Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Three: Kissing Daddy

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. Today I nominate my friend and fellow SAHD Chris, who blogs at DadNCharge. 

Day Three: Kissing Daddy

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Butterfly Kisses

This picture is just over two years old and I chose it for today because that lovely little girl giving her daddy (ME!) is celebrating her fifth birthday today. There really is no story behind this picture other than my daughter decided to plant a kiss on my cheek when we were at Titlow Beach on Puget Sound in Tacoma, just south of the famous Tacoma Narrows Bridge. My mom happened to be visiting from out of town and thankfully had her camera at the ready. This wasn’t a staged shot and I didn’t even know that this picture existed until months later when I happened to see it on my mom’s Facebook page. All I can say is that I love everything about this picture. In fact, I’m going to simply let this picture carry its weight in words (it’s worth a thousand of them, right?) and gracefully bow out by wishing my sweet and sassy little girl a happy birthday. I love you with all of my heart, for ever and ever.

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Farts are Funny and Six more Life Lessons from my kids

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying to really pay attention to my job more than the distractions in my iPhone. Since I’m nearing the end of my 14th school year as a Stay At Home Dad that means my “job” is really my kids. I realized that I had been prioritizing such worthy endeavors like Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Trivia Crack, Words With Friends and the latest sports talk on the radio or the ESPN app. Even though I justified it as only a few minutes here and a few more minutes there, it added up to a less than satisfactory job performance in my own mind. I don’t want my children to think that they are less important than whatever was holding my attention on my phone. As a result of being more present and mindful in my day-to-day life I’m learning a few things that perhaps I’d been too distracted to fully appreciate before.

Farts are Funny. Yeah, I went there right away. Couldn’t hold that one in any longer. (Get it?) Not my farts, mind you. But when my kids let one fly it’s pretty much the most hilarious thing around. How many times have you seen a princess/ballerina playing with her baby dolls pause her play to rip one? I have on an almost-daily basis. Not only that, then she has to comment about how loud it was or how her tummy suddenly feels better. No shame at all. You’d think she was a fifth grade boy, not a precocious almost five year old. Yeah, those of you who know me in real life know that these apples didn’t fall far from their tree.

I love you, Daddy. While my almost two year old isn’t saying those words yet she is able to communicate it pretty effectively by her desire to snuggle with me. I used to use that snuggle time to play on my phone. Lately I’ve just been snuggling her, basking in her unconditional love and adoration and smelly morning breath. There’s something so special about those first few moments after I take her out of her crib in the morning; how she lights up with the biggest smile and literally dives into my arms, burrowing a hole into that spot where my neck and shoulder meet. I’m soaking that up as I know it’s not going to be like that forever.

Games. Games. Games. 

Victory!

Victory!

Instead of checking email or blogging or playing on my phone I’ve been choosing to play more games with my kids. You might recall that I recently wrote about how I beat my kids when we play games. Shortly after writing that blog post my ten year old son finally beat me in the board game Carcassonne. My four year old became interested and he and I taught her how to play and she beat us both in her first game! Just a couple of day

s ago my son crushed me in a game of Monopoly, proudly bankrupting me as he ended up with more money than the bank. I love the quality time we spend together playing games, especially when they earn a well-deserved victory. That victory smile and sense of accomplishment is terrific.

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Camel ride at the zoo

What do you want to do? Instead of trying to be some sort of super-intuition daddy I just ask my kids what we should do today. One week it meant going to the zoo three days in a row. It’s good that we live only ten minutes away and have a membership. Sometimes we stay home and bake cookies, put together lots of puzzles, read lots of books, color, play games, or go to the park or open gym at the YMCA. But in whatever we’re doing we are doing it together and I’m keeping my phone in my pocket or, gasp, even in my backpack/diaper bag. I’m saddened to see so many parents missing out on what their kids are doing at the park or indoor play areas because they’re paying attention to their phones instead. I’m that parent who is awkwardly playing “grounders” with my kids on the play equipment or climbing up the tall slide after my kids have asked me to join them. We even go to the beach close to our house for the sole purpose of throwing rocks into the water.

