Wyatt’s birthday is next week and I can’t help but think of the day he was born. As I mentioned in an earlier post, each time we had a child I became more emotional in the delivery room because I knew what that little person would do to my heart and soul. I knew these little people would teach me to love and grow in ways I didn't have a mind to know.

My young daughter took this photo of me holding baby Wyatt at the hospital. I remember this moment so vividly. Little Mitch in his moon boots, brown corduroys and green sweater with a moose on it galloped toward me, excited to see his baby brother. Mitch would tell me moments later, "Dad, dis is my baby bwuv-o." Ethan, wearing a handmade winter hat and his favorite school clothes sat next to me and extended his finger to touch little Wyatt’s. Wyatt was so tiny. Laura-Ashley, with her pigtails and hot chocolate-stained Christmas shirt, carried with her a look of confidence and excitement … for she wanted to show her little brothers how to usher our baby home. 

A fresh blanket of snow covered everything as if to remind me of the purity of children and the goodness that is in them. I remember being surrounded by these little people, my little people, and how my heart was overflowing with gratitude. Though Christmas was just around the corner, I wasn't concerned about what sat under the tree. For I had all the gifts I ever wanted gathered round me. 

Sixteen years ago there were 4 less people on the earth and I was quite content without them. That was until these 4 tiny people came into my life and now, I can't imagine a life without them. That is the miracle of life and family. Somehow, some way, these little children grew roots in my heart and forever change me from the inside. 

Before I knew it I discovered I was no longer an individual but woven into each other’s lives. My happiness was inextricably connected with their well-being. My family turned ME into WE. I have discovered that is the only way to be.

So, as I held baby Wyatt, surrounded by my other children, I vowed this day and a million times since to be the best father I knew how. Yet, with all my desire to be the caped hero or a knight in glistening armor … I was in truth a peasant in tattered clothing. Though my vision of the parent I wanted to be was grand … epic even, I fell short of my heart’s desire. I've lost my patience, I've hurt my kid’s feelings and sometimes, perhaps too often, I wasn't the best example. But I have always loved them. They have never gone a day that they haven’t heard me tell them how much I love them. In every way I knew how, I tried to show it to them, too. More importantly, I tried to show it to them in ways most meaningful to them – to show my love in their love language. Even still, I fall woefully short. But I keep trying because I keep loving them. I will never stop loving them.

I realize I write of Mitch a lot but I love my other children just as much. 

The difference is Mitch is gone. And that hurts. It hurts a lot. 

As John Green recently wrote, “It hurts because it mattered.”