Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

Interruptions: What it Means to be a Father

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I love being a father. Most of the time.

The days are long. Noise. Phone calls. Problems. Complaints. Relentless distraction.

It is evening, kids are getting ready for bed. I grab my book and settle into a quiet place. For the first time all day, quiet in my mind and my soul.

The silence is short, interrupted by the scream. Based on the noise, the injury must be severe. At the very least blood. I imagine a pencil protruding from an eye.

I am interrupted. It feels as if someone has stabbed me in the soul. Life pours out of it like blood and anger fills the void. I mark my spot and lay the book down on the table.

I begin the march upstairs. What could it be? Would I be making a trip to the hospital? Again? How much blood? Will there be a stain in the carpet? Maybe I should have grabbed the carpet cleaner before coming up. Maybe I should just keep the cleaner in their room.

By the time I make it to the last step, the screaming has settled. The shriek has changed from pain to anger. Less agony. More yelling. Conflict.

I look around the room and make a quick assessment. Everyone is breathing. No spots of red. No twisted arms. No vomit. Good.

The inquisition begins. What happened? Why did you throw that at his face? Why did you destroy his lego creation? Why did you say that to him, of course he threw that at your face?

I want to throw things myself. A different line of questions run through my head. Why? Why this interruption? Why can’t everyone just go to bed without incident?

I sit, trying with all of my self-will to listen. Trying to forget the silence I had hoped for. Trying to forget the quiet I needed.

The answers to the questions are ridiculous. The reasons absurd. You might even say immature. Imagine that. It is hard not to laugh. Maybe if I laugh, I won’t yell. Laughing seems like a good strategy.

I want to tell everyone to just shut up and go to bed. To stop. This is not that big of a deal. This is not worth fighting over.

I understand in that moment that parenting is not exactly what I thought it would be. When the news of pregnancy comes, when the blue line appears, I imagined something different.

I dreamed of playing baseball in the back yard. Camping trips filled with laughter and ghost stories and s’mores. Special moments between father and son.

I dreamed of a love that could not be broken. A relationship that could withstand everything life would throw at it. We would be the best of friends.

I was partly right.

Fatherhood is this moment. This yelling. This fight. Tempers running wild. When the self demands its attention.

What I do now matters. The issue isn’t the offense or the trite remarks thrown back and forth. The boys are trying to understand the world they live in. Self-awareness is beginning to grow.

Do they really matter to anyone? Are they significant? Is the world a safe place?

Are they loved?

They don’t understand these questions on a conscious level. My job is to understand this for them.

Love fills our lives with good times. Happiness and joy. But real love is all about the hard times.

This moment that I dread, the fights, the tempers, the interruptions, this is the moment when being a father matters most. This moment, though the details will become fuzzy with the passage of time, will be remembered by them forever.

I have two options. Say whatever is necessary to get back to the quiet. Or sit and listen patiently, helping them to understand that everything will be okay.

I can love me or I can love them.

I let go of me, if only for this moment. I sit and listen. I gently nudge through kind words. Tempers settle. Calm ensues. World War III is averted.

I walk back down the stairs. Thinking. I wonder how often I scream. Do I interrupt God? Is he busy doing something divine like creating a supernova that will dazzle the entire universe, his concentration and peace interrupted by my scream?

photo by NASA (Creative Commons)

I imagine him slowly walking upstairs to quiet the mess I have created. His walk was harder. It took him into a body. He became flesh, letting go of his divinity. Letting go of immortality. His march took him took him to a cross. The death of a criminal.

He stopped. He listened. He died. All for me. All for you.

I head towards the bedroom. My path takes me by my book. I offer it a raincheck. It gladly accepts, understanding that there will be another time.

I lay down in bed. My eyes close, welcoming the rest that meets my weary, but joyful soul.

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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49 Replies

  1. Beautiful. As a father, I find it impossible to not focus on the things our heavenly Father has done for us. I’m such a rookie in this never-ending journey of fatherhood. I can only imagine what I think the future will hold.  

  2. I never understood the concept of father in spiritual and physical terms until I became a dad because of my upbringing.  One thing is clear – being a dad has brought the greatest joys of my life, and some disappointment because I know each of my boys’ potential.

