I love golf. I read everything I can about how to get better. I practice and play as much as the family/work balance will allow. I scrutinize every shot of every round to try and become better. This obsession of golf pales in comparison to how obsessed I am about being the best father I can be. Right after I pray for my wife and kids, I replay the day to see what I could have done different to be a better dad the next day. Did I give each child the attention they deserve that day? Did I make sure they know how much I love them? Did I make sure they felt safe? Did I make them laugh?
I waited over 2 months to be able to hold my son, Maddox. He was born at 24 weeks and weighed 1lb. 12oz. I had to ask permission from nurses to be able to hold his hand. I had zero control over anything that was happening with him over the course of the 5 months at Valley Children’s. All I could do was be there, talk to him and make sure he knew that I loved him. Although Maddox has special needs due to his prematurity, he is a very happy and relatively healthy 9 year old.
My daughter, Raegan, was also born early at 26 weeks, weighing 2lbs 2oz. Having already gone through the NICU with Maddox, we were much more prepared with Raegan. We were fortunate that Raegan’s journey had very few complications or surprises. She spent a large portion of her 3 months in a room where we could pick her up and cuddle her at our leisure. As we waited for her get bigger and stronger so that we could bring her home, we followed the same habit we had with Maddox. We were there all day, talking to her, reading to her and making sure she knew we loved her. Raegan is now 6 years old and could very well be the most social person I know.
With both kids, my wife and I understood the importance of being with them as much as the hospital would allow. We spent 15-18 hours at the hospital for the entire stay of both kids. Our questions for the nurses and doctors were never-ending, as we wanted to make sure that we understood everything that was happening. Our need to understand, even the things we had no control over, set the foundation for us to be advocates for both our children. I feel that it’s inherently built into a father to fight for their family and advocate for their health, education and happiness. The NICU and staff at Valley Children’s gave us a crash course in how to do this. We are eternally grateful for all of them.
Having children was the greatest teacher of patience and kindness. Experiencing the love you have for your child and family makes everything else feel a little less important. Hard day at work? Hugging your kids and watching them excited for you to be home will fix that. Stressed about finances? Your kids only want your time, which doesn’t cost anything.
There was a transformational shift in my perspective and priorities when we had Maddox and then again with Raegan. I work hard to provide for them. I exercise and eat healthy so that I’m able to provide the energy necessary to play and be with them until I’m a very old man. I love, kiss and hug their mom to show them what true and unconditional love between a husband and wife should look like (plus, she’s awesome). Everything I do is an attempt to make their lives better, even if marginally.
I was lucky to have a Dad that was everything I could have asked for and everything I strive to be. He passed when I was 18 years old and not having him in my life for the last 23 years reminds me that I need to make sure that I am making the most of every day with Maddox and Raegan. If I’m gone tomorrow, it is my hope that they know that I loved them today and forever.
About the Author
This blog post was written by Chris Rawn in celebration of the joys of fatherhood, ahead of the Father's Day holiday.