Summary: Honest, hilarious, and helpful message from this dad’s heart to yours. It’s not "preachy," or even "teachy" -- it was very well received.
Children change a marriage.
So says Elisa Morgan, president and CEO of MOPS International, Inc. She joined forces with Carol Kuykendall (MOPS director of communication) and turned the understated cliché (“children change a marriage”) into the title of a helpful book.
On the back cover: “Just when you and your spouse had achieved a satisfying balance in your relationship—it happened. Your first child arrived. Things have never been the same since…and they never will be.”
MOPS stands for “Mothers of Preschoolers.” I’m not a MOP; I’m a DOP (Daddy of a Preschooler.) Being a DOP is not easy; in fact, there are times when I feel more like a DOPE.
After eight years of marriage my wife and I adopted a baby girl from China. Our daughter’s name is Jade; she is three years old. She is changing our marriage. She isn’t done yet. She has reinforcements en route: a soon-to-be-claimed baby sister from Taiwan.
I’m a pastor; which means Jade is not only changing my marriage, she’s changing my church. She likes to heckle me when I’m in the putting forth my best effort to say profound things in fascinating ways (with humility, of course). Then there are the moments of exhaustion, frustration and hair-raising fits of panic. Such moments are a constant part of every pastor’s professional life; but now they’re waiting for me when I come home. I have nowhere to hide. I’m losing my ability to concentrate. I haven’t had a great night’s sleep in over two years. (A line from my DOPE’s prayer: “Give her this day, her daily nap…”)
It’s a good life, filled with great experiences. My little girl does something unforgettable every single day. It’s hard to take it all in; it’s getting much harder since she gave up her daily naps. (I keep praying for them; hoping against hope.) This past Christmas, Jade did something that re-awakened a part of my heart that should never have been allowed to doze off.
It was late in the evening; my parents had dropped by for a short visit. Jade was overly tired and out of sorts. Looking for some trouble, she wadded up a piece of wrapping paper and tossed it at her grandma. It bounced off grandma’s head. (FYI: I passed the test: I didn’t laugh.)
It wasn’t really funny. This was a major crime of disrespect.
I had to call a Time Out.
Jade sat in her Time Out corner, staring at the egg timer. After the buzzer went off; I led Jade over to grandma and instructed her to apologize. My daughter’s apologies are usually less-than-convincing. They’re more like forced confessions.
This one was very different.
Jade stood in front of grandma; not saying a word. I thought she was being stubborn, so I reviewed the script: “Jade, you need to tell grandma ‘I’m sorry.’” I had no idea of what was about to happen. Jade buried her beautiful face into her precious little hands, trying to make herself invisible. My heart was pierced. My eyes watered. She choked up and said, “I’m sorry, grandma” and then she broke down into sorrowful tears. I cried, too. I will carry this memory for the rest of my life; it will always be tender to the touch. My daughter was deeply ashamed; she was truly afraid. The sight of those emotions, in her, was very difficult for me to behold. She loves her grandma very much, and she was suffering through a moment in which she thought that her misbehavior had ruined the relationship forever.
Grandma scooped Jade up and gave her a big kiss. A few minutes later, grandma delivered Jade a Sippy Cup filled with warm milk. Jade received it with joy. Her face was radiant; she knew that everything was going to be alright. She laughed out loud; I was still wiping away DOPE tears.
Later that same night, I sat on our sofa and relived the whole experience. I wound up commending myself for acting like a super-dad. Recall: I’m the one who saw the wrapping paper incident, I called the foul, I enforced the Time Out, I led Jade into an opportunity where she could understand that bad behavior damages our relationships, and I master-minded the Sippy Cup full of warm milk token-of-goodwill scenario to bring healing closure to a stressful scene in her childhood story. I sat alone and thought, “Sometimes I amaze myself!”
It turns out that I wasn’t alone.
God was there (as always); and He had something to say (as usual) and it popped my bubble (not the first time). I’d been under His surveillance throughout the evening. He was bugging my secret thoughts. When the time was right, He moved in.
It was a DOPE bust.
Basically, God spoke to my heart saying something like this: “Pardon the interruption, Mr. Amazing, but when was the last time you felt that kind of remorse over something you did wrong? When was the last time your sinfulness caused you to experience real dread? When was the last time you were deeply ashamed for the disrespectful ways you treat other people? Think about how you tend to make amends: aren’t your apologies little more than forced confessions?”