    That makes me wonder about God and his thoughts regarding our potential.  What does he know we’re capable of that we never see or contemplate?

    I really enjoyed your thoughts about loving yourself or loving your boys.  We can easily get caught up in self-centeredness.

    Thanks for sharing part of the journey.

  3. Well said :-) I’m so thankful that God stopped and listened and loved !

  4. Mike Zserdin

    Beautiful and convicting. 

  5. Powerful.  Thanks for sharing your wisdom, I’ve now got this post tucked away for the future. When the situation is reframed, it is amazing to think how selfish we can be.  Our time… our day… our peace and quiet.

    It really is amazing how invasive the statement “He must increase, I must decrease” really is to our lives.  

    I hope to respond to my son as you have here, with love and understanding.  

  6. Holly Michael

    Wow! Wonderful writing that really gets to the heart of the matter. Loved this! Parenting is never an easy task. Love covers a multitude of mistakes, when we don’t get it right. And when we do, ahh!   

  7. This is beautiful, Jeremy. I like the freedom of expression you’re giving yourself here.

  8. Thanks, Holly. Getting it right often means realizing we got it wrong, and then apologizing. Admitting our faults is probably one of the most powerful things we can do in parenting. We all get it wrong.

  9. That statement goes at the very heart of our being doesn’t it? It is not natural to decrease.

  10. Maybe this time I got it right, but that’s only because of how many times I have gotten it wrong.

  11. Isn’t that beautiful think about? I heard a preacher on Saturday that we have to make God’s love personal, because it is. He stopped and listened and loved you, Lorna.

  12. His story is different from mine in that I think he loves being interrupted. He loves stepping away from his work, because we are his work. The greatest work isn’t the supernova, it is us.

  13. JLY

    Thanks, Jeremy-Appreciate your work, I am going to print this out for hubby, too! So thankful for Ginger Plowman’s Wise WOrds for Moms that has helped me practice God’s Word and instill it in my kids with caring during times like these, not every time, sometimes we lose the battle but hopefully in the end our children and grandchildren know that they matter and that we and God care!

  14. Right. God has perspective, while we often do not. 
     

  15. It is a contant battle isn’t it?

  16. Paminhenan

    Enjoyed the post and the comments, as a woman who has been hurt by many men, its wonderful to see some young understanding fathers. Blessings to you all. Pam in Henan…http://www.swallowsnestzz.org

  17. Wonderful post.  Your approach is similar to mine, the moment matters…live in the moment with your children.  Not to say that it’s always easy.  I get tired and cranky, just like they do-but I try to remember that my mood sets the tone.  I can’t expect the kids to behave rationally, if I don’t.  Thank you for sharing your insight…I feel enlightened <3

  18. “This moment that I dread, the fights, the tempers, the interruptions, this is the moment when being a father matters most. This moment, though the details will become fuzzy with the passage of time, will be remembered by them forever. ”

    This is so true. It’s my response they’ll remember. And I’m so thankful for the One who came all this way, to clean up my own mess.

    Excellent post.

  19. I wish I responded this way every time.

  20. I am sorry to hear that men have hurt you. Thanks for what you do in Henan. I had the province on my mind today as I was reading about “The Heavenly Man.”

  21. Everyone started it!

    It sure seams that way at my house.Good post, Jeremy.

  22. I gave up on find out the instigator a long time ago. But you are right, they are always quick to blame.

  23. Katina Vaselopulos

      What a beautiful, sensitive, and full of wisdom post! Jeremy, so eloquenly you  remind us that there are alternatives to angry responses when faced with  “annoying” interruptions  often setting us  on fire. 
    With love, patience, understanding, and prayer, we can easier handle anything and bring on  satisfying results not only for those who “bother”us but for our own soul as well.
    Having my 92-year-old mother with us, a retired husband who craves attention, children and grandchildren always dropping in or needing something, I often overlook the blessings and steam up inside because I don’t  have enough time for myself to finish what I need to finish. The first thing I do that helps me is to pray. By now,  this mechanism gets activated automatically! When someone interrupts, I pray as if my life depends on it. “God give me patience” repeated a few times, within seconds, diffuses and lets the  steam blow off. Then, I take care of  the “emergency” and get back to whatever I was doing, knowing that I did the best I could.

