Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Guest Post: Head Over Heels

Today, my husband offered to do a guest post here at Mama Flock.  It is S's 18th birthday today and he offers a unique perspective on our lives with our daughter that I enjoyed reading.  I hope you do, too...

Head Over Heels

I knew this girl once. She was eight years old and had just come to live with us. She was a foster kid and we were foster parents. A good match at least on that count, I suppose. Her two younger brothers lived with us already so, you know, it seemed like a good idea to keep the family together. They’d already lost so much.

Anyhow, our house at the time had a very long driveway. Something like 400 feet and it was on a hill. Like a serious hill. Like the sort of hill that we couldn't let her brothers play out on unsupervised or they'd end up as human erasers once gravity got them and pulled them down the hill on their tricycles or whatever little kid wheels they had a the time.

This girl had a Razor Scooter that we had given her. To be totally honest, we won it off some supermarket contest or some other thing like that before they came to live with us. When she came, we dug it out of the basement; it's box was still new-looking but dusty from years of storage. To this day, it's the most valuable prize I've ever won. Anyhow, she wanted to take her scooter down the driveway hill. We kept saying no. We were new to this whole parenting thing, foster or otherwise, but we were pretty sure that breaking the kids was probably against the rules.

She kept asking to ride the hill for days and weeks on end. The girl was persistent. She assured us she could handle it and she'd be fine. One Saturday afternoon, we calculated that we had plenty of spare time and could afford a possible trip to the ER if that sort of thing became necessary. We granted her wish and allowed her to proceed. We made sure she strapped on a helmet and all the other elbow and knee padding we had available.

She shoved off with a smile and, for a few moments, it looked like she was going to nail it and make us look like a couple of worry-wart parents who woefully misread the natural athletic talents of this pig-tailed kid.

Then, as we feared, gravity caught up with her. As she picked up speed, the tiny Razor scooter wheels (unforgiving, hard plastic donuts of death, if I ever saw any) began to bounce and skid. I could see her body tighten as she tried to remain in control.

I'm not sure if she hit a rock or a crack in the paving but she hit something small and immovable. In a flash, she was head over heels over the handle bars flying into the air. She hit the pavement belly first and slid for a little bit before coming to a crumpled halt about halfway down the slope.

We hurried down to check on her and found that she was generally OK aside from a few decent scratches and a serious case of near-death panic. We walked her, limping, back up to the house. She laid down on the couch in the front room which was painted blood-red at the time; a bad color choice. First-time homeowners, like first-time parents, make weird choices.

My wife went into the kitchen to look for something comforting for this little girl sobbing on the couch. She returned with a mug of hot cocoa. The girl sipped at it, tear stains drying on her cheeks and cool cloths on her fresh scratches to soothe the sting.

For the next ten years, I did my best as a parent, which was often not enough, to help guide this girl toward adulthood. In the journey, I went from a first-name basis to ‘Dad’ and then finally to ‘Daddy’, my favorite. In her late teen years, I developed a friendship with her and came to love her more than I ever thought possible. I trailed along behind her as, time and time again, she went head over heels over her handle bars on the subject of school, chores, friendships, romance and, as she got older, the simultaneously amazing and terrifying world of the Internet. That last one was particularly tricky and the source of much of our stubbornness and many of our arguments.

I wanted so much to comfort her and to soothe the sting of life. When she was eight years old, that was much easier to figure out. At seventeen, cocoa didn’t cure everything and now I’m starting to see that not everything could be cured by cocoa or any other means. This last Sunday, the message at church was partly on remembering that our kids are God’s first and that we can’t take away all the pain. It’s necessary for their growth and maturity as much as it is for ours. When it comes to my girls, especially, this has turned out to be a tough lesson for me. I wish I had begun learning it sooner.

Recently, this girl, my most unexpected love, rekindled an online relationship that we had argued about many times. Seeking to be with him, I suspect to avoid additional conflict with me, and maybe for other reasons I’ll never fully know, she left home without a word on the Saturday after Memorial Day. I have not seen her since.

The days since then have been full of sadness and regret that I’ve never experienced before. I have replayed so many of our conversations and especially those few in text and over the phone in the week after she left. I have fallen back from “Daddy” to “Dad,” which, unexpectedly, has been the deepest hurt of all. Overwhelmed with sadness and desperate for her return, I pushed too hard and said things that seemed right but now I wish I could take back. To respect her wishes, I agreed last Saturday, exactly a week after she left, to not call or text anymore.

We took the kids to a Hillsong United concert last night. At one point, one of the singers talked about the Prodigal Son story found in Luke15. I spent the rest of the concert singing at the top of my lungs, thinking about that story and my lost girl.

The truth is, I had ten incredible years with her with amazing highs and gut-wrenching lows. I have become a better parent and a better person because of knowing her. As family and as friends, we lived our faith in Jesus boldly and out-loud. She knows Jesus is her salvation and her name is in the Book of Life. Like the Prodigal Son and like I have so many times in my own faith, she has fallen away from that truth and set out on her own. I have tried foolishly to find her and bring her home.

What I should be doing, and I am trying my best to do now, is to let our God who loves her work on her heart and guide her path whether it be back here or to somewhere else. He is, after all, a much better shepherd than I am.

It is taking every bit of energy I have to leave her to God’s grace and to re-focus on my amazing wife and four other challenging and spectacular kids. I imagine the father of the Prodigal Son felt much the same way. The fields still needed to be plowed, his other sons needed his attention but some portion of his head and heart must have always stayed on his lost son, wondering where he was, whether he was safe and fanning a small flame of hope that he would someday return.

Today is her 18th birthday and I miss her so much. I miss the long drives, the tough conversations, the “mostly dead chihuahua” jokes, the late-night sushi runs, scary movie nights and X-Files episodes, her voice, her laugh, the way she would lean into me for a hug and the amazing joy I felt when I could find a new way to delight her and make her smile.

I am trying my best to leave her be and leave her to God’s plan but, at the same time, I find I still keep an eye on the horizon each day. I cling to hope that she will soon return and, like the Prodigal Son’s father, while she is a long ways off, I will see her, be filled with compassion for her, run to her, throw my arms around her and kiss her.

So, Happy birthday, my beloved girl. I am so sorry for the mistakes I made that helped push us apart. I hope that wherever you are, you are safe and that someday, even though I have not earned it and have no reason to expect it, I can see you and hold you again.

I love you head over heels, madly and forever.



  1. Well said Chris...and until the time of her return...keep on looking for her!

  2. What a beautiful story from a father's perspective. I pray S will read this and know how much she is loved. (Not that you all haven't reminded her of that constantly.) Sometimes young people need to be shaken-up a bit before they come to that realization.

    We all love you, S!