Turn the radio off? Wait, what? Turn down for what? (Yeah, I have teenagers!) Instead of blasting music all the time in the car with my kids I’ve been trying to listen to the never-ending questions of my four year old. She’s become very curious about how different things are made and often asks me to explain it to her as she observes things while we’re driving. Daddy, how was the Tacoma Narrows Bridge built? How are signs made? How are houses built? How are roads built? Are we still in Washington? How are cars made? How was the world made? Did God make the world? How?I could go on but you get the picture. So, I try to explain to her, using vocabulary that she could understand and concepts that make sense to her, the answers to her questions. I was feeling pretty pleased with my efforts on our fifteen minute trip to Costco today as I explained to her how roads were made. It helped that my dad was a civil engineer who worked for the city where we lived during my childhood and that the road in front of my childhood home was resurfaced one summer when I was probably about 10-12 years old so I witnessed exactly what happened. Upon completion of my explanation, my perceptive daughter showed wisdom beyond her years by asking me,

Daddy, do you really know all of these things or are you just making it up?

Seriously. Come on, have a little faith, you little stinker!

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Classics made hilarious by inserting the word toot at opportune times.

Toot Toot. On a recent road trip I was mindlessly playing on my phone while my wife drove and our kids kind of passed the time away, not really doing anything. After her prompting (I love you, honey!), I found some board books that I keep in the car for my almost two year old and began to read them aloud. Only I changed one word as I read them. I added the word “toot” (as in, fart) in place of the word “whistle” in the book Whistle for Willie. I know, it’s kind of juvenile, but, like I wrote above, farts are funny. And you have to know your audience. It’s kind of like playing Mad Libs but with well-known children’s books by beloved authors like Eric Carle, Ezra Jack Keats and Margaret Wise Brown. My kids were cracking up when I read Goodnight Toot, The Very Tooty Caterpillar and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Toot. Of course, now my daughter wants me to read like that all the time. I hope this passes quickly.

Slow Down. Sometimes Most of the time I need to just slow down and let my kids be kids. Let their natural curiosity explore the world around them. Just a couple of days ago this point was driven home for me by my little girls.

Decorating the white flowering bush

Decorating the white flowering bush

We were walking back to our van after playing in the Open Gym at the YMCA. My four year old was being kind of pokey and I was absentmindedly asking her to move faster and hurry up. I was already thinking ahead to trying to get a few chores done at home before I had to get my 15 year old from school in an hour. Only then did I notice what was making my daughter so slow. She was carefully picking up blossoms that had fallen from one of the shrubs and decorating a smaller shrub. Pretty soon my almost two year old joined her big sister and the two of them happily decorated the smaller bush like a Christmas tree. What once was a bush with only a small number of white flowers soon brandished pink, red and purple blossoms. It was fun to see them playing together like that and I was reminded once again of how much I have to learn from my own children.

To My Wife: Thank You

A short time ago, for no particular reason, it occurred to me how fortunate I am to be nearing the end of my 14th year as a Stay At Home Dad.And it’s all because I’m married to one pretty incredible woman.

Two crazy twenty year olds got hitched one day in 1993.

Two crazy twenty year olds got hitched one day in 1993.

Without her love and support over the 22+ years of our marriage and 14 years of my SAHD career I wouldn’t be the man, husband and father I am today. Together, years ago, we chose that it made the most sense for me to quit my teaching job and for her to finish her advanced degree and post-graduate training while I cared for our children. I’ve often thought about the sacrifices that I’ve made over the years to be a SAHD. Specifically, the fact that I sacrificed my teaching career when “retired”at age 29, after only six years in the profession. It didn’t really occur to me that my wife also has made many sacrifices over the years as well. So, this is a big THANK YOU to her.

