The Greatest of Gifts
By Brad McEwen
A young colleague asked me an interesting question the other day—a question only a young lady who hasn’t experienced the incredible joys of parenthood could possibly ask.
Her question: "So, do you love Rhodes the most?"
Meaning, "do you love newest addition to the McEwen clan, Rhodes Singleton McEwen—who was welcomed just a few, sleep-deprived weeks ago to two excited (if not a little freaked out) parents—more than you love his siblings Milla and Bear?"
While I quickly responded with an emphatic "No,"and a little feigned shock, the truth of the matter is, the inquiry did steer my thoughts back to a few topics I’ve been mulling a lot lately—certainly since July 14 when all 7lbs and 3 ounces of my beautiful new son came screaming into my life.
Pretty much ever since my life took on its most recent significant turn, I’ve been preoccupied with some pretty deep thoughts about what it means to be responsible for the well-being of another, the challenges of parenthood, and the wonderful and mysterious well-spring of love that I feel for my all of my children.
In the sake of full disclosure, Tay and I didn’t plan on having another child. It’s not that we were against a large family or felt we couldn’t handle the logistical and financial challenges that are part and parcel with having more kids. I just think we were content.
Sure we’ve gone through some difficulties, as all families do, but for the most part we had forged a pretty nice life for our little crew of McEwens. Things just felt complete with a family of four and we had settled into our groove.
So needless-to-say when I got home one day last fall and found a letter on the counter from Tay’s doctor’s office to Georgia Southwestern University (where she was working to finish her Master’s) informing the school’s registrar that Mrs. McEwen was unable to receive a tetanus shot due to early term pregnancy, I was stunned.
Not just because at the age of 41 and 38 respectively we felt we were too old to have another child (turns out that thinking is unbelievably wrong in today’s modern world), but because we had been led to believe that the chances of it happening were slim to none.
My wonderful wife, who as one of four siblings comes from a fairly large family by today’s standards, had even gone through a period of mourning following the birth of her younger sister’s second child. There were quite a few tears shed in the face of the prospect that we were done expanding our family.
That sadness was not due to the fact that we were hoping for more children, it was more about aging and watching our two amazing children grow to ages where they didn’t need us as much as we inched ever-further into the meat of adulthood.
The fact is, we had made our peace and accepted the make-up of our little offshoot of the McEwen family.
But as a wise person told me recently, man makes plans and God laughs, so it became pretty clear that regardless of what future Tay and I were envisioning, the man upstairs had a different idea.
I guess that’s why after the initial shock wore off, I was nothing but excited.
Sure my increasingly adult brain became more focused on things like having a house and vehicles equipped to comfortably meet the needs a larger brood, but the general feeling around the house was that of positive, albeit slightly nervous, anticipation.
But if I’m being completely honest, while I was convinced our family would be able to handle the big change and provide a warm and loving environment for our new arrival, as the days ticked by and we got closer to Tay’s due date, certain doubts did worm their way into my mind.
And chief among them were every parent’s general concern about whether or not they are truly any good at a mother or father’s top priority—instilling a strong value system that will guide their children to future success—and whether or not I had enough of what I believe is the most important thing a parent gives their child—love.
I know that seems like an odd thing to worry about, but nearly every time I look at Milla and Bear I’m overwhelmed by my intense feelings about them.
As I explained to that co-worker who asked me which child I loved the most, until you’ve become a parent, until you’ve seen the miracle of new life entering the world, it’s impossible to fathom a parent’s love and even though it becomes deeply entrenched in your soul, it remains somewhat of a mystery.
I know that as soon as Milla and Bear came into my life I felt it, but both times I would’ve been at a loss (just as I am now) to adequately describe it. But there’s no denying its intensity.
And as any parent can attest, that impossibly strong connection continues to bloom as our children move further along on their life’s journey. Over the past 12 plus years, the powerful love I have for Milla and Bear seems to have swollen into the most dominate force in my life.
Increasingly, every decision I make is weighed against the impact it will have on their lives and is fueled by my love for them. It’s such an awesome thing, that I often wonder if there’s any way I have enough love to give them to ensure they have what they need to develop and grow.
So as Rhodes’ arrival grew nigh I started wondering in earnest if I really had what it takes, whether I had the capacity to love that strongly. Even in the labor and delivery room at Phoebe, thoughts of inadequacy weren’t far from the surface and by the time things really got going I was gripped with worry.
But then the most incredible thing happened, something I really wasn’t sure I’d ever feel again. After giving everything she had to give to bring our son into the world, that little bundle of joy we had been fanaticizing about for nine months was here. There amidst the cacophony of doctors, nurses, midwives, and in-laws, was the star of the show.
As I looked at him snuggling his precious little face into his mother’s bosom—instinctively seeking that blanket of comfort and protection, I knew my worries had been for naught. As I ran my fingertips over his button nose and his delicate little ears, and as he wrapped his impossibly tiny hands around my finger I felt the magic.
I felt the flood of that wondrous love reserved strictly for our children surge through me, and I knew everything was going to be okay. I knew God had given me the strength to shoulder the Herculean responsibility of caring for a child.
In that moment I was overcome by a divine peace and an endless outflowing of love.
Each one of my children is different. Just a few weeks in it’s easy to see how Rhodes differs from his siblings, how he is without a doubt himself—a unique and beautiful creation.
And I think it’s reasonable to say that my connection with each one of them is as unique as the souls they arrived with. But when it comes to how much I love them, there’s no difference at all.
There’s simply nothing like a parent’s love. I believe it’s the closest we’ll ever come to understanding the love of God and it should always be cherished. It’s an incredible gift.
There’s no denying I’ve been blessed in enumerable ways. Obviously connecting with Tay and starting a family, are certainly the greatest of those blessings, but as I write this, I’m also reminded that I’ve been given another special gift—the ability to share my thoughts and feelings with others.
I like to think I honor that blessing whenever I can by sharing things I believe can enrich us all. So I want to say thank you to the loyal readers of Beyond the Bank, for allowing me to come into your home each week and hopefully shine a light on some of the positive things that make our community and our lives better.
Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - firstname.lastname@example.org - @BradGMcEwen