I know you. You’re reading these words (trying to) with a fidgety, chocolate-covered 15-month-old on your lap. You’re 21, you’re exhausted and you’re going to cry because you can’t find the remote control. You’re frustrated, too. In the past year since your hasty wedding, youth has disenfranchised you. Friends have slowed the pace to your door, but grandparents, dripping with advice and casseroles, have seemingly never left.
Oh, what you would give for an hour alone at the mall! A round of darts at the pub!
You love your spouse and your child, but if you were honest about it, you’d say that you aren’t sure about this life. Your job sucks. You wish you had traveled and gone to college. You feel as though no one but Gerber is interested in you now. Your body has betrayed you. Your apartment is cramped. You want to rock, but you can’t. You want to explode, and you might.
You need a vision.
My girlfriend Rebecca and I had dated for just three months when we turned up pregnant at age 19. We were the poster children for irresponsibility, having sex but eschewing birth control because using it would have amounted to full acknowledgement of our sin. We were practically on a first name basis with the local clinic, taking advantage of their free-for-teens pregnancy tests time and again until we got that life-changing positive result. It was the summer of lust.
Next year, I will celebrate with Rebecca 10 years of marriage and four fantastic kids. Lest you think we simply beat the odds, understand that none but Christ can create a lasting love between two people. We’ve been drinking from His mercy stream since the day we tied the knot.
Beginning married life with children in tow or on the way is a uniquely difficult situation that doesn’t get much editorial attention. I’ve been there, and I hope to impart perspective – vision – to those readers who are there today.
[RECONCILE REALITY] The bad news: The sex outside of marriage that led to the conception of your child was sin. Accept it, both of you, and offer those days to the Lord with a humble heart. The alternative is to close your heart to God and feel your marriage slipping into permafrost. You can count on it. Wait! Am I saying your child is a product of sin? Well, yes, but no more or less than you were, coming into this world needing a savior because of the sin of Adam.
The good news: The eyes of your beautiful baby reflect the miracle of life, the goodness of God and the start of a journey that will change you.
[HUG THE FIREBALL]
It can shock the system to realize how much freedom you must exchange for the responsibility of child rearing. And being thrust into adulthood with a new spouse and a new baby all at once is an immense transition. Feelings run amuck. Satan works overtime to convince you that this isn’t going to work. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to communicate about the voices you’re hearing (no kidding) and, when you need it, engage the services of a wise counselor to guide you through any unsettling emotional landscape.
My mother has a pet phrase for doing something difficult: hugging the fireball. That means holding your side of an argument in an open hand. To give up the right to always be right, accepting responsibility for your actions and words. Change that diaper without being asked. It sounds cliché for good reason. The me-first mentality doesn’t just disappear; rather, the presence of a newborn will amplify it in you. When you feel it rising, consider it God’s invitation to let Junior be the most self-centered member of the family.
[PEACHES ‘N’ CREAM]
Honest, faithful communication clears a path for giggle bombs—ecstatic moments of laughter and release—that are just for you and yours. You will revel in your brood. You will feel like the only family on Earth, and your pride will not fit through the door. The love sprouting in your home will surprise you, and it should. It’s new love, something that didn’t exist before now. Thank your maker for it. He delights in it, too.
Dads, in those first days after bringing the baby home, you hold the keys to peace and happiness. Your wife is going to be riding a roller coaster; tired, moody, adjusting to new realities as a mother that you will never know. Want to be a hero? You make that sandwich. You iron that shirt. Let a few words roll off your back. Rub her back. Be cool. Show her that you can handle some vulnerability. That’s love, my man.
Moms, extend grace to the big guy if that bath isn’t drawn right on time. Realize that new dads are awkward out of the gate. For goodness sake, don’t nag. A few words of kindness and a gentle hand on his cheek, especially while the love nest is on ice, will help keep your man’s heart soft while he’s learning the ropes.
You’ve created life. You’ve weathered the storm that occurred when your parents found out you were pregnant. You’ve exchanged vows. You’ve made a home. You’ve taken classes at church. You’ve read Men are from Mars … and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. And now you know that what was supposed to “prepare” you for having a baby or gaining a spouse was 30 percent universal truth and 70 percent formulaic nonsense. Don’t worry about it. You train for this on the job.
The wise choice now is to give your heart 100 percent to what’s in front of you. That doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble, but you’ll be setting an incredibly solid foundation for good times and bad by embracing what you’ve set in motion. Jump in.
Next time: How to keep the home fires burning without igniting the diaper genie.
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