While I’ve been at home changing diapers and feeding hungry mouths and playing games and going on adventures and folding laundry and shuttling kids to and from school and practices and everything else that I do all day you are also working. Only, you don’t get to be with your family 24/7 like me. And that’s a sacrifice for you. I try to document the countless special moments and show you pictures or have the kids recreate them for you. But it’s not the same as witnessing it live and in person. Yet, you don’t complain about it. You continue to wake up and go to work, even when you’d rather stay home under the warm covers and snuggle with one of the kids who crawled in with you. You’re showing our kids what it means to work hard and excel at what you do. You’re showing our children – particularly our daughters – that women can support their families financially and that they don’t need to rely on men for that. Thank you for being a role model for our son and daughters.

I often take for granted the daily opportunities to be present with our children as they discover the world around them. Thank you for encouraging me to take them on so many trips, not only locally, but also to other parts of the United States and even abroad. Without both your financial support and emotional encouragement, we wouldn’t have been to places like Alaska, Hawaii, Florida and Europe. They’ve seen firsthand that our world is so much bigger than whatever community we are living in.

For the last 14 years our children have observed what happens when a couple dares to throw tradition aside and do something crazy like having the dad stay home while the mom goes off to school or work. I don’t think it can be said often enough how proud I am of you for sticking it out and successfully completing your advanced degree and three more years of training. I know that you missed lots of time with the kids. We all missed you as well. But, now, looking back on it, I wouldn’t change a thing. The past has shaped us into the family we are today. Our children can all see the value in pursuing your goals through education and keeping at it even when the going gets tough. And to think that our family kept on expanding while all of this education/training was happening. You, my love, are one amazing woman!

Speaking of an expanding family, thank you for being so ridiculously good looking. There’s no other explanation for the fact that we have six children that are so beautiful. And smart. And persistent. And witty. And vocal. And opinionated. And compassionate. And loving. Even though none of them have your hair color they remind me of you in so many other good ways.

wuvFinally, thank you for putting up with loving me for these 22+ years. I know that I sometimes do things that drive you crazy. I snore. I fart. (You used to think that was funny. Now? Notsomuch.) I buy too much at Costco. I don’t always use the cloth wipes. Sometimes I bury stuff in the fridge and forget about it and it goes bad. The van is messy. I could go on, but that’s not the point. Despite all my perfect imperfections (thanks, John Legend) I am still madly and deeply and totally loving you. Thanks (I think) in advance for offering to push me in a wheelchair once my arthritic knee finally gives out. I look forward to growing old with you. Hopefully I can keep up. Seriously, though, thank you for loving me despite my shortcomings. I thank God for you every day. Thank you for being you. You are loved.

The Hug That Defined My Teaching Career

“Can I give you a hug?” It was a simple question, really, spoken by a person who was trying to extend compassion to someone who was hurting. Yet, simply asking that question meant taking a huge risk, possibly putting a young career in jeopardy. It was 1996. I was barely 24 years old, just over a month into my second year as a teacher. I had gotten to school early that morning to prepare for my first hour science class. It was 7:15 am, which meant that I had roughly 35 minutes of peace and quiet before students were allowed in the building. At about 7:25 I heard some crying from the hallway just outside my classroom door. I discovered a girl standing in front of her open locker, sobbing uncontrollably. This girl was in my first hour class, and I asked her what was going on. She was barely able to communicate through sobs that some of the kids on the bus that morning had been making fun of her and said some pretty mean and hurtful things to her about her appearance. I had flashbacks to my own childhood, in which a lot of my classmates had made some pretty mean comments about my big ears and about that one time I had been mean to a classmate. I knew her pain all too well. I invited her to come into my classroom to get herself together before everyone else arrived. I handed her a box of tissues and kept on getting ready for the lab we were going to do that day in class. After a few minutes her sobs became more sighs, but she was still obviously hurting. As a young teacher I thought that I was ready and able to take on whatever challenges I would face in the classroom. I was wrong. There had been nothing in my own education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to prepare me for this particular moment.

