I don’t know what planet I was on when I thought that when I became a parent all the skills I’d need would simply “come to me.” It wasn’t long before I realized that parenting, while it has brought countless incomparable joys into my life, is hard work. Every day seems to bring new challenges, but I know for a fact that being a parent has made me a better and happier person.
My grandfather, whom I called “Opa,” and I were best buddies. He sharpened my instincts and shared his love for nature during our weekly hikes in the woods.
Each weekend, I eagerly awaited the moment when I was dropped off at Opa and Oma’s one-bedroom apartment in a small town at the heart of Germany’s industrial center.
In the doctor’s office where I work, we have a regular patient by the first name of Blender. That is her legal, given name. I haven’t had an opportunity to ask about the back story, but I am so curious as to what made parents name their child after a kitchen appliance. Maybe it means something beautiful in another language. I have no idea!
When my first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage, I wasn’t worried, I was angry. For weeks, I held it in, but finally, I literally raised my fist at God and told Him off. “You failed me!” was the gist of it.
Later, I realized I was already a couple of days pregnant when I had ranted. Holding a beautiful baby boy in my arms nine months later, I laughed at myself and my misguided words. I also asked God for forgiveness.
He lay covered in white hospital sheets, hooked up to a tangle of tubes and wires. As I approached, I barely recognized him—the pasty skin, the sunken cheeks—but when he opened his eyes and smiled at me, it was all I could do to keep from jumping into his arms like I always had. Grandpa, whom I loved more than anyone else in the whole world, had had a serious heart attack.
He was once quite tall and carried an air of confidence and authority wherever he went. When he was young, he dedicated every spare moment, including his holidays, to Christian youth ministry. He had gone through a personal conversion in his early twenties and was very zealous in his beliefs and practices. He’d organize summer camps in the mountains for flocks of youth who had just gone through the hard years following WW2 and needed a father or an older brother figure.
According to Dr. James H. Bossard, a former professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the greatest weaknesses in family life is the way parents talk in front of their children. After studying extensive recordings of table talk, he wrote, “I have found that family after family had definite, consistent conversational habits, and that the critical pattern was the most prevalent. These families rarely had a good word to say about anyone. They complained continuously about friends, relatives, neighbors—almost every aspect of their lives, from the lines of people in the supermarket to the stupidity of their bosses.
For my daughter Audrey's first birthday, my wife and I planned to have a small celebration with a few friends and family members at home; instead we ended up with a cupcake-themed extravaganza at the restaurant her grandparents manage. Admittedly, it was probably more for everyone else’s benefit. Audrey spent much of the time observing the proceedings warily from the safety of someone’s arms and flatly refused to pose for photos by her lone candle, despite (or because of) much encouragement to do so.
People talk about how fast time flies, and I feel it really does. Maybe that’s because I’m getting older. When I was a child, days, weeks, and months—not to mention years—seemed to pass so slowly; now it seems like only a few weeks ago that I first met Audrey. I remember that day so well, along with all my first impressions and emotions as I watched the nurse give Audrey her first bath, and then her falling asleep in my arms for the first time.