My Favorite Birthday Gifts

brothers, holding hands, love, family, vacation, happy

At a roadside stop on vacation in 2018.

Myron and Smith,

It’s my birthday and I’m 39 years old today!  Neither of you really understand how old that is yet.  But in just a few years you’ll both think that I’m ancient!  And in a few years after that you’ll be convinced (like I am) that 39 really isn’t THAT old!

One of the things that I’ve always found to be difficult about my birthday is telling people what I want for a gift.  When I was a kid I wanted everything, especially the things that I knew were out of my family’s price range.  As an emerging and young adult I wanted things that I thought would confer status and prestige, like fancy cars and the like, which were always out of reach.

Today, at 39, when people ask me what I want, I really don’t know how to answer.  I don’t need anything in particular.  And when I do need something, your Mom and I budget for it and purchase it.  There also aren’t a lot of things that I want because I try to live as simply as possible so that I have lots of space in my schedule for the two of you.

However, if I’m really, really honest, what I’d most sincerely want for a birthday gift today is a nap!

But in the final analysis, one of the best gifts I receive, on my birthday or not, is time with the two of you.  The picture above is from our road trip to Texas this year, a road trip that was amazing because I got to spend so much time with the two of you and your Mom!

And today some of the best parts of my birthday will be spent with you two, eating breakfast, getting ready for pre-school, going to my favorite restaurant as a family, and doing our bedtime routine together.

I can’t wait to “open” those gifts in a few hours!

Love,

Dad

~~ps~~  Sorry I’ve not updated these letters nearly enough.  The last two years have been crazy!  Parenting two boys, beginning a new job as senior pastor, and finally graduating with my PhD have been time consuming.  Hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of writing y’all these letters.  Either way, I love you both!

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To My Sons, Respect Everyone

Myron and Smith,

Hey guys!  It’s Dad again.  It’s been a while since I’ve written either of you.  Sorry about that!  Having two kids under two years old is taxing!

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But I have to write you guys tonight.

A couple of days ago an audio/video clip of Donald Trump, a famous American celebrity  who is running for President, got spread around everywhere.  In it we heard him describe some awful behavior and use vile language to describe how he treats women.  In fact, I’ll be honest with you boys, what Mr. Trump described was attempted adultery and sexual assault.

After this clip went public everything happened as might be expected.  Everyone was shocked and appalled by what Mr. Trump said.  People began calling for him to stop running for President.  Folks roundly discredited him as a misogynist, that is, a hater of women.

Then Mr. Trump tried to apologize twice — once online and once in a video.  Neither apology seemed sincere.  In the first he said the language he used was “locker room talk,” that someone else has said worse, and that he apologized if anyone was offended, which is the kind of apology that your Mom and I teach you isn’t sincere.  And the second apology was better but he turned it into an opportunity to attack his political opponent, thus weakening its sincerity too.

But then something truly disgusting happened: People started defending him!  They excused his words or explained them away.  Others said that his words weren’t all that bad.  And still others claimed that this was just the way that men talk to one another.  Your Mom and I couldn’t believe what we were hearing!

And to top it all off, some of these folks who were defending Trump’s deplorable words claimed to be followers of Jesus!

Well, in response to all of this I feel compelled to write to the two of you.  I want to be crystal clear with the you both about a few things:

  1. Women are people.  They have souls.  They fully bear the image of God just like men do.  This may seem obvious to you, especially considering the house you are growing up in, but, sadly, this needs to be said.
  2. Women are not objects.  Women are not romantic targets.  And women are not to be viewed only as valuable in so far as they are appealing to or connected to men.
  3. Men are able to control themselves.  For far too long men like Mr. Trump have perpetuated the myth that men are little more than animals who only think about sex.  This simply is not true.  You can (AND WILL!) control yourselves.
  4. Men and women are equals.  Again, it’s sad that I have to write this but I do.  Our society will teach you that women are less than men and it will do so subtly and explicitly.  But don’t buy this lie.  Women are your equals.
  5. Not all men talk the way that Mr. Trump talks.  Sure, I’ve said inappropriate things about women before.  And I’m ashamed of it.  And I’ve been around lots of men who have said lots of things about women, many of them horrible things.  But I’ve never been part of a conversation in which another man arrogantly promoted sexually assaulting women.  This is not locker room talk.  This is not man talk.  This is disgusting, dehumanizing talk that should never come out of anyone’s mouth, ever.
  6. Frankly, when anyone hears another person talk the way that Mr. Trump did, he or she should step up and say that it’s not okay.  In the clip of Mr. Trump the other person (a man named Billy Bush) laughs and participates in the abusive language.  This is not okay.  When you hear any kind of talk that degrades and diminishes other human beings made in the image of God, it is your duty to interrupt that nonsense.
  7. The type of language that Mr. Trump used isn’t just bad for women — it’s just bad.  Lots of people have said something like this over the last two days: “If anyone ever spoke about my wife, daughter, mother, etc. that way, I would be horrified.”  And while I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind that line of thinking, it’s not just women who are demeaned by the sort of language that Mt. Trump used.  And it’s not just women who are the objects of this kind of hurtful language.  And it’s not the fact that they are women that makes this wrong.  It’s that Mr. Trump directed his offensive language at human beings that makes it wrong.  It’s never, ever, ever right to think, much less speak, about other people made in the image of God like this.  Never.
  8. And lastly, when someone engages in hateful and loathsome speech like this, we should never, ever defend it, diminish, or try to excuse it away.  We also should not try to distract others from it by saying something like, “Well, other people have done and said worse things.”  It doesn’t matter who else has done what.  What matters is that repulsive language that is used to attack other humans is always wrong.