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Not knowing what else to do, I sat on a chair near her and asked her if she wanted to talk about it. She didn’t. Yet, when I looked into her eyes I could see that she was barely keeping it together, the tears still welling up. I couldn’t just let this girl suffer like this. What was I supposed to do? In that moment a bunch of thoughts whizzed through my head. It was obvious that this girl needed a hug, some reassurance, some humanity. But, if I gave her a hug I could get fired for “inappropriate contact” with a student, right? Or maybe get hauled off to jail? Bye-bye, teaching career. Bye-bye wife and young daughter. Seriously, those thoughts were going through my mind at that moment. Instead, I looked at this girl as someone’s daughter who needed some help to get through her own teenage crisis. So, I pushed the negative thoughts aside and mustered as much courage as I could as I asked her, “Could I give you a hug?”. She nodded and we embraced. At that time my own daughter was only two so I had never known what it was like for a young adult to literally melt into your embrace. After what seemed like several minutes but was actually probably only 15-30 seconds she took a big breath and sat down again. Only, she looked at me with what appeared to be a slight smile, a marked change from moments before. She excused herself to the bathroom to wash off her face and returned a few minutes later all ready for the school day to begin.

I was glad that she was feeling so much better but still very nervous about what had just happened. Had I crossed some line by giving her a hug? I reassured myself that I had done nothing wrong by showing her some kindness and compassion in her time of need. I was actually feeling pretty good about it when I received a voice mail from her mother the next day. I nervously played the message from her and was greatly relieved when she thanked me for being so kind and understanding. It put my mind at ease that I had done the right thing. A few weeks later I met her parents in person at Parent-Teacher Conferences. The first thing that they brought up was this specific incident and thanked me again for my thoughtful actions. As we talked more I learned that their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah was coming up in a few weeks. Having been raised in a Christian home I had no idea of the amount of preparation by the child that goes into such an event. They graciously extended an invitation for my wife and I to attend the ceremony. It was an eye-opening opportunity for me to learn more about my students and another culture that I doubt would have happened if not for “the hug”.

Looking back on this incident from nearly 20 years ago I think that “the hug” was really a career-defining moment for me as a teacher. It showed me the importance of being real with my students. I had heard some professor during undergrad talk about the importance of developing rapport with students and he tossed out one of my favorite quotes

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. -Theodore Roosevelt

This particular experience perfectly illustrated his point for me. I had been told by some older, more veteran teachers, that I was being too “real” with my students. That they would only respect me if I kept them at arm’s length. Don’t ever let them really know you. Yet, that wasn’t me at all. One of the things that I loved about teaching was the relationships that I could build with my students over the course of the year. I truly wanted to make a difference in their lives and I felt that would only happen if I showed them my humanity; showed them that I cared.

Before writing this post I contacted the girl I wrote about above. Of course, she’s no longer a “girl” because, well, that was 1996. We talked on the phone about this incident and how it impacted her life. She agreed to let me use her first name but I sensed some hesitation so I’m not going name her. Interestingly enough, she is a teacher herself. She told me that there were three teachers, one in elementary school, one in middle school (guess who?!) and one in high school that really impacted her in a positive way. She lives in a major city on the East Coast and teaches third grade. She said that she, too, has discovered the importance and value of being real with her students, something that she learned way back in middle school. I have to admit that it made me a little nostalgic for my teaching career. I miss the relational aspect of it. But not enough to give up my current gig. (Not even close.)

Finally, while I believe that “the hug” was a defining moment in my teaching career, I know that it has also impacted my career as a Stay At Home Dad. I try to show my kids how much I care every single day. Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes an encouraging word, sometimes just a safe place to let them vent. All I know is the importance of being real with them. I’ve worked hard to establish a trust and rapport with them so that they will feel comfortable with bringing big stuff to me for us to deal with. Together.

