It is said that to have a child is to have your heart walking around outside your body. Think of that imagery. So dangerous, so fragile. Our physical heart is behind a rib CAGE for a reason — it is precious. But we can’t keep our children in cages. All we can do is hope we have gotten them healthy enough to make it out there.
I think my hearts are growing up healthy. They brought home fantastic report cards and gave me the best Father’s Day I’ve ever had this week. They each bought (or made) me a card and then wrote down what it means to them to have me as their dad. I thank God for them and am so proud of them. Oftentimes when I tell them, “I love you,” they respond, “Love you more.” Yeah, right… One day they’ll have kids of their own and they’ll understand.
But let’s not rush things. The sweetness is now, when they get up in the morning and their hair is a mess and their cheeks are so flushed, and when I hug them they are still warm from their blankets. They’re always beautiful, but I often think that no matter how long they stand in front of the mirror, they can’t improve on how beautiful they already are when they first wake up. I have always known that is one of the things I will miss most when they are gone. Right behind that is how I will miss the smell of my bathroom after three girls have used it to get ready for school — makeup and perfume and girl soap and lavender shaving cream and lotion and warm curling irons. It serves every day as a reminder of how much they have brought into my life — their sweetness, and joy, and enthusiasm.
And the lessons they teach! When my oldest, Brittany — now 17 — was very small, I was leaving for my annual one-week getaway with a friend of mine. Brittany pleaded with me, “Daddy, why do you have to go?” I said, “Daddy doesn’t want to leave you, but going away on this trip every year helps me come back and be a better daddy.” Her reply almost did me in.
“I’ll help you be a better daddy.”
I comprehended the deeper and unintended meaning immediately. “You certainly will, sweetheart,” I said, as I hugged her and headed out the door, squeezing away tears. She and her sisters have been teaching me to be a better daddy for 17 years now.
It is said that to have a child is to have your heart walking around outside your body. I have three hearts outside my body. My hearts are at band camp today. They are a gift.