Hi, y’all! I hope everyone had a GREAT Thanksgiving and got to spend plenty of time with loved ones over the holiday. All of my siblings were in town (which is really rare), so I stayed offline as much as possible to soak in all of our time together. It was honestly the best!
I am excited to be back in the swing of things today though… and even more excited to share today’s blog post. You might remember Duncan wrote a blog post during quarantine where he shared a look at what he was reading and listening to at that time.
Everything below is from Duncan (you can probably tell as soon as you read it ha). I hope you enjoy it! And feel free to leave some love in the comments if you enjoy the post!
What Parenting Has Taught Me Not to Do
I realize this is likely oversimplistic, cliched framing, but I am going to say it anyways. It seems like just yesterday I was up late in the night with an unquieted mind (similar to this exact moment), grasping to put pen to paper over a handful of introspective thoughts that I wanted to illustrate as they related to my experiences (read: failures) during 2020’s quarantine. At that time, the effort ended in me penning a good-college-try BTD blog that B eventually shared on her platform.
How has time moved that fast?
[Author’s Note: Full disclosure before you keep reading — if you’re looking for cute lulu outfits or Nordy’s best deals of the week, this post will be flat-out disappointing. And, of course, you wouldn’t want my input anyways; I am literally colorblind and am liable to, unknowingly, recommend outfits that mix vibrant Christmas greens and reds as a normal, everyday outfit, regardless of the season. Brighton can attest — when she isn’t already laughing at my vision shortcomings.]
Full candor, about this time last year, I had intended to share some thoughts about my experiences as a Dad in a BTD blog-esque format. My intention was to express, with transparency, specificity, and humor, some of the thoughts, anecdotes, joys, and hardships that had stuck out to me during my early parenting months. Even more specifically, I wanted to share what I had learned (what I had failed at) during those early months. Nevertheless, I blinked, looked up, and time had passed me by. I never got around to finishing the piece — even 12 months later. Maybe there are some people or parents who can relate to that experience.
I want to be transparent on this. I’m not proud of it, nor ashamed, but it is the reality. At the same time I had started working on those “dad thoughts” last year, I simultaneously found myself at the start of a personal season headlined by insecurity and fear. With time, reflection, and counsel, I recognize now that I was wrestling with a global, further-reaching, personalized dynamic that was not solely segmented to my thoughts about my parenting capabilities. In short, I had become an anxious wreck.
I’m going to stay focused on my parenting experiences, but there is an extended story here where I’ve had to confront that anxiety. Maybe another time.
As it specifically relates to parenting though, I was wrestling with insecurity, fear, and imposter syndrome. A snapshot of my internal discourse: “Am I doing this right? What does ‘doing it right’ even mean? And, how can I calm my mind so I get back to sleep!” The task at hand felt massive. In fairness, it is massive.
Undoubtedly, I got bogged down in my emotionalism (I recommend listening to this if you’re, perhaps, wrestling with insecurity or fear too. It applies to all seasons, not just child-rearing and early parenting.)
There’s a lot that could be parsed or deduced from that last sentiment, but ultimately, I think, in hindsight, that my internal dialogue spoke to the climate of parenting as a whole — at least as it was for me: “I’ve read ‘all’ the books, listened to ‘all’ the podcasts, pursued lots of wisdom and peer(s) insight; and yet, I don’t actually have a clue what’s going to happen. And, I want to. Worse, I need to.”
There are likely wiser, more experienced minds already laughing at me over this commentary, but I am going to say something that, albeit simplistic and obvious, is profoundly being worked out in my heart: “Duncan, you’ll never know if you’re doing it ‘right.’ It’s not your job to know. It’s your job to abide in me (Christ), and trust the Holy Spirit is at work and that Our Lord is sovereign. Your call from there, homeboy.”
Unsurprisingly to most that follow B closely, I downright stink at this discipline. CHARACTER DEFECT magnified. 10X.
At that time last year, the only thing I knew was that, truly, my heart was eternally morphed after meeting my son. Ever since February 8, 2021, he’s been pushing my heart forward every day.
As I think back on it, I think a fair takeaway that has recently fermented in my mind is that the depth of those new-dad feelings and, in practical effect, love, actually was a major component of that emotional paralysis (i.e., anxiety). Said a different way, my brain’s headlines would’ve read:
“I can’t believe how much I love my son. I can’t believe I am capable of these feelings. I can’t believe that God feels this way about me. But does he really feel that way about me? Is it possible that how I feel about my son is just a fraction of what Our Father feels for me (and my son!)? I can’t believe that I am now responsible for this beautiful child. No matter what, he has permanently changed my life and my soul. How on earth will I ever live up to the task at hand?”
