New Challenges

Time flies when you’re having fun… or raising kids.

I recall looking down at a crying pink mass of baby as a brand new dad, unable to fully grasp all the changes about to take place, wondering how much I didn’t know, unsure of how I would become the father my daughter deserved.

It's a natural reflex... but it still hits right in the feels.
It’s a natural reflex… but it still hits right in the feels.

Then, in a hesitant and uncertain effort to help keep Deborah still while the nurses cleaned her up, I gingerly took hold of her hand. And she wrapped her tiny finger nubs around one of mine and held tight. And her cries started to quiet down.

That was over thirteen years ago. “Almost fourteen,” Deb would say.

She soon became a big sister to our first son, Jonathan. When we discussed baby names for boys, I thought of David and Jonathan in the Bible – the friendship and closeness they shared. While I know that a parent is not always able to be their child’s friend instead of disciplinarian, I still focused on the hope that my son and I will enjoy a healthy relationship as he grows into maturity.

A few years after Jonathan, Justin was born, his name meaning “Righteous” and “Justice.” And two years ago, we welcomed Judah into our family, whose name means “Praise.”

Life easily becomes a blur of day-by-day responsibilities. Exhaustion sets in, and by the end of a busy day, it’s too easy to get caught up getting the kids to bed and catching a breather before going to sleep to face the next day. Individual days often go by slowly, working at the office or in the home, taking care of dinner and the children’s needs, trying to carve out family time, finishing all the chores and responsibilities, and ushering kids to bed.

But the years flash by when we’re not paying attention.

About a week ago, Deborah was playing Rock Band 3 and some of the various Guitar Hero games. And I discovered she had switched over to Hard difficulty. The jump from Medium to Hard is significant as it incorporates more buttons to press, more notes to hit, and all at a faster pace. Yet she was performing songs smoothly, something of which she never used to be capable.

We played some songs together, challenging each other to see who could get the best performance. She kept up and beat me several times. Then we switched to Street Fighter, and once again I was surprised to find that she put up a fight. In fact, unless I was playing one of the two characters I’m best with, I was really working hard to win.

The bear is one of my favorites if I'm just messing around... because, come on. A BEAR.
The bear is one of my favorites if I’m just messing around… because, come on. A BEAR.

If you’re not familiar with the old-school Street Fighter games at the arcade, whenever a second player puts in a quarter and starts a game against the current player, a message pops up with a shout saying, “Here comes a new challenger!”

That’s what I was hearing in my head as Deborah defeated me a few times.

I can’t wait to get out of my cast and take her on in basketball, which has rapidly become her other favorite game.

Jonathan is no slouch, either. But his strengths are more mechanical. He loves building things, whether with Legos or with various electronics he takes apart (with supervision). Yes, he loves destruction too. He regularly surprises us with new constructs, and briefs us on the multiple special features and components he builds in to each one.

His favorite video game is Plants Vs. Zombies, but he still has that problem-solving mechanical eye when he watches me play. I was working my way through the new Tomb Raider, and at several points where I would be stuck considering how exactly to solve a puzzle, he walked in, looked it over, and pointed out the solution as if it was the most natural and obvious answer. Humbling, for sure.

Justin’s biggest strength seems to be living up to his name, as the family “Fairness Police.” Maybe it’s middle-child-syndrome rearing its ugly head, but Justin definitely protests any imbalance in chores or in rewards. He balances that with giving the most hugs ever (like constantly), so I guess it all works out.

Even Justin has some mad skills with his favorite games. We recently loaded Sonic Dash onto the iPad, and Justin started playing it with glee. It took me several days to get to the point where I could even match his high score, and honestly, that’s probably because I used the coins you earn in-game to upgrade scoring abilities. Justin hasn’t played in a bit; I’m afraid to see what he’ll do with the new powers in game.

Judah is still pretty young, so I’m not sure what skills he’s going to demonstrate. He sure loves to dance and sing to music – fitting based on his name and based on his parents’ musical abilities. He absolutely loves to sit at the piano with me and play (read: pound) notes… but that’s probably true of any two-year-old.

I don’t yet know what to expect from him. However bittersweet it may be, I know that the years will go by in a flash, and in no time, he’ll be showing us where his strengths lie. I want to say I can’t wait to see it, but “almost fourteen” years have flown by already.

I can wait and take it slow, one challenge at a time.

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