This morning I woke refreshed and well rested to the sounds of my children getting the presents and cards they picked out for me ready. The cards were sweet, the presents wonderful, but they can't yet understand that the best Father's Day present of all is simply their presence here. The sounds of their laughter, the smiles on their faces, and the simple yet profound completeness I feel when I hug each of them and tell them I love them.
I'm relatively new at this Father thing, having only been doing it for five years, and every day holds a new lesson and new blessings. I marvel at how fast they are growing, how quickly they learn and adapt. How much of their mother and me they are and how completely unique each of them are at the same time. It blows my mind.
Shelley is sixteen and blossoming into a beautiful young woman. Although I've only been a part of her life for a short time, it brings me great joy to watch her growth. She has such a warm, generous spirit and a heart overflowing with compassion and caring. She is quick to laugh and has a smile that can light up a room. I call her daughter and mean it from my heart, and still consider the birthday she started calling me "Dad" one of the greatest of my life.
Alaia, our little miracle, is now four. Her name means "joy" and she has certainly lived up to that title. I will never forget the joy I felt when Melissa told me she was pregnant, the devastation I felt when the ER doctor told us she had miscarried, and the elation when two weeks later we found out he had been wrong. Nor will I forget the moment when our doctor placed her in my arms for the first time and I understood humility. I suddenly and fully understood what it meant to be a father, and how undeniably unqualified I was to fill that roll. My heart cried out to God, and He answered. He agreed with me, but promised to help and has been faithful to that promise ever since. Alaia has grown so much since that day, and we have learned together how to make it work. She looks up to me, requires tickles and cuddles, and delights in making me laugh.
Natica followed shortly after Alaia, and has been trying to get ahead of her ever since. She has the most amazing intelligence and wit for a three year old I've ever seen. Her sense of humor is deep and thoughtful, she is already a gifted artist and showing an aptitude for acrobatics and dance. She can sing with the volume and control of someone much older and has the most contagious laughter of all my children.
Jonah is all boy. When he was only a few weeks out of the womb our pediatrician diagnosed him with "failure to thrive." I think he heard that, understood it, and with typical Shannon family stubbornness has fought to prove her wrong ever since. Despite having three sisters, or perhaps because of it, he has naturally gravitated to toys of a masculine nature. The first toy he ever picked out for himself was a foam katana. Later that night, I found him in his room slaying his stuffed dragon. So proud:) He loves music, loves to be the center of attention, and loves the Lord. He holds all of us accountable for saying prayers before meals and bedtime, and gives an exuberant shout and claps when the prayer is complete.
I cannot truly express how blessed I feel, or how thankful I am to have the rare opportunity to know these wonderful souls as intimately as I do. I cannot fully express the daunting challenge and pressure I feel to protect and nurture this gift that God has given me. I don't know if I'll ever live up to the lessons and legacy that my own father left in me, or ever come to grips with how much I miss him. What I do know is how thankful I am that I did have a good example of what a father is supposed to be like, and that I will, with God's help, pass that example on to my children as well.
Happy Father's Day to all you other dad's out there, and God bless you.