This one’s for Sam.

The other day I was pissed at Sam. I stood in my bathroom brushing my teeth in a fury, replaying all the ways he was wrong about a parenting discussion we had just blown up over. For the most part, we agree or can come to an agreement about how we are raising our children, but every once in a while our opinions clash like plaid on stripes and then his temper and my sensitivity send us to different rooms with fire in our eyes. Sometime I wonder how we are going to do this for, you know, forever – raise kids with someone we think is an absolute idiot from time to time – but then I remember how much I love him and how much he loves me and I just pray that we don’t kill each other before we die.

Anyway, I anger-brushed , toothpaste foaming on my lips as I glared into the mirror thinking about leaving town for a few months, the mint film on my mouth not helping clean up the curse words in my head. I cupped my hands to drink water from the faucet so I didn’t have to get a cup from the kitchen and face the dummy on the couch. Then I started thinking about what Sam was trying to do. Why he had gotten angry at me in the first place. It was stupid, our fight, but it was also real. Parenting is not a joke to us. We both take our roles seriously, as guardians to these kids, and when one of us questions the other guy’s method, feelings get hurt pretty fast.

Why can’t we just always be on the same page? I wondered. I obviously know more about this than he does- he should at least listen to me.  This is a crux of MANY of our parenting fights. I think I know more, because I’ve worked with kids my whole life and continually read lots of parenting books and articles: He thinks we should trust our instincts and work with the kids we have, not the ones people think they’re writing books about. I’m wrong. He’s wrong. He’s right, and I’m right too. We should trust ourselves and remember that our family is our family; we should also take it seriously enough to invest in ourselves as parents and learn from those who have gone before us. It’s all, it’s both, it’s a crap shoot, not a formula, and the only person we will ever answer to about our parenting is God. Not each other. Not our kids. Not the experts. Just their Creator, the One who gave them to us in the first place.

While I considered where Sam was coming from, and why our discussion had turned so angry so fast, I remembered something else. Sam is a great dad. Better than most, dare I say. There are a LOT of people I would NEVER want to share kids with, but Sam Horney isn’t one of them. Sam is one of the most involved and loving dads I’ve ever met. There are very few men who come into fatherhood so naturally. He never questioned his position in our kids’ lives, and his comfort as “Da-Da” is striking.

He held our newborns with confidence, loved them with abandon. When he didn’t attach to Sammy as quickly as he did with Clara, I questioned him about it. “You don’t even like him,” I accused in a hormonal rush of tears. He took that seriously, and from that day on I saw an intentional effort to bond with his baby son, which was difficult because Sammy was small and dependent on me those first few months. But he didn’t give up. And I was so proud of him.

He disciplines our toddlers with a firm hand and laughs with joy at their burgeoning personalities, all from one moment to the next. Sam is not a patient person, nor does he thrive in chaos or mess. Which is basically our entire life with a one year old and a two year old. But he adapts. He cleans their messes. He rejoices when they climb in bed with him for a snuggle. He and Clara have an on-going game of hide and go seek, going on 2 years now, and he never passes up a chance to play with her. He doesn’t worry about making mistakes, or not knowing the exact right thing to do in every situation- he is just himself. Through the weary hours. Through the hilarity. Through the moments when we look at each other in rapture, smiling over the small heads between us, filled with absolute pleasure to be their mom and dad. He parents with so much less fear than I do, bringing a consistency and steadiness to our home that we all need.

Sam might drive me crazy sometimes. He won’t read the parenting books I suggest, he complains I’m going to make our kids too liberal, he buys cheesy sports gear for our babies to wear, and he refuses to have lengthy discussions with me about how to cut and style Sammy’s hair. There are times that neither us can believe we have to parent together. But if the world was full of dads like him – dads who approach their job with a sense of purpose and gravity – dads who take their kids with a grain of salt and a large dose of adoration –  we would be in better shape. We would feel more loved. And we would know how to love well.

I love you, Sam Horney. And even when I’m being an idiot, and even when you’re being an idiot, there’s no one else I would rather call husband, or father to my kids. I’ve loved you since I was 19 years old and I will keep choosing to love you until the day I die. Thank you for giving me grace as I learn to be a mom. And for letting me dress our kids in skinny jeans. That’s very big of you and I think you’re pretty great. Happy Father’s Day, buddy bear. We love you!

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Our first moment with Clara. He cried more during her birth than I did, which I will never let him forget. 🙂
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