First Draft Father: Finding Rest

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Today’s First Draft Father post is a guest post by blogger, writer, and stay at home dad Sonny Lemmons. He shares a story that I can relate to far more often than I’d like to admit.

After three-plus years of being a full-time stay-at-home dad, I think I’ve learned a little bit about parenting. Factor in the writing (both paid and out of love) that I do on the side, the speaking I do at churches in the area, the day-to-day responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and – oh, yeah – not completely ignoring my wife, and I’d say I’ve also learned a little bit about time management.

And I’ve learned a lot about sleep deprivation.

One of the many things Ed and I, as two of the finest SAHDs in the world, have commiserated on surrounds naps. Although we are on opposite ends of the nap spectrum since Ethan is still in multiple-hours-per-day snore mode and Kai is slowly transitioning out of the need of actually taking one, we both appreciate them. Deeply. They serve as a chance for quiet wherein which we can write.

They’re an opportunity for us to do something for ourselves with no tagalong vying for our attention – for example, like going to the bathroom alone. And if nothing else, they let us be able to have a moment to catch our breath.

When my son decides to fight this blissful opportunity for rest, I get frustrated, even annoyed at times. I, as the learned and wise adult, understand the necessity that sleep is to a growing body. Cognitively, I get his "logic:" he thinks I’m going to do something amazingly cool (like marinating chicken breasts) that he will miss out on if he sleeps, or he is convinced we have to have one more Hot Wheels race in his room.

But emotionally, it’s another story completely. I feel my blood pressure rising as he struggles to sit still while I read to him. I feel (more) wrinkles and stress lines forming on my face when he wakes up after only sleeping for 45 minutes and then proceeds to cry due to exhaustion for the next twenty minutes. While I want him, for his sake, to get the rest he requires, I have also come to hold this oasis in the day as something beautiful. Something sacred.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but at times, it’s as much about me wanting him to take a break as it is me needing to take a break from him. There have been several occurrences when I’ve had to stop and check myself and my attitude. Am I getting annoyed because he’s not getting his rest, or because I’m not getting mine? Do see his nap as something important for him, or for me?

Am I holding up this time as something holy for him, or as something I idolize?

And yeah – when God hits me with that insight, my heart can’t help but stop and catch itself. Time and again.

Sometimes all it does take is one more car race around the room, one more battle between the forces of good (knights) and evil (dinosaurs), or just a few minutes of "journaling" via crayon for Kai to be still, get in a place where his body catches up with his emotions, and suddenly he’s in the right mindset to be able to nap. And I’m right there next to him – with car, Ankylosaurus, or crayon in hand – quieting my own mind and soul in order to be able to appreciate the waking time we have together.

If nothing else, I need to remember that just like God has His own timing in mind for things in my life (see also: literary agent, lack thereof; publisher interest, lack thereof), the time for when Kai’s nap is to happen will come. It might not be when I want it, but instead it will be when he needs it. I need to not try and rush it out of my own wants and desires.

Besides, sometimes having company in the bathroom is nice.

About Today’s Guest Blogger

Sonny Lemmons is a husband. Stay at home dad. Imperfect follower of a perfect God.

In what I laughably call my "spare time," I write: I have worked for both Thomas-Nelson and LifeWay Publishing, I have been a contributing author to the anthology series The Myth of Mr. Mom (Portmanteau Press, 2011), Not Afraid: Stories of Finding Significance (Civitas Press, forthcoming) and Finding Church (Civitas Press, forthcoming), and I have also written for Provoketive.com, ProdigalMagazine.com, and ChurchLeaders.com.
I worked in Student Affairs (mainly Residence Life/Housing) from 1994-2009 before I chunked it to be a stay at home parent.

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3 thoughts on “First Draft Father: Finding Rest

  1. Nancy

    I think the acronym (gender neutral) should be (as you describe yourself in the little blurb at the bottom) SAHP. or said “sap” Doesn’t that just sound better and more, well, to the point? Love the post. But I also think it is okay sometimes to have quiet time because YOU need it. Your needs are definitely okay and worthy too. Until they hit adolescence that is!

  2. Herm

    Sonny, two thoughts came to mind as I read of your blessed struggles.

    First; when looking in a church for someone to lead out and get something done, that just has to be done right away, we always find the greatest success by asking the busiest and most active church member.

    Second; when at 33 years of age I found myself dying with hardening of the arteries and mononucleosis God took me from the Presbyterian ritual into the Seventh Day Adventist ritual. After ten years of the SDA relationship I was much healthier because of learning disciplined rest and diet. I was producing in every area by the time I was 40, so much so that my pride of excellence told God, “I got it now you can use me anywhere.” All that I thought I had was gone by 51 and I had to start over. I did, although, manage to continue throughout to be an adequate father for my children so that they became even healthier and productive parents themselves. I still know, preach and practice the value of rest and diet even though God has taken me through the desert into all new sharing relationships.

    Do all that you can do to balance your (and yours) life (and lives) in all that you have this once in a lifetime opportunity to do.

    Take a day each week to do all that you must in direct relationship with our Father in Heaven and one day, as I blessedly have today, there will be plenty of time for reflection without feeling that you are stealing time from those who need you right this moment.

  3. Peter Zelinski

    The stay-at-home parent in my household is the mom (my wife). When I wrote my book about the Ten Commandments, I had to confront the fact that this season of her life simply does not permit her having a Sabbath day formally set apart from the rest of the week. Even if I tried to keep the kids away from her within our small house on this one day, the kids wouldn’t understand this. In a sense, though, every day of her life during this brief period of our kids’ childhood has the character of a Sabbath. Not in the sense that the time is luxuriantly restful (not at all!), but in the sense that God is speaking into these days.

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