Abuse and sexual assault issues are dominating the headlines these days and recent events involving former NFL players Ray McDonald, Ray Rice and Darren Sharper got me to thinking about my own family and how I think we (men) can start addressing these problems. Make no mistake, abuse is not an NFL issue, it is a global problem in society. I planned to make these issues the primary focus for my second blog post. However, as I was starting to write my first draft my nine-year old daughter plopped down on the floor of my office with a book to read until I tucked her into bed. I took a good long look at her, she just finished 3rd grade and before I know it she will be out in the world on her own. I started to wonder if I am doing enough to prepare her for the path ahead. Am I doing enough to educate her on how to avoid the type of man that only wants to control and take advantage of her? In my opinion the root cause of these problems is that these men have absolutely no respect for women. The result is that they have no idea how to have a relationship or communicate with a woman outside of trying to get her into bed. Compounding the issue is that these men are also having kids of their own and passing on their behavior thus, creating a vicious cycle of abuse and neglect.
Call me a mama’s boy or whatever but I’m glad that as I was growing up I was taught to respect women, it didn’t matter if it was a stranger or family member, “yes ma’am, no ma’am” is still part of my vocabulary and I open doors. My family taught me that manners would take me further than money and I believe that to be true today even as I approach the age of fifty. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”. I am that child. We are all, that child and somewhere along the line one set of children fell through the cracks of life to become abusers or victims. I am trying to raise my daughter so that she knows how to make good decisions, what it means to give and receive respect. For me it starts by making sure she sees the admiration, love and respect that I have for her mother. That doesn’t mean every day is perfect, were not living in Xanadu but I believe its meaningful for her to learn about how relationships work using her mother and father as examples instead of picking up breadcrumbs from what she might see on television or the internet where there are no filters, but I digress. As I was reflecting how I am raising my daughter my mind raced back some nine years to the time she was born. At the risk of sounding cliché, it was the best day of my life.
My daughter was born at 1:47 AM Tuesday morning, February 21, 2006. Her due date was actually the 19th but I was secretly pulling for the 21st because 21 is my favorite number. I am thankful that God had the same plan.
It was about 11:00 PM, Sunday February 19th. My wife had already gone to bed a few hours earlier having grown weary of waiting for the moment. I was sitting on the couch trying to decide if I should take a nap or grab some microwave popcorn and watch Robert DeNiro in the movie “Heat”. My indecisiveness was for good reason. When the doctor tells you that your baby will be born on February 19th, you spend all day on the 18th waiting for the next day and when it finally arrives you’re sitting on pins and needles waiting for the moment, that signal that sends you running for the already packed suitcase to throw in the back of the car, the sweater she is supposed to the wear, the cell phone, Suddenly you’re halfway to the hospital and a pang of doubt hits you, “Did I let down the garage door?”, “Do I have the list of people I’m supposed to call?”
I talked to my kid a few times during my wife’s pregnancy every day this headphone mic gadget that placed on the woman’s stomach in order to hear the baby’s heart-beat. I figured that if I could hear her heartbeat then she could hear my voice and never forget it.
DiNiro is about to meet his end, and I hear my wife shuffle to the bathroom. And then it happened. A clear gelatinous liquid hit the tile floor with such a splat, I thought my wife was killing a bug with her slipper, “My water broke!!! I raced into the room and saw her standing there a little frightened and a little excited all at the same time. My first thought was to grab her suitcase, grab her sweater, make sure that I had my cell phone and whisk her off to the hospital. That’s what we practiced anyway. What actually happened? I have no idea but by the time we changed her clothes, called the doctors answering service, got confirmation of a bed at the hospital and finally checked into the hospital, it was 5:45 AM, Monday. For next 14 hours I would sit by my wife’s side answering email keeping our friends and family informed while watching the Law & Order marathon. Her water had not broken, it was just fluid which the doctors would eventually have to replace. We would sit there watching Law & Order until finally about 8:00 PM the decision was made to induce labor. And that’s when things “got real”.
The contractions came and went, violently against the backdrop of the familiar Law & Order theme song, you know the terse “dun, dun”. About 11:30 PM, our daughter’s heart rate dropped, she had become twisted in the umbilical cord; we considered doing a C-section then all of sudden it was like she was dancing, she untwisted herself………I remember the doctor screaming at my wife to push, “Push, or you’re going to be here all night!” That earned him a few hyphenated responses from my wife and I said something along the line of “What’s your problem” luckily the nurse was there to keep us calm and focused. It was a little after 1:15 AM and I noticed that I was sweating profusely a 68 degree room.
Suddenly her head began to crown and nurse asked “Sir, has anyone talked to you about what expect when you first see the color of your child?” I had no idea what the heck she was talking about but the short story is mixed babies don’t look mixed out of the womb until after the air hits them. Our nurse felt compelled to give me advance warning (too many fights in the delivery room) that if I was concerned, all I had to do was look behind our daughter’s ears.
Finally, at 1:47 AM she came into the world. I watched her yawn then let out a scream after the doctor smacked her little buttocks, then a strange thing happened, time froze for just a moment. You see newborn babies fresh from the womb don’t look resemble babies at all. They look like gargoyles made out of oatmeal and as they scream they are actually filling in becoming complete right in front of your eyes. I cut her umbilical cord and watched as they weighed and measured her. My wife was exhausted, she could barely keep her eyes open, she held our little girl few minutes and then drifted off to sleep. I gave her the first bottle, she was wrapped in blanket with a little beanie on her tiny head. I held my daughter in the crook of my left arm, her face was very close to mine as she drank from her bottle. Her eyes locked onto mine the entire time until a very familiar sound caused them to react, not look away but to kind of jump, “dun, dun” it was theme song to Law & Order.
I wish she could never leave the crook of my arm knowing the challenges that await her but she can’t be a little girl forever and the reality is I will have to let her go to make room for the next man in her life.
So how am I doing so far (after nine years)?
I have a deep appreciation for the unique and wonderfully, complex father – daughter relationship. I am doing the best that I can but I am praying every day for guidance to be a better father and husband; that I continue to earn her trust as her friend as well as her father.
I encourage every father to get engaged in the lives of their children so that together we can start to change this culture of abuse and violence.
2 Timothy 1:12