My very first job was working for Dr. Harry Davis D.D.S. Dr. Davis seemed old to me in 1986 and just grew more ancient until his passing last year. He was tall and lanky with a shiny bald head that he would rub with his eyes closed while talking to patients. He still smoked in his office in 1986 and when AIDS came onto the scene he was a bit circumspect about wearing plastic shields over his face. He was an old school, small town dentist who believed in giving back to his community and helping young, stupid teenage girls gain a little work experience. I loved Dr. Davis. He was kind and gentle and incredibly patient with me as I fumbled around his office.
I’ve worked everyday since my time with Dr. Davis. I have slowly and methodically built a career. A career that has challenged me and afforded me the benefit of travel and a variety of new experiences. When I switched from advertising to teaching – in order for me to spend more time with my kids – it seemed natural and a simple redirection of my energy and ambition. I pursued my career as a project manager and strategist with enthusiasm and passion. Teaching has been no different. I’m not the kind of teacher who uses the same textbook or syllabus or even in class exercises for more than a couple of semesters. I’m always striving to make my classes better – always trying to serve my students better.
Since 2006 I have applied for a full-time teaching position almost every school year. I have been rejected every year — not even granted an interview. In 2013, after applying and being rejected AGAIN I made some fundamental decisions about my career. First, I was not going to get my PhD in order to improve my chances at a full time appointment. Secondly, I obviously did not have a long term career path in college education. I began to look at the job, for the first time in my life, as a job. I was beaten down. I felt defeated.
I started homeschooling the kids this past fall and it seemed that perhaps this was God’s grand plan. I was meant to teach my kids and be home. I was destined to let go of my career ambitions and focus on my children. I felt a new passion for teaching and was loving the ability to teach other subjects to my most favorite people. Frankly, since I didn’t really have an option of doing anything differently it seemed like a good thing.
In June I received an email – I was being asked to come in and interview for a full time teaching position.
Really? After 8 years? After I already decided I didn’t want the job? Seriously? God, do you REALLY think that is funny? Cuz it totally is not funny. Not laughing. Not even a little.
I interviewed for the job and it went as well as I could expect and sure enough I received a job offer.
And so there I sat having to choose – do I continue homeschooling my kids and sacrificing my career or do I send them back to public school and pursue my ambitions full steam? Because contrary to what Sheryl Sandberg or Kim Kardashian tell us most women really CAN’T have it all.
I didn’t respond to the job offer. I went on vacation instead. I spent a lot of that time reflecting on my own happiness, my desires and goals for my children, my role as wife and mother, and asking myself about the example I want to set for my girls. As my friend Christine said to me, “this is a decision regarding authenticity. Where is your heart?” Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?
I wish I could say that this decision was clear cut and easy for me to make, but it wasn’t. I cried. I prayed. I asked advice. I consulted all the important people in my life and it all came back to the same thing – “what is in your heart”. There is only one thing in my heart — well three things really, and they think their Mom is pretty cool without a full time job.
Robert Frost has always been misquoted. It is not that the path he took in the wood was unexplored – as a matter of fact he says they were both about the same (stanza 2). It is the fact that he chose one road, knowing he would not be able to go back and take the other (stanza 3), and that choice put him on a different life journey. And so I’ve chosen my path and it will make all the difference.
This past week we traveled two hours east to Winnsboro, Texas. It is a speck of town that has traveled so far past its prime that it can no longer remember if it ever had a heyday. The center of town consists of a Brookshire’s grocery store where the clerk, Brittany, appears to be straight out of a John Mellencamp song. Across the street sits the Dairy Queen, which also happens to be the only Wi-Fi hot spot in the town. We spent our week tucked securely into David’s family’s lake house, which sits on Winnsboro Lake, a lake so small that you can see all sides of it almost from the same standing point. However, this also means we are frequently the only people on the lake and the lake house, well, it doesn’t have Internet, telephone or cable. As a matter of fact there isn’t even a TV in the lake house.
These past seven days have been filled with late mornings lying in bed listening to the window unit cool the bedroom. We have spent afternoons watching spring showers glide over the lake ruffling the water like sprinkles on a cake. The kids have played countless games of Apples to Apples, Sorry, and checkers. We’ve water skied, and jet skied and been pulled on water tubes. We made bonfires, ate s’mores and stayed up way past our bedtimes. We got sunburned and have bug bites and have watched caterpillars cross the sidewalk. We celebrated Grandma’s 94th birthday and went to the farmer’s market where we bought zucchini the size of small footballs for a $1 a piece. Max honed his fishing skills while riding on Uncle Bo’s small blue fishing boat. Uncle Bo being the kind of man who talks slow and can spin a tale as long as the fish he catches.
We have spent the week cocooned in a world that would rival Thoreau’s Walden Woods.
David and I are facing a cross roads in our path. A point in life where you recognize that either decision will lead you to a different destination and you are forced to stop and ask yourself, “where am I going”? We have stopped in the woods.
After a week of reflection I think we know which direction we are going to take and as it is with most large decisions in life it takes no small amount of blind faith. Faith that God will catch you – faith that your life will unfold as it should.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Thoreau
Every mother has a story. Whether that is adoption or natural birth or c-section, every mother has a story of the day their life changed forever. Frequently these stories include detailed accounts of labor or difficult pregnancies or painful infertility.
The stories we don’t hear are the ones about the day men become fathers. As I get older and reflect on my thirties I regret the fact that perhaps David’s story was left behind. That perhaps in my own confusion about what it meant to be a mother and in the fog of early parenthood I never gave much thought to the journey David traveled. Perhaps he has been far more alone in that journey then I have given him credit.
David supported me quietly and steadily through two years of infertility. As I swung between the tree limbs of hope and despair he stayed sturdy on the ground. I would plummet into tears and he would lift my spirits by telling me that he would take me on fancy European vacations if we ended up childless. If his heart ached or if he was also disappointed he never gave voice to it.
After Lucy was born I struggled with breast feeding and as I sat on the edge of our bed crumpled into a pile of tears and failure it was David who gently lifted me up and put me back on my feet. It was David who told me that I was a fantastic mother before I even knew what being a mother meant.
Max was born right on the heels of Lucy and I suddenly found myself being a full time working mother and all of the demands that the role includes. When I came to David tired, stressed and unsure of my path it was David who gave me the space to figure out my own career choices and supported every decision I made.
When I miscarried and thought the world had come to an end it was David who dried my tears and told me to be patient — that time heals all wounds – and then gave me that time to heal.
And when we got unexpectedly pregnant with the third. When his job was pressing him to the brink of insanity. When the idea of bringing home a baby into a house with no space must have been weighing on him he went and bought us a new house.
After Harper was born and I found myself in a new house, with a third baby, and my son facing a tonsillectomy and the clouds of postpartum depression rolling in it was David who gently told me to not worry about the kids but take care of myself. He was the one who said, “do whatever you need to do – sleep if that feels good – talk if it feels good”.
During all of this chaos David has traveled his own journey into parenthood. How did he know what fatherhood would be like? feel like? Did he know what kind of father he would be? Perhaps he didn’t know. Perhaps he still doesn’t know. However, I know.
He is an amazing father who shows unfailing, unconditional love every day. He is a father who easily shares a joke and extends forgiveness. He believes in high adventures and lazy Saturdays. He is the kind of dad who will teach you to bait a hook and how to take the best selfie all in the same day. He is a father who believes that a healthy and happy mother makes for healthy and happy children. He is a father who loves his children. But above all else he is the best and only father I could ever imagine for my children.
Happy Father’s Day David.