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Good Bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Holding Dad's Hand

My dad passed away seven years ago today. It’s hard to put into words how much I miss him or how often I think of him. Like all of us, he was not a perfect person. He was flawed. Yet, I knew without a doubt that he loved me and was proud of me. How did I know that? Because he got pancreatic cancer that ultimately took his life. But, in the six weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his passing I was able to spend a lot of time with him. At that time I lived two hours away, so I was able to make frequent day trips with my two year old son (pictured) to visit him. y dad was about 10 days from his death, and his body was being ravaged by the effects of the cancer. His skin was turning orange. He lost so much weight that he looked like a concentration camp survivor. And his once-sharp mind was failing, leaving only fleeting moments of lucidity. It was so hard to watch this man I loved all my life suffer while there was nothing I could do to help him. It was during one of those visits at the Hospice facility that my dad had a brief but oh-so-meaningful conversation with me.

He awoke from his sleep and smiled upon seeing me at his bedside, not remembering that I had been there for several hours already that day. I didn’t know if he was going to talk or go back to sleep, but he spoke, asking about how my family was doing. After my reply he proceeded to tell me that he was very proud the man I had become; of my choice to become a Stay At Home Dad six years before. He continued to tell me that he thought I was a good husband and father and that he was pleased with me. This was new to me, as he had not been very verbally supportive of either my college major (Elementary Education) or my career change (teacher to SAHD). He finished by looking me in the eyes, pulling me in for an embrace, and whispering faintly into my ear, “I love you, Carl.” It was the last meaningful conversation I would have with my dad.

Nine days later, on the evening of May 12, my mom called to tell me that the Hospice staff had called her to let her know that they didn’t think my dad would live much longer. Since the next day was Mother’s Day, I was already planning on driving up to see my mom (and dad). But, after her phone call, I left a bit sooner, arriving at the Hospice center around 11 pm. I entered my dad’s room to find my mom and younger brother (and his wife and young son) already there by his bed. We exchanged hugs and kisses and chatted for a few minutes. After a couple of minutes of silence, we decided to sing a few hymns that were among my dad’s favorites, as music had always been a big part of his life. Once the songs were sung, my brother left to take his family back to my parents’ house so they could sleep (my brother would return). My mom and I sat quietly on either side of my dad’s bed, each of us holding one of his hands as he lay in an unresponsive slumber, the silence only broken by each of his labored breaths. We knew that his time was near. As it was already well past midnight by this time, I quietly noted “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom.

A little after t 1 am that night I noticed that my dad’s breathing had slowed considerably. I held my mom’s hand while we both held my dad’s hands and said a quick prayer, asking God to take my dad home soon so that he wouldn’t suffer any longer. Minutes later, while we were singing a solemn “Amazing Grace” between tears and deep breaths, my dad breathed his last breaths and entered his new home. It was the most sacred and solemn moment of my entire life, to be with a loved one, praying him into the Kingdom. I take great comfort in my faith, believing that I will see my dad again, only this time it will be in Heaven and he won’t be suffering. Later that day, while talking with my kids on the phone about what had happened during the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, one of my kids said something that changed my perspective about the sadness of him dying on Mother’s Day. “It’s okay, Daddy. Now Papa gets to spend Mother’s Day with his mommy in Heaven.”

Good bye, Dad. See you in Heaven.

Thank you, Mom

Dear Mom,

Today is Mother’s Day and I didn’t get you anything. Not even a card. And I’m not sorry. It was suggested that I order some flowers for you but I couldn’t do that after what I wrote just a few days ago without being a complete hypocrite. Mother’s Day isn’t about giving your mom flowers or jewelry any more than Father’s Day is about giving your dad a new tie or tool. I’ve come to realize it’s about showing genuine appreciation in honoring someone who has loved me since before I was born and continues to love and support me to this day.

