Last night was our first night in our new home. We've been slowly moving in all week, but with Judah away for a two-night school trip, we decided to wait till Friday for the official ceremony.
The first night felt like camping; the first full day felt like the very opposite of camping. It felt like work. Hard work. And a whole lot of selfishness.
Just before Judah left for Malo Camp, we sat them down with ice cream and thanked them for their flexibility and easy attitudes because, truly, they have been pretty great. They've moved from room to room and house to house all summer long, they've shared a king bed since school started, have had to brave new schools, and are now moving away from Grammy and Pappa's house and all that they know. Life has been a shaken rug for them, and they've endured it and embraced it with smiles and obedience, even though, at times, tears run from their eyes.
But this morning, I didn't care about any of that. All I cared about was getting work done and working hard, with a good attitude of course. Judah had other plans, and from the beginning, he and I butted heads. By 2pm, I had had enough.
Ever since this house became an option for us, I've looked forward to the day we would move in. I envisioned us sleeping on the floor together, watching a movie and making a memory, and I fantasized about the good time we would share making this place our home.
I envisioned a blog post about family and beauty of creating something together. When it became abundantly clear that it wasn't going to happen, I found my spirits flailing, my temper shortening, and Judah sitting next to me while I drove to Home Depot, listening to me yell about respect, role of family, and the characteristics of men. When he started to cry, I made things worse. "Stop crying," I yelled, "You are a ten year old boy, you don't need to cry about consequences that you rightly deserve" (I don't write these words proudly, just honestly).
He choked back his tears and tightened his jaw as I pulled into my parking spot. "Stay here," I said, "And when I come back, I want to hear an explanation for your actions." I closed the door then poked my head through the window, "And I don't want to hear, 'I don't know.'"
What I really wanted to do was spank his little butt until this attitude left or cowed into submission, but I knew that was wrong and probably wouldn't help. An afternoon of hard work, however, could accomplish much the same, so I bought him a pair of gloves and a long scraper, and by the time I got back into the van, I was a bit calmer and Judah had an answer: he was tired from Malo Camp.
"So Malo Camp is to blame for your attitude today?" I asked.
"No," he said, "I'm just more frustrated than normal, because I'm tired." He looked me in the eye, "Don't you act different when you're tired?" and my heart sunk.
Since school started, we've been non-stop, working late evenings, living in two homes, wrestling with new schedules, bills, and emotions of moving, new schools, and life. We are exhausted, and I have been more than just a little impatient and "different."
"Yes," I said, feeling like a bucket of ice water had just been dumped on my head, "I do." Then it was my turn to apologize.
Some of the best memories I have growing up are from the times when I got into deep and serious trouble. Some of my worst memories are from those times as well, but looking back now, as a father, I can give a bit more grace to my dad for not always acting and doing the right and perfect thing (hopefully, someday, Judah will too). However, the times where my dad did take the time to be with me and not merely punish were the best. I remember splitting wood, working in the garage, and going fishing with my dad as all part of my punishment, and I could not be more grateful for those times because not only did they teach me how to work hard and endure, but they also taught me that my dad loves me, that he likes me, and that he truly and sincerely does care and want what's best for me.
So I put Judah to work scraping the back room of our new home. Beneath a sort of padded flooring is tile, and for almost five hours, Judah scraped and pulled and cleaned the floor while the rest of us worked on the house. Whenever he asked me for help because a particular section was too hard I told him he had to find a way, "This is your job. It has to be done." And for most all of it, he found a way. Until the end. Which was what I was waiting for. Because it's what my dad taught me. So, for the last bit, we worked together. Me scraping up places where the previous contractor thought it best to lay way too much glue, and Judah clearing away and pulling up pieces of flooring. When it was over, we high-fived and took a break, together.
When Judah's aunt came into the room and congratulated him for all his work, he smiled his bashful smile and said, "Dad helped me too," and my heart was restored. The lessons from my father had passed to my son.
It's a pretty easy habit to get into, pushing everything and everyone away whenever things get hard. Because that seems to simplify things and makes them controllable. Which us why I found myself today, more than once, wanting to push Judah away and not be around him, because I was so friggen frustrated with his attitude and selfish demeanor that I just couldn't handle it!
When I did this at first, our relationship and his attitude didn't improve, it only got worse.
My dad understood this when I was a child so he hung out with me, worked with me, and fished with me. He wasn't this way all the time, but he was this way enough of the time, and that was enough, and it's still enough. Those moments, more than any others, have lasted time, distance, and hardship. Not the great and perfect days, but the imperfect ones, the ones where Dad shrugged of the weight of disappointment and frustration in me and simply loved his son anyway.
Today, for Judah, I hope my scraping away a dirty floor was enough, even though it doesn't feel like it.
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