Our second child was shy in the womb. Miranda and I remained clueless about her gender after the two ultrasounds for which Health Canada paid. She was clearly determined to make her parents shell out for another ultrasound. What she doesn’t know is that we paid for it by dipping into her college fund. Shh.
I suppose we could have done something weird, irresponsible, and crazy like, you know, waiting until she was born. It puzzles me to no end when rational, intelligent people tell me that they want to be surprised by the gender of the child. My natural, unfiltered reaction is as follows:
“Surprise? You don’t have enough surprises in life? Do you really need to inject an additional element of uncertainty into the chaos that is already your life? Are you honestly telling me that if you were given a free opportunity to essentially eliminate an unknown variable from your future decision-making processes, you would refuse it? Are you mad?”
Thankfully, reason usually asserts itself before these words escape my mouth and I have to replace them with a foot.
I don’t exactly dislike surprises. It’s just that in my book, the stability of preparedness trumps the thrill of surprises most of the time, especially when a screaming, writhing, meconium-pooping newborn is a part of the equation.
So, Miranda and I Googled “cheap ultrasound” and found a private 3D ultrasound clinic in Nowhereville that offered a “Tuesday Special Gender Determination Package.” I swear I’m not making this up. As shady as it sounded, we decided that we couldn’t afford anything else and took the plunge. For our naïveté, we were treated to 30 minutes of viewing our unborn child in real time, in all her 3D glory, accompanied by new age music and the strangely soothing but disturbingly appropriate sounds of humpback whales calling to one another during mating season. Here is photographic evidence of the event:
I know what you’re thinking and I would tend to agree: it looks like Salvador Dalí collaborated with Picasso and Escher during a Play-Doh phase in their respective careers. But what mattered most was that the gender of the child was undoubtedly, definitively, three-dimensionally determined, Tuesday Special style.
We were having another baby girl.
As we drove away from the ultrasound clinic, Miranda and I began to discuss how we felt about this significant piece of news. She was happy, she said, and slightly relieved, since the prospect of raising boys scared her a little. Me? I wasn’t sure how I felt at the time.
I called my mom that evening and told her the news. Her reaction? “Congratulations! Girls are great. But I guess this means you’ll have to have another one.” I don’t know what was weirder: my mom’s bizarre comment or the fact that it did not elicit from me an outraged tirade. Normally, I would have real difficulty mutely accepting something like that without putting up a fight. So, my sedate reaction caused me to wonder inwardly, “Have I been secretly harboring a deep yearning for a boy all the while telling everyone that I didn’t really care about the gender of my child? Do I discreetly yearn for a male progeny to carry on the name? Even if it happens to be one of the least remarkable surnames in the world? Then again, what exactly have I accomplished so far that is of such significance that I would feel robbed if my accomplishments weren’t perpetually memorialized through an everlasting succession of male heirs? Who do I think I am, the Pope?”
The question of names and legacies is one with which all fathers wrestle at some point in their fatherhood. Having kids, for some, can become a means of seeking immortality and perpetual significance. And once the first child is born, almost every father also experiences that sinking feeling when he realizes that he has accomplished nothing in his life that is worth memorializing. The painful truth is that trying to achieve significance through fatherhood is an exhausting and unsustainable endeavor. You’ll lose everything you like (e.g., sleep, free time, hair) while gaining all kinds of things you didn’t even know you don’t like (e.g., spit-up stains on your favorite shirt, poopy diapers in your car, love handles).
I admit it, a part of me wants to be Father of the Year. But I also know how much therapy my family and I will require if I succumb to the demands of this unhealthy ambition.
On the other hand, Jesus tells the church in the ancient city of Philadelphia (Asia Minor, not Pennsylvania) that He will “write on” them the very name of God and His own name if they persevere in trusting Him (Rev 3:12-13). This means that a person who trusts in Jesus will forever be identified with and recognized by the accomplishments, prestige, and legacy of the greatest person who has ever lived. For me, this means that there is no need to stress out about immortalizing my puny accomplishments, through my progeny or otherwise. The fact that God gives me the ridiculous gift of intimately sharing in the most celebrated, glorified, and honored name in the universe — His Son’s — means that I am released from the efforts of attempting to embalm my accomplishments in the mausoleum of my children, as morbid as that sounds.
My primary occupation as a father, then, is to rest and revel in the incomparable, inexhaustible, and irrevocable honor of sharing in Christ’s resurrected glory. Apart from this source of grace, I will consistently lack the ability to rejoice in the precious privilege of raising two beautiful girls who remind me daily how desperately I need Jesus to make me the kind of father I am called to be. It is only when Christ becomes my ultimate legacy that I will be able to love my children without expecting anything in return.
I have two daughters whom I love more than I thought possible. And that is why they are not and will never be expected to be my legacy.
The mission of Intersection is to help our readers to see how the gospel of Jesus intersects & transforms all of life in a very real way. Our goal is to destroy the false & harmful dichotomy between 'the sacred' & 'the secular' by presenting a wide range of perspectives that focus on different aspects of life in the city. These stories, reflections, observations, & opinions all have one thing in common—the shared conviction that every arena of life can be holy & beautiful when it is lived out in full awareness of the gospel & in full submission to the leadership of Jesus. Although the Intersection team loves, values, & supports all of its contributors, the views expressed in their posts are ultimately their own & may not necessarily reflect the beliefs & values of New City Church.