This won’t come as a surprise to my kids, but now they have it in writing. In fact, next time it comes up, maybe I’ll just send a link and a wink.
Oakli, Jadi, Kason and Koleson, I love you.
I love you more than you know, maybe more than you’ll ever know. Each of you is talented, kind, funny and imperfect. All four of you are works-in-progress, just like your flawed folks. And you bring me and your mother more happiness than we can articulate.
But never forget: Mom comes first.
Here’s the thing, kiddos. You’re players on the team, and I need you in the game. But your mother isn’t just some assistant coach calling the dishwashing, cooking and make-your-bed-or-else plays.
She’s our co-head coach, a full partner. Without her, this team would have a laughable, losing record.
Remember, my time on the field with you is more or less 18 years. Sure, we could go overtime for college summers and any short-term boomerangs back home while you chase employment. But in time, you’ll each find someone to pair up with and start a team of your own.
You’re kids. We get it. Sometimes you’re tempted to pit one parent against the other. I did it, too. We approach one coach for this and the other coach for that.
If you fear one will say “no,” you ask the other instead. Sometimes, you even ignore the first coach’s answer and cozy up to the second one for another shot.
Yep. I did that, too. And just like every other parent, we don’t like it.
Here we go.
Once, as a teenager, on a muggy summer afternoon, your grandmother said “no” to what seemed like a perfectly reasonable request from her knucklehead son. With no one else in sight, I responded in a way I’ll always regret.
I was wrong. No excuses. No exceptions. No justifications.
And no, we weren’t alone.
My dad was right around the corner and it took just a few seconds for me to recognize that I hadn’t just stepped over a line, I’d smashed it with a sledgehammer.
Your Grandpa Wright led me down the hall to the couch in the living room and hung his giant right arm around me. I remember well the smell of lawn clippings and hard work. He was a big man and when he pulled you in close, you were his.
I’ll never forget the concern.
I’ll never forget the love.
I’ll never forget that he cut the discussion short.
Even more importantly, I’ll never forget the scene that came next.
When I hoped the dust had settled, I went looking for my mother. I found her sitting on a log that bordered our garden at the far edge of our side yard. Her back was to the house and even from a distance, I could tell she was crying.
But she wasn’t alone.
Dad sat at her right. He had his big arm around her. She was his.
The image is unshakable three decades later. They were a team.
While I knew my dad loved me, I knew that my mother came first. They are bound in this life and the next. He loved me and my siblings, but I wasn’t his best friend. He absolutely cherished our time together, but his wife was his top priority.
Mom came first.
Kids, it’s taken me time to understand this, but you aren’t really ours. You’re just in our care for a short time. You belong to a loving God who is your first Creator, your spiritual Father, and His perfect love for you is even tougher to describe than ours.
He’s a partner in our marriage. He and His son, the only Begotten One, are the reason our marriage is more than a legal contract between two consenting adults. It’s an eternal bond only possible by Them and through Them.
While I have faith our relationships with you will also endure beyond this life and into the next, it is your mom who is my best friend, my eternal companion, my co-head coach and the one with whom I am equally yoked.
Kids, I love you. But don’t ever forget that no matter the day, the debate, the game or how much time is on the clock, Mom comes first.
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