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car selfie

I couldn't tell if her face was red because of guilt or from the taillights of the car in front of us at the stoplight. I turned my focus back to the stalled line of traffic and let her continue with her story. Conversations under seatbelts without direct eye contact and music in the background are better than therapy if you ask me. 

Details flew around the car like confetti. I closed the sunroof to keep them in. 

She recognized that she hurt someone's feelings at school earlier but didn't know how to address it. An apology, sure. An effort to do better going forward, of course. Sometimes, though, once the damage has been done, repairing it isn't always a straightforward process. Sometimes there are curves and forks in the road you don't see coming.

I've learned this lesson many times, often the hard way. The light changed - green for go - and I gently pressed the pedal to move us forward. She shared stories of when her own feelings have been hurt. We talked about forgiveness. We talked about patience. We talked about understanding. 

It's easy to get wrapped up in numbers, in ages, but she's always been a bit wiser than her years.

Her mother nor I have ever really indulged her with baby talk. We've always spoken to her in our normal voices, in our normal way. When she asks questions, we give her the answers regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable the topic might be. Is this the right approach? As with all decisions when parenting, only time will tell.

I pulled into the grocery parking lot to grab a few last-minute ingredients for dinner. A strand of hair escaped her falling ponytail and danced in the wind from the air conditioning vent. I swerved into a parking spot but missed fitting in between the lines. She told me she prayed about her mistake.

I glanced her way to watch her grow up, another moment collected, right before my eyes. She tucked the loose strand of hair behind her ear. I put the vehicle in reverse, backed up, then pulled in a second time. She said she would reach out to her friend tomorrow.

Sometimes taking a step back and trying again is all we can do.


November 19, 2021

The Attic

Our anniversary was Monday. 

We celebrated the last 13 years the Friday before, just the two of us. With the kids at their grandparents' house, we opted for a casual dinner downtown. Conversation ran uninterrupted by toddler giggles and endless requests. We tuned in to each other without distractions of school day stories and preteen social dynamics. We saw each other as husband and wife instead of Daddy and Mama, a difference often overlooked but one always worth remembering.

When you've been with someone as long as we've been with each other, 21 years, there's a lot of ground to cover. When you've seen someone through every phase of life starting with their teenage years, there's a lot to unpack. When there's so much history, so many ups and downs, so many laughs, so many tears, it's easy to tuck them all away as memories and just look forward to tomorrow. When you've said all there is to say, sometimes it's easier not to make withdrawals from the memory bank.

Good thing we're both stubborn.

We spent Monday night, our actual anniversary, celebrating with the kids. A day like every other where we gather around the table for dinner in our unassigned, assigned seats. The meal was filling and the toddler giggles were contagious. The conversation leaned toward recess and YouTube celebrities while Allison and I played hide-and-seek with the wife and husband behind the mother and father. We snuck a few glances, shared a few smiles, and soaked in our children - the love between us personified.

We cleaned up the kitchen, ushered the kids upstairs for their bedtime routines, and listened as they said their prayers. We slowly pulled their doors closed, blowing kisses through the narrowing crack, then we snuck back downstairs to uncork a bottle of champagne. I secretly bought a bottle earlier completely unaware that Allison was doing the same. We grabbed our glasses and quietly climbed the stairs to visit one of our favorite places.

The attic.

It was our first Valentine's Day in the new house when we created a little hangout in the attic. Innocent enough, it was just to get away from our offspring for a few minutes, a last-minute romantic gesture in a season of diapers and lectures. A moment of quiet from the constant commotion of day-to-day life where we could see each other and hear each other. We never dismantled it and, instead, come back to it often.

The Attic Hangout

A few old beach chairs folded out with an even older chest between them. Leftover carpet left behind from the owners before partially rolled out for warmth underneath us, for Charlie mainly. A few strands of string lights, with burned-out bulbs that somehow survived the move, are strung loosely along the studs and the railing. A street sign bearing the name of a backroad between our childhood homes that we drove countless times on the way to see each other, racing to beat the clock from an impending curfew.

It's ours.

We raised our glasses and toasted, to what we had and what we have, what we've been through and what we're building, and we sipped while surrounded by boxes of seasonal decorations and random items the kids have outgrown. The attic, our grown-up version of a treehouse, is where we go to reconnect. It's a routine that developed unintentionally, but one we both look forward to.

It sounds odd, sure, but it's where we're able to see each other without any outside influence shading our view. It's where the conversation never runs dry even when the champagne bottles do. We give each other downloads of our day, we talk about our kids, we discuss our dreams, we note the goals we've checked off the list and those still ahead. We talk about this and that and everything in between.

We talk.

Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for minutes. Sometimes not at all. We turn on a playlist in the background and sing along or listen to the rain on the roof as the thunder vibrates the walls. We laugh. We cry. Sometimes we laugh until we cry. We revisit those kids 21 years ago who thought they knew everything but had no idea. We acknowledge their mistakes. We celebrate their wins. We show them love and grace and understanding and thank God we had each other every step of the way.

Monday night, we climbed the stairs with champagne flutes in hand and drank to the commitment we made to each other 13 years ago. Still young. Still believing we knew everything but still had no idea. We relived our wedding and our honeymoon, noting every detail we would change and those we wouldn't touch at all. We'll climb those stairs again, probably tonight, probably tomorrow night. God-willing, we'll climb them again another 13 years from now, surrounded by a life's worth of souvenirs, to revisit who we are today.

Cheers to that.

Attic Toast


November 12, 2021

Reflection in Window

I knew before the sonographer confirmed. One look at my wife, her eyes darting from me to the screen and back to me again, told me she knew too. Conversations without words, a favorite perk of our relationship. We didn’t say it out loud because we didn’t want to tell Madison yet. With a seven-year age gap between her and her sibling, we wanted her to be a part of every pregnancy milestone – ultrasound and gender reveal, especially.

This was just as much her baby as it was ours. This was family-defined.

We watched and listened as the heart was identified, small but strong. We saw movement on the screen, our baby in motion, while our first baby (bigger but little still) struggled to stay in her seat. She wanted a sister. She wanted a little girl to pass her clothes to and play dolls with. She wanted another version of herself, and she had mentally planned out their entire childhood in the last few months leading up to this appointment. 

“Congratulations! You’re having a healthy, beautiful baby boy.”

I smiled. Allison smiled. Madison fought back tears, but one single drop lost the battle and ran down her cheek. Having a brother had never even occurred to her. What, of hers, would she give him? When he was old enough to play, what make-believe world would they dream up? How could she possibly relate to him? All were thoughts she got lost in over the following days before coming to terms with the reality of it. Regardless, she was going to be a big sister, a fact that wouldn’t change, and as he grew so did her excitement to meet him.

“How are you going to raise a little boy?”

While I was so caught up in her, this question was tossed my way several times from several people. As if raising a daughter somehow made me incompetent to raise a son. It was insinuated that since I don’t hunt or fish that I was somehow unequipped to have a boy. It was inferred that since I’m not athletic or involved in sports that I wasn’t qualified to father another male. As if killing something or handling a ball demarcates masculinity. These unwarranted comments became my silent insecurities. These camouflaged insults portrayed as casual concern became my inner voice, whispering and shouting all at once, that I wasn’t good enough for this child.

So, fast forward three years – how am I raising a little boy?

I’m raising him to be kind. I’m raising him to be patient and understanding. I’m raising him to be cognizant of the world around him and the people sharing it with him. I’m doing my best to teach him that not everything will go his way, not everyone will be his friend, not every situation will be positive but to stay valiant and push forward anyway. I pray for him throughout the day and make mental notes of mistakes I’ve made before falling asleep at night. I’m raising him to be strong – physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

I’m raising him just like I’m raising his sister.

Being a boy doesn’t change the fact he is my child. Being a boy doesn’t determine his nature, good or bad. Being a boy doesn’t control the state of his heart, hardened or otherwise. Being a boy doesn’t quantify how many hugs he gets or how much love he’s shown or the way it’s received. Being a boy doesn’t alter the challenge of raising him, that challenge comes with the territory of parenting.

“Boys will be boys.”

If that means they’ll get dirty and smelly and play with cars over dolls or dinosaurs over unicorns, then sure. Although I know plenty of girls who checked those boxes growing up and never heard anyone question their parents. However, if being a boy means he gets a free pass to be inconsiderate or unkind or violent then, to answer the question, I’ll be raising him differently. Hunting, fishing, and sports can all be learned, and I’ll suit up if those are interests he pursues, but they’re outside interests. I’m more concerned with the core of him as a person. The rest will inevitably take care of itself.

What people fail to remember is that boys will be boys that will be men.

And what the world really needs, now more than ever, is men that aren’t afraid to raise boys – even when they’re questioned, even when they’re doubted, even when they’re terrified. Parenting is hard enough as it is, dividing it into categories doesn’t make it any easier. How am I raising a little boy? I’m raising him the best way I know how and deferring to God when my best isn’t good enough. I’m raising him with the acknowledgment of the boy he is today and the consideration of the man he’ll be tomorrow. Brave. Bold. Bright. Loved. 

Hopefully, I’m raising him well.


November 5, 2021

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