As a child I don’t think I ever really appreciated the hard work and sacrifices you made in order to make my childhood so enjoyable and positive. As the stay at home parent these last 13 years I’ve really grown to understand the enormity of what you did for us. I know it wasn’t always easy or enjoyable for you but I loved having you as my mom. I know that you sacrificed your career to be at home. Thank you for providing the loving environment which allowed us kids to grow and thrive. I can’t speak for my siblings, but I’m glad that you were home with us. While I’m pretty sure you weren’t perfect, I can’t remember a time where you ever lost your patience with us or even yelled at us. And I’m certain that we were angels pretty challenging at times. Remember that time I got Dave and Liz to race around the house but had them crash into each other on purpose? Or when you were in the kitchen and we kids were in the living room slapping our own legs and chests so loudly that you came in ready to punish us for fighting only to find us laughing? Yeah. Sorry. But thanks for being patient with us.

Because of you I have a treasure trove of amazing childhood stories to tell my own kids. Possibly my favorite childhood memory is coming home from school to find the aroma of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies wafting through the air the moment I opened the front door. I’d set my backpack down and hurry into the kitchen to give you a hug before scarfing down a dozen, give or take. To this day I think of you every time I make cookies with and for my kids. I hope that they will have positive cookie memories like I do. Even if sometimes I recount the time that my 4 year old brother put some of his chewed gum inside a cookie dough ball and I ate the baked result. Good times.

I always knew that you loved me and were proud of me. I have a distinct memory of you telling me in church one Sunday when I was maybe 10-11 that you liked my singing. Ever since that day, no matter what anyone else might say about my voice, I feel the confidence of your words. Thank you for that boost of confidence, Mom. You were so encouraging in whatever I wanted to do. When Dad didn’t see the merit in my desire to become a teacher you encouraged me to follow my heart, saying that you could see how I’d make a great teacher, citing the example of how I taught my younger sister how to throw a football with a tight spiral. A few years later you were one of my biggest supporters in my decision to quit teaching and become a Stay At Home Dad. Thank you for believing in me when most others doubted.

Finally, thank you, Mom, for being my friend. As a child I never really appreciated you as a person other than “mom”. As an adult and parent myself I have a different perspective. Yes, you’re (obviously) still my mother, but that’s not all. You’re my friend. I love doing stuff with you. I’m glad that we were able to go to a couple of incredible Wisconsin Badgers football games together. Remember that win against #1 ranked Ohio State and how we got to go on the field after the win? UW OSU in stands

Or watching Russell Wilson lead a 4th quarter comeback as Wisconsin won the first Big Ten Championship in 2011? Those big games and wonderful memories associated with them pale in comparison to the many phone calls and in person visits we’ve shared over the years. Going to games and other places or events are nice, but a true relationship and friendship is so much more valuable. Thank you for all of your advice, encouragement, love and support over the years. Even though we’re separated by almost 2,000 miles I don’t know if I’ve ever felt closer to you, Mom. Thanks for all you’ve done for me. I love you. I hope you’re not upset about a lack of card.

Carl

Reach out and touch someone

I like to hug. There. I said it. I’m a giant and I like to hug. And that weirds a lot of people out. Even my own kids at times. I wasn’t always a huggy kind of a guy. I used to be more of a hearty handshake and maybe a man-hug. Make sure to lean at the waist and don’t linger. That could be uncomfortable. Personal bubble invasion issues. The only people I gave “real” hugs were my parents and my wife. That worked for me reasonably well until I became a father at age 22. After my baby was born I showered her with all kinds of affectionate hugs and kisses and life was good. My wife and I were blessed with two more daughters over the next seven years. During that time I quit my job teaching and became a full time stay at home dad. Our daughters were affectionately loved and cared for by us. We held hands while walking together to the park. My girls climbed into my lap to read stories. They started giving me “fall-over” hugs where they would get a running start and leap into my arms and we’d fall over and laugh and hug. By the time my son was born in 2004 my oldest daughter was nine and had already started to pull back ever so slightly from the hugs and hand holding. She was growing up. Determined to still be affectionate with her (and my other kids as they grew up) I made an effort to give them each a hug at bed time. They didn’t really like it. Unfortunately, I didn’t persist. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I wasn’t really having as much physical contact with my kids once they became 8-10 years old as I had when they were younger. As I thought about it some more I realized that was kind of the way it was with my own dad when I was a kid. My mom tended to be more affectionate and my dad would be more of the disciplinarian. I knew he loved me but he certainly wasn’t super huggy or physically affectionate. I didn’t really know what to do with my own kids, how to change our attitudes and perceptions about hugs and other physical affection without it being “awkward”.