That sounds far more romantic than it was.
Parenting is awesome. But to be clear, and to uplift all the moms (and dads! Although I doubt many of you will be seeing this) who have fought this good fight, parenting is also late nights and early mornings, frustrating feedings that feel so pressurized at times (schedule! schedule! schedule!), burps taking on a whole new meaning, and, dare I forget, lots and lots of diapers. No complaints here. The reward is unfathomable for these temporal costs.
I share that protracted intro for a reason. Sorry if this appears disjointed; I will try to land the plane here shortly.
During this new personal parenting season, I’ve been going back through some old books and lessons I’ve gravitated to over the years. With the recent addition of my incredible daughter to our family close to a month ago, it’s so much easier for me to revisit past reading lists than to try to come up with new ones. I mean, seriously, who has the time? (Recs are welcome, comment them below!)
That said, I have really enjoyed going back to the basics — and one piece jumpstarted my overall thought process for writing this entry. The Weight of Glory, originally preached by C.S. Lewis as a sermon (1942) and later published in physical form for broader distribution, is one I’ve dug into lately. Amidst so much of Lewis’ fantastic cannon, this literature easily slides under my radar. I regret not revisiting The Weight of Glory sooner. Lewis’ thoughtfulness tempered with steadfast encouragement, yet still supported with Biblical exposition, resonates with me and my hardwiring.
While there’s a lot that can be gleaned from The Weight of Glory, what particularly pricked my soul this time around was at the very beginning of the piece:
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
I adore this writing. I am convicted and encouraged all at the same time by a line like: “Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but took weak.” More broadly, the language, the natural imagery, the syllabic pacing, and of course, the profound depth of what he accomplishes in just a paragraph, are incredibly impressive rhetorically – and powerful theologically. [Confession: I am a C.S. Lewis stan – go Aslan!]
As I was reflecting on Lewis’ assertion here, it prompted a thought, albeit simple, about being a Dad. Here’s what I’ve worked out for my personal application so far. Please critique me wise parents on this summation.
Parenting isn’t about self-denial or stifling joy because of the nature of the necessitated obligation. Like a 9-5, punch-the-clock job. Parenting is not a game of dutiful drudgery — although it often can feel that way. What I am realizing is that parenting is truly an invitation to unbridled love, joy, and passion. At all times, including all the diaper rashes or temper tantrums. Intrinsically, as is the nature of love, unselfishness must be present for love to thrive — but stoic unselfishness is not the end goal of parenting for young babies and children — or the gospel for that matter. I am realizing more and more that I am guilty of this: “look at what I’ve done, clearly that’s enough to check the good parent box.” In doing so, I’ve stripped parenting down to a simplistic notion of action – and I miss the joy of what God is doing all around me. As a foil for a broader life lens, I am realizing how often I check the ‘performance’ box — but not the heart level quotient.
There are many days I wish, “God, I can’t wait for her to sleep all the way through the night.” Or “God, I can’t wait for the day in the future that the diaper rash cream on my hands is blanked from my mind permanently.” I find myself, too often, positioning my parenting as a state of action, not a state of heart posture. In doing so, I am robbing it of its pure, loving nature. While not intentional, it is the truth for me.
I love being a dad, but I need to evolve. Good news: the Lord will refine me. And in doing so, I will see more of him. I know this; I also forget this. A lot.
Below, I have stuck to a similar framework to my last blog entry. B can liberally opine about my idiosyncrasies and love of consistency and repetition (thank you, team sports and my Dad coaching me). I am a creature of habit! Below, you’ll find a recent Butler family music playlist and a couple of books that I’ve personally enjoyed recently.
To all herein, thank you for being a fan of my much better half. It has been a privilege to see the joys so many of you have brought her over the last couple of years.
This is arguably my favorite fiction book ever. I’ve always loved this one in the series. There are a lot of reasons for that, but I think, at its core, I love the idea of going back and dissecting a memory.
This is not for kiddos IMO. The writing is good and raw. Hard to imagine getting a better stream of consciousness when looking down the barrel of cancer than this. It’ll stir the heart at a minimum.
BTD moms with boys, this is a fantastic series! Timeless, appropriate, and definitely poignant at times, I learned as much about sports (and life) from Chip Hilton as I did on the field.
My mom gifted me this book for my birthday last year.. Sorry, mom, it took me nearly 12 months to get to it. To her absolute credit though, I relished this book. I think it will stir the soul and make you think. Maybe a few tears. I’d love to hear what you think.
Brighton Your Day
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