Pomp, Circumstance, and Father’s Day

Father’s Day – June 19, 2016.

Yesterday, we had Rachel’s graduation reception at the house. Leading up to it, there were a slew of projects: Landscape maintenance (including spreading 5 cubic yards of mulch), scrubbing the algae off the siding of the north side of our house, power-washing the drive, front and back porches, etc. And of course, cleaning/dusting/vacuuming the inside.

Then there was the party planning, food prep, and decorating. Because our party was late in the graduation-reception season, we got ideas (and leftover décor items) from MANY other parties (thanks, friends!!) We had a TON of help from friends and family, and turned our home into an 18-year retrospective of Rachel’s life including “The Shrine”, a display table in our front room featuring all her high school accomplishments.

So from 6:00pm-10:00pm last night, we had probably 150 people through our home, most of whom had dinner and many who stayed a good long while. We got a chance to see many of the people who have been our friends, sounding boards, shoulders-to-cry-on, advisors, and cheering squad for our family. But at best, the longest conversation we had with any of them might have been 2 minutes, since we were running around greeting people and re-stocking dinner supplies.

Marley (our 10-month old standard Poodle puppy) made a ton of new friends, and Sophie (our 11-year old Bichon) worked the floor hoping for dropped food, retiring to her crate occasionally when it got too busy.

Sarah, who had worked a shift at her job all afternoon, was really tired, but still managed to mend a button on one of Rachel’s dresses, and wore it for the first part of the party. She looked great, and visited with people while occasionally policing the trampoline (which served as makeshift child-care for a dozen or so small kids who had come.) Later, she changed clothes, hung out and talked, but then disappeared for a while. When I went to check on her around 9:30, she was out like a light, draped half-over her bed looking more passed out than asleep. I woke her to come downstairs because people had been asking about her.

She did that, and hung around for a while. Later, Rachel would tell us that Sarah came to her and said “I wore your dress and people liked it. They said it looked great. I talked to people. Is it okay if I go back to bed now?” So Sarah was done with the evening by 10:00pm or so. It was sweet of her to ask Rachel if it was OK, since it was really her day.

Things cleared out around 10:30, and then a few folks and a lot of Rachel’s friends stuck around and chatted. While there were still guys around, we packed away the borrowed tables and chairs into Jen’s van and my car, and cleaned up a little bit. The kids stayed inside, and Jennifer and I went outside to the decorated back yard under the lights, and finally sat down. We talked about who had come, who we hadn’t gotten nearly enough time to catch up with, and reminisced about the event for a while. This is easily the biggest thing we’ve ever hosted, and it was great, but we were physically exhausted. Then we stayed up a bit longer while Rachel went through her cards. I actually couldn’t make it through that, since it was like 12:30am by that point and my back was killing me from the cumulative effects of yardwork, housework, and hosting – it’s a long day for an introvert.

If you could distill our parenting ideas into a single phrase, it would be this little gem we picked up somewhere along the way: The goal of parenting is not to create happy children – it’s to create healthy adults.

I just couldn’t be prouder of both Sarah and Rachel; they’re great people and I am excited to see how their lives develop. But this day was about Rachel, and it is so very gratifying to celebrate her life and graduation, to see all of her accomplishments, to watch her interact with her friends and the dozens and dozens of adults who came, and prepare to head off to IU this fall to start the next chapter of her life.

As we sat and talked under the lights in the back yard, it came up that tomorrow (Sunday) was Father’s day. Jennifer apologized pre-emptively; with all the prep and flurry of activity getting ready for the party, she didn’t have any gifts or cards for that yet.

18 years ago, I wasn’t a father, and could have never imagined the path our lives have taken – working in I.T., having 2 daughters, moving to Fishers, making a radical career change, traveling the world as a musician and missionary, and seeing how God provided for us as we lived this crazy bipolar life of suburban ‘normality’ and ministry’s unpredictability and adventure. The grey in my beard, I told a friend earlier in the evening, is all from ministry, not from parenting.

And now? Now, we’ve just exhausted ourselves celebrating the life of an amazing young adult who is both happy AND healthy, and who I’m massively proud of, maybe even envious of.

I am extremely grateful to God, friends, and family this morning – Father’s Day, 2016. Why would I need Jennifer and the girls (or anyone) to have a gift or card? There is no backyard barbecue, no restaurant dinner, no gaudy new tie or sweater vest (neither of which I’d wear anyway), and no sappy greeting card that could possibly be any better than the very happy day of being a Father that happened yesterday.

I’m sure we’ll do something later today, but really – what else is there?