  24. my baby girl would never cause such interruptions :) great illustration though

  25. Very nice, Jeremy.  How many times have I gotten bent out of shape when my quiet is interrupted and yet those are the times I need to remind myself that I won’t get that moment back with my son.   In fact, as I was responding to this post my son had about 800 questions he needed me to answer.  It took me about 20 minutes to write this. 😉

  26. Exactly.  We must to go against our nature in order for it to happen.  Hard to be mindful of when you are in the moment.

  27. I love this because it’s so honest yet still so love-filled.

    Katie

  28. This post leaves me speechless. Am on “Selah” mode :) Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Aaronhoak

    You live in my world!  Thanks for the good reminder.

  30. Thanks for this powerful encouragement. The way you described the interruption – stabbing you in your soul – is such a vivid image. I know the feeling. I come home from a long night of meetings, it’s 10pm, and I finally sit down on the couch. I pull up the recliner, flip open my laptop, and get ready to write. No sooner than the first paragraph, I hear the cries down the hall of my daughter waking up from her sleep.
    I never would have imagined that something so simple would be a daily test of fatherhood. Thanks for so beautifully reminded me of the calling we each have to our children.

  31. Miriam

    Reality.
    Transparency.
    Vulnerability.
    These things heal and encourage others.
    Awesome!

     

  32. Perhaps if I were more honest I would tell you about the times I respond poorly. Thanks, Katie.

  33. You are welcome. Thank you for the kind words.

  34. Good to hear from you Aaron.

  35. As always, it can be important to put yourself in their shoes. To view their problem from their perspective. The crying isn’t so bad when your 4 and something scares you.

  36. Thanks, Miriam. It means a lot for you to say that, because you would know about helping other to heal and encourage them.

  37. Jeremy, I love your perspective here. And it relates so well to God’s role as father. This questioning of self is a life-long process, and I wonder how much of my own “acting out” comes from struggling with if I’m significant, if I’m loved, if what I do really makes a difference to anyone. 

    “I can love me or I can love them.” Brilliant. I need to have this tattooed on my arm because I need this reminder more than I should. 

  38. The choice isn’t that clear at the time, but that’s what it really amounts too. Tattoos are a different subject all together.

  39. Awesome thoughts Jeremy! I particularly love your points that, “Fatherhood is this moment” and “I can love me or love them.” Powerful stuff!!!

  40. Changing our perspective can be extremely powerful. Thanks, Tor. I guess your still waiting for the new baby?

  41. …indeed, still waiting :-)

  42. Very cool perspective, Jeremy.  I’m not a dad yet, but appreciate your reminder that fatherhood is a selfless decision to choose your kids over your own wants… and what a deep thought- that through it all, you walk away with a sense of joy that is greater than attending to your own needs. Love it!

  43. Before I became a father I never imagined these moments, but they are an every day part of it. You don’t necessarily have to be prepared for each specific moment. Just be prepared to love. That is all that is required.

  44. Jamie White Wyatt

    It’s obvious you realize that the way  a child perceives his Dad forever colors his perception of God as his heavenly Father. Enjoyed your reflections on being a Dad. 

  45. I wished I perceived it more, but yes. I think there is nothing more important than communicating to our kids the idea of unconditional love.

  46. This is very beautifully written and expressed! I love the way you shared your struggle honesty and yet the benefit of the choice you made. Interruptions are disguised as teachable moments not only for them but for us. :-) I too have adopted ~ seven teens from poverty backgrounds. I learned about the Father’s unconditional love through loving them and it definitely was not easy but that’s another story. :-)
    The need for unconditional love reminds me of a blog post I wrote last week relating to Father God’s love. I hope it’s okay to share it here. http://budurl.com/fatherarefuge
    I’m delighted that you’ve adopted and love your writing style. I shared this in my social media network and signed up to receive updates. I’m glad I discovered you.

    Keep up the great writing!

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