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Up. All. Night.

Over the past couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve been pushed to my limits to take care of my sick girls. I’m also become more aware of how I’ve taken comfort for granted.

Back in Phoenix, it was midnight runs to the 24/7 pharmacy for medicine, Gatorade, and saltine crackers for a sick Candyce and Norah. Then sleeping on a cot in the corner of my own bedroom so that I could stay away from the sick ones, but still be close enough to care for them if their stomachs rejected the little food and fluid that they brought down. It was changing out puke buckets and scrubbing toilets.

Here in California, it’s been more vomiting from both Norah and Stella, but the worst has been ear pain. These ear aches are horrible because your child wanders into sleep for just a few moments before they’re jolted back awake by the sharp pain deep within their ear. It’s hours of tears and screams.

Through all of this, it’s interesting how uncomfortable a parent is willing to be in order to make sure their sick child is comfortable enough to fall asleep. I’m sure part if it is because parents love their kids, but it’s a lot more about what does it take to get your own head back on that pillow. A little sacrifice now means more sleep later. I got through the blazing heat of the 65 pounds of blankets that were heaped onto my legs because my stillness meant that Norah could fall deeper into sleep. Later that same night, I fell asleep sitting up in a chair because it soothed Norah’s ear to be upright. There is nothing about falling asleep in a chair that is comfortable.

[dropcap style=”font-size: 50px; color: #9b9b9b;”]F[/dropcap]inally on Christmas Eve we had a silent night. It was magical to wake up on Christmas morning fully rested. In the few days after Christmas, it was all well.

But Stella has acquired a nasty habit of getting really angry at night. I’ve found that the only thing that calms her down is to walk her around the neighborhood through the dark of the night. It’s bizarre to go from being happily asleep in my own warm bed to getting out onto the street in yesterday’s clothes with a baby on my back, both of us wrapped with a down comforter to keep off the December chill. An hour later, Stella is finally asleep and I’m ready to climb back up the stairs and slide back into a cozy bed.

Even still, sometimes all that attention is not enough. Stella falls asleep for just fifteen minutes and then she’s up again and angry at the world. So for the past two nights, Candyce, Norah, and I relocated in the middle of the night downstairs and all fallen asleep on the couches. At least there we’re away from riot that is Stella.

Last night was round 3/4/5 of sickness was last night. Candyce and Norah got a cold that made it hard for both of them to breathe. I flopped out of bed and explored the closets of the house to find a humidifier.  Luckily it worked quite well. I woke early in the morning with a thick coating of dew on top of my pillow and blankets. That’s bizarre. This whole thing has been bizarre. And it doesn’t show any signs of stopping.

[dropcap style=”font-size: 50px; color: #9b9b9b;”]L[/dropcap]ucky for me this is all happening on vacation. Yeah, it’s not ideal, but at least it’s not interrupting work the next day. I’ve been thinking too about how life has been different without the comforts that I took for granted before these rounds of sickness hit my family. Comfort is good, that’s why we reach for it. But too much comfort makes you a less compassionate person. Inevitably it turns you greedy too. It’s not enough to sleep in a warm bed within the shelter of a home, it has to be a super nice bed within a super nice home in a super nice city.

At this very moment, I feel very lucky just to have 30 minutes of solitude where I can write a blog.

01/02/2013 Update

New Year’s Eve —> New Year’s Day was not fun. I took turns taking care of Stella (teething) and Norah (ear ache) until 5:30 in the morning.

“Hold You Me”

Since becoming a father three years ago, I’ve struggled to write about the beautiful and profound shift that has occurred in my life.

It happens like this. At least twice a month I sit down to write a blog about some meaningful part of my daily life as a dad, and I end up getting frustrated twenty minutes into it because the words that type don’t do this subject justice. I want to share a glimpse of the magic of fatherhood in at least one blog post, but as sentences turn into paragraphs, that magic gets lost inside of sentimental storytelling.

I don’t publish these blogs not because I’m afraid to be soft, but more because the stories end up reading like every other story I’ve heard parents share with other parents my whole life. Stories about the innocence of children. Stories about skinned knees. Stories about tender kisses and hugs.

Why is it this way? Why these same stories? Becoming a parent changes your very being, so it shouldn’t make sense that something so epic could be distilled so perfectly into short, sentimental stories. But somehow they do. The story is just a drop of water, but it is the essence of a great ocean. This is why parents share these very familiar stories, because behind every one of those simple stories is a profound relationship with another soul.

Last night Norah woke up twice before midnight crying about her legs hurting. Both times I sprung out of bed and quietly but quickly walked down the hall to comfort her before she woke up Stella. Both times her face was wet with tears. She twisted around on the bed, reaching back to grab her calves and repeating the word “Hurt! Hurt! Hurt!” Both times I prayed over her legs and asked Jesus to take away her pain. I rubbed her legs and feet. I sang songs to her. Somewhere between the second and third song, she stopped sobbing and joined in during the few words that she understood. Slowly… very slowly… she drifted into sleep. After a few minutes of deep sleep, it was okay for me to tuck her blankets and return to my own bed.

On the third outburst of screaming, I told Candyce that I was out of ideas and that it was her turn to try to comfort Norah. Five minutes later, Candyce came back into the room and said with desperation and defiance: “Norah told me she doesn’t want me there. She wants you to help her.” So here I was, my third trip down the hall to comfort an agitated little three year old in the middle of the night.

I did the same thing. I prayed. I rubbed her legs. I sang. But after she fell back asleep, I decided to stay put, to keep holding her close and let myself drift into sleep.

I woke up four hours later to the sound of my cell phone alarm. It was time to get up for a full day of important meetings, maybe the most important meetings that I’ll host this year. I still had so much to prepare for in the two hours before the first meeting. But I pressed snooze anyway, not because I was dreadfully tired, but because it afforded me another few minutes to cherish the sweet sweet little girl whose warm breath fluttered on my cold cheek.

The two years of graduate school was punishing for me, mostly because I had to steal time away from my family for class, meetings, homework. Class. Meetings. Homework. Then I came home to a loving but tattered little family. Norah took it the hardest. Her little heart was raw, and it showed up sometimes in bad behavior, but mostly in tears. I did my best to make time for her every day, but some weeks and months were impossibly busy. It’s a terrible day when you are too busy to see your own child.

On those difficult days, I would wake up in the middle of the night and give Candyce a kiss on the cheek. Then I’d walk down the hallway to find a sleeping Norah. I laid next to her, scooped her into my arms, told her how much I loved her and then fell back asleep. I would be gone by the time she woke up, off to fight another day. My hope was that even if she were not alert to the fact that I held her that night, maybe her little heart, her little soul would somehow feel closer to her Dad.

You hold your child because you think they need you. And in for that abrupt moment, that’s true. But the truth is that you hold your child because you need them.