My kids are super funny.
Like when Claire, my 4-year old, explained away the pen all over her hand by looking at it cock-eyed and saying, “Oh, this? No, I didn’t do that today. It’s a stain from when I was, like, two.” So brilliant, I didn’t even argue.
And while they’re hilarious a lot of the time, they’re also kids. They fight and whine and get punished just like any other kids do. But, they love each other. Sam, my oldest, loves his little sisters so much. He’s a sensitive little guy and when they hurt, he hurts with them. I love his empathetic heart.
I love being their dad.
A couple years ago I learned how much I love my middle daughter, Anna.
The hard way.
I was reminded of it today when Bruno Mars’s “Just the Way You Are” came on the radio.
July of 2010, we were at the park for church and Anna, four at the time, darted across the bike path toward the lake…right as a bicyclist was rounding a curve. Neither my wife, Julie, or I saw the accident (which the doctor said was a good thing), but the impact was so hard, the lady’s leg was stuck in her bike frame. And Anna was in bad shape. My pastor ran to me with her in his arms, blood everywhere. A friend of ours, who happens to be a doctor, was in the shelter. He looked Anna over and very calmly suggested we take her to the ER.
On the way over we tried to engage Anna in conversation to keep her awake. Her responses her alarming. Clearly she wasn’t right. When he got to the hospital, everything went downhill. Anna was loopy and wouldn’t keep her eyes open. Then they tried to get an IV in her.
Worst experience of my entire life.
Four nurses, a doctor and my wife all tried to hold Anna as she shrieked and thrashed in her bed. I stood there and prayed. Then I dropped to me knees at the foot of the bed and prayed. Nothing. Eventually Julie grabbed Anna and held her to her chest…and Anna went limp. Her head dropped backwards and her arms went limp-noodle. ”What’s happening?!” Julie yelled. They took Anna, put her on the bed, and whisked her away.
We went out into the hall and as I held Julie, she crumbled in my arms. It was terrifying. All this from a bicycle?? I went outside and called my pastor to give him an update and as we were talking, I saw my dad and step-mom walking toward me. I had told them we were ok and they didn’t need to come, but they knew better. Strong move, dad.
I lost it.
I hung-up on my pastor and went to them. I could barely stand and started crying. No, not crying. It was that thing where you’re drooling and snotting and kind of cough-wailing. ”What if…something happens to her? I can’t handle that,” I cried. They comforted me and assured me everything would be ok.
And it would be.
Anna was transferred to UW-Children’s Hospital and the minute we walked in we felt a sense of calm. The doctors stabilized her in the ER first and then we were moved to a recovery room for her to rest. It was a long night of listening to and watching her breathe.
At one point, the doctor talked to us about the resilience of children. She assured us that Anna would be back to normal in a couple weeks. I looked at Anna’s face and wasn’t so sure. I want to post a picture here that I took in the ER, but I’m not going to. Suffice it to say, my beautiful Anna had cuts and bruises that I thought would stay forever. Would her self-esteem take a hit? Would she be stared at? I was thinking these thoughts as I drove home to change out of my bloody shirt when Bruno Mars’s song came on. I started crying as I listened to the first couple of verses. (Up until 1:28, it’s not creepy. Then it gets weird. Just listen to the first 1:28 and think about me singing this to my daughter.)
Before we brought Anna home, we warned the other kids that she looked different, but she’d heal. ”Let’s not stare at her, ok?” I said. When she got home, Sam and Claire gave her big hugs and treated her normally. ”I didn’t stare at all, dad!” Sam told me, proudly. At one point Anna looked at herself in a mirror and it broke my heart. What she saw scared her. And made her sad. All I could do was tell her she’d heal; just be patient.
Just as the doctor had said, Anna did heal. Completely. In less than two weeks. It was utterly amazing.
Like I said, I love my kids. If you have kids, I bet you love them, too. And while I don’t think it takes experiences like this to know how much you really love them, it certainly proves it.
So, if you have them, hug your kids today. They’re probably going to make you cards or breakfast in bed and they’ll say all kinds of nice things about you today. But, honestly, we know it’s really all about them, right? Tell them you love them. Tell them how proud you are of them.
Tell them how much you love being their daddy.
Sam, Anna and Claire…
I love being your daddy.