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I Didn't Know I Married a Great Father

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It was 98 degrees and humid the late-June day Micah and I got married in a public garden. There was no backup plan if it rained, nothing to stifle the heat except our own sweat, the palm leaf fans we'd bought as favors. I could feel my hair wilting, makeup melting, but I didn't care.

It didn't matter that my hands kept slipping, that my dress felt stuck to me like cellophane. It didn't matter that storm clouds were looming, waiting to unleash. Nothing could ruin this day, this moment that marked the start of our lifetime.

The sky opened up after the ceremony, let down impressive rain just after our guests had finished their cake, closed their car doors. Micah and I ran back to our car laughing, holding hands as he held an umbrella over my head. I knew I had just married a great man, but I didn't know he'd be a great father.

I had an abstract idea of him as a dad: carrying a mini version of himself on his shoulders, rocking our children to sleep. But we hadn't yet seen that side of each other (or ourselves), hadn't had those layers unpeeled and exposed.

Tegan was born, and suddenly we realized that nothing could have prepared us for parenthood. It didn't matter how many books we'd read, how many classes we'd taken, how many well-meaning parents had offered advice. She was finally here after so much waiting, and there I was, feeling like we were standing on a beach where waves were repeatedly crashing, holding onto Tegan with nothing to shield us.

I felt like we couldn't protect her when she got sick almost every week of her first year. When she had multiple pinkeye and ear infections, stomach viruses, scary-high fevers. When there were ER visits, middle-of-the-night calls to the doctor. She slept in 15-minute increments for months, had reflux until she was 1. I reached a point where I forgot what it felt like to feel rested, could strip Tegan and myself down in record time after her tiny stomach would reject all contents.

By the time we discovered bats roosting in our attic (which meant 4 more trips to the ER for a family supply of rabies shots), I felt like waving a white flag. Just to note: running screaming from a large male bat while holding your sweet child is not a good idea. Neither is trying to fend off a bat with a Swiffer WetJet.

Life has certainly calmed down since those early days, but I'm thankful to say it isn't any less exciting. Our Tegan is a strong and lively girl full of laughter, sweetness and smiles. She is the center of our lives, has exposed the best parts of us. When I look at the man I married, here is what I see:

I see a man who loves his daughter, who sings to her, tells her she is special, smart and beautiful. Who makes her laugh hysterically, is playful and silly and kind. I see a man who is gentle, encouraging and affectionate, is more patient than he realizes.

I see a man who does laundry, washes dishes, pays bills, shovels the driveway, lets us sleep as he takes the wheel for long drives. Who gives Tegan breakfast every morning, gets her dressed and ready for school. I see a man who listens thoughtfully, loves graciously, puts his family first. A man who's a wonderful father, my best friend.

The other night I heard him sing to her from over the kitchen monitor, playing a James Taylor song that made me pause:

There's a song that they sing when they take to the highway,
a song that they sing when they take to the sea,
a song that they sing of their home in the sky,
maybe you can believe it if it helps you to sleep,
but singing works just fine for me.

So, goodnight you moonlight ladies, rock-a-bye sweet baby James.
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose,
Won't you let me go down in my dreams?
And rock-a-bye sweet baby James.

The waves are no longer crashing; we are swimming in the sea.

To my husband, with love.

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Photo by John Pankratz