Then my dad got sick. In early 2007, at age 66, my health-conscious and fit father, was diagnosed with pancreatitis and was hospitalized several times over the course of a couple of months. Turns out that first diagnosis was a little off, because at the end of March, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Weeks to live. Maybe a few months. We were all in shock. But what happened to me as a result of that awful experience was that I rediscovered my inner teddy bear.

As I said before, I’m kind of a giant. I’m 6’8″ tall. I have to duck to avoid hitting my head when I go through most doors. I’m a nice guy but (apparently) a little intimidating when others see me. But cancer didn’t care. My dad’s cancer and six week journey through hospice leading to his death that May six years ago transformed me in many ways. Perhaps the most significant was the power of human touch. As my friends learned of my father’s condition they often expressed their concern and support and asked what they could do to help. That was all very thoughtful and much appreciated. One friend, a neighborhood mom that I’ve known since our oldest daughters started school together, saw me at the grocery store and asked about my dad. Upon hearing my grim report, she simply walked over and gave me a hug. No words needed. Not sexual. Just one human comforting another. Beautiful. After my dad passed away there were many people who offered their condolences at his service. While the memories people shared were nice to hear, it was the physical touch – holding hands and hugging – that were the most comforting.

Recently I came across an article on http://www.goodmenproject.com that talked about how we, as men, are missing out on the benefits of gentle, platonic touch with other people. That struck such a chord with me and stirred up my memories that I just shared. And it caused me to examine my own life and how I parent my kids. Why is it that my 3 year old daughter excitedly holds my hand when we’re walking but her older sisters and brother wouldn’t be caught dead doing that? Is there something that I could do to change that? Why does one of my older kids ask me to give her a hug many nights before going to bed when another one literally almost punches me if I try to hug or kiss her? I don’t have the answers. Interestingly, though, my only son is nine. And he and I have a pretty close relationship. While he doesn’t hold my hand, he wants me to put him to bed every night and allows me to hug and kiss him (cheek only!) before sleep. But he won’t let my wife hug or kiss him.

One of the many things I love about the church my family attends is the real sense of community there. I noticed it from the first moment of the first day we walked in. In the ensuing 20 months since that first visit I’ve gotten to know a lot of the men who also call that their church home. While I’m not particularly close to a lot of the guys what’s really struck me is the level of the brotherly love at my church. And the hugs. Not the awkward hugs like I described in the first paragraph. Real hugs where you actually embrace the other person and hug. It’s amazing. Once in a while I’ll forget where I am and extend my hand to a guy only to have my arm practically yanked off as he pulls me into an embrace. And that was my buddy Rob who is maybe 5’6″ but with a huge heart. Going to church each week and getting hugged has really helped my emotional and spiritual well being. I’m forced to be real. About a month ago my buddy Kyle greeted me and I half-heartedly gave him a hug and pulled back. He looked at me and admonished me to “Do it like you mean it, bro!”. And gave me one of the biggest bear hugs imaginable. I guess I should mention that Kyle is a former offensive lineman and stands about 6’4″. He’s almost as big as the senior pastor (another former O-lineman) who also gives great hugs. Until becoming a part of this particular church community I had rarely experienced the brotherly love and support from others that comes from physical touch.

As a SAHD I have the unique opportunity to literally touch the lives of my children in both a figurative and literal sense. I want them to know the power of human touch in a positive way. I need to challenge myself to empower my kids to express their feelings and emotions through positive platonic touch. Follow AT&T’s advice from the 80s and “reach out and touch someone”.

No go find someone to hug.