and will be a work in progress (as it will always be). Be consistent with your children's upbringing. Consistency is key (coming from children of inconsistency). Ensure your children that when parents/guardians disagree about something in front them, even argue at times, that you always work through, resolve, even if it involves compromise. I've been told that compromise is a four-letter word to parents of teenagers, but we've got a long way to go before hitting that fan.
Steal a car and go to Las Vegas. Oops. That's for those who read our Christmas note this year. Embracing life is all about the joy ride.
It takes work to keep up this mindful resolve, and there's always stumbling and humbling along the way. But every single day I fall in love all over again. How I keep up and sustain that level of love?
Being present and a part of each moment, one day at a time. That's how.
A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family.
That's a magic number.