So Myron and Smith, listen very closely, we do not speak about women the way that Mr. Trump did.  And we don’t condone it.  And we don’t defend it.  And we don’t excuse it.

But beyond that, sons, we don’t speak that way about anyone.  Everyone deserves better than that.

Why?  Three reasons: 1) Would you want anyone talking about you like that?  Of course not, so don’t talk about others that way.; 2) It demeans the basic humanity of the person who is the object of the hateful speech.  And, ultimately, it denies the fact that they are bearers of the image of God just like y’all are.; and 3) Talking the way Mr. Trump did (or defending, diminishing, excusing, etc.) really hurts your ability to share the love of Jesus with folks who do not yet know him.  How can we say with integrity that Jesus can change lives if we who claim to follow Jesus engage in this kind of disgusting behavior?

So here’s the bottom line: Treat everyone, every_single_person, with respect — even people you don’t understand, even people who are your enemies, even people who refuse to respect you, and even people that you are attracted to.

Sons, your Mom and I desire so deeply for you to love Jesus supremely and to let his love shine through you in all you do and say.  So our challenge for you both is to stay connected to Jesus, to live your lives within Christian community, and to share his love with the world, starting with your words.

 

I love you!

Love,

Dad

Mr. Myron, Meet Mr. Smith

Myron,

There has been a lot of hub-bub in the Barnes-verse lately.  You finally got to meet the Barnacle, whom we named Smith!  Three-fourths of your grandparents are here, which means you are in heaven!  And Mommy and Daddy are tired and having to split their attention between you and your brother.

Everything has changed, your whole world.

But I want you to know some things without a shadow of a doubt: You are loved, you are important to Momma and me, and you will always get lots of special time with both of us!

And here’s one way to demonstrate those truths to you…

When Mom was in the hospital having Smith, she was constantly worried about you — how you were, were you eating, would you be scared when one of us didn’t wake you up, etc.

And even after Smith was born, when Momma and I were super sleepy and Momma was very sore, all we could think about was how much we missed you and couldn’t wait to see you!

And when you finally came to the hospital, it was amazing!  We got to hug and kiss you, which was utter joy for us!  We got to introduce you to Smith, whom you gave cute little kisses too!  And we took lots of pictures with you.

In fact, the two pictures at the top of this letter are from that first day that you came to visit Smith.  And those are two of my favorite pictures of you and Mommy of all time.  In one y’all are kissing and in the second one y’all are doing a kunik (the Inuit name for a none-kiss).

Despite all that she had just been through, Mommy carved out some special time just for you!

Therefore, little Myron, we’re never going to forget about you!  Even if we have fifty more kids, you’ll always be special to us!

So, Mr. Myron, meet Mr. Smith!  And don’t let Smith’s arrival worry you.  You are loved beyond measure!

 

Love,

Dad

The Barnacle Has Finally Arrived!

Smith (aka, the Barnacle),

Yesterday was the day you were born!

We named you Richard Smith Barnes after you maternal grandfathers and you’ll go by your middle name just like me.

You were born in a hospital in Sun Valley, CA at 9:03 PM. You were 7lbs., 1oz. and you were 21in. long. You were healthy and your Mom is recovering well.

But those details that most people ask about are only the beginning of your story, the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

Here’s the rest of the story:

Your Mom and I adopted you brother Myron and never figured that we would have biological children. We were never told that we couldn’t have bio kids, but we hadn’t had any up until that point.

But adoption has always been a dream of ours, so we assumed that was how our family would grow.

Boy, were we wrong!

In December of 2015 we found out you were growing in Mom’s belly. By the time June and July of 2016 rolled around we had gone into full baby-prep mode.

As your due date, August 3, crept closer, your Mom hadn’t had much pain at all, besides a sore back and ligaments. In fact, she felt so good that she went jogging in the morning on the day you were due.

Later that same afternoon your Mommy and I went on a date to celebrate your due date because we thought you weren’t yet ready to come.

Boy, were we wrong!

As we walked to the coffee shop at around 3:20 PM, your Mom started having some small contractions. We didn’t worry much since they were short, mild, and far apart.

We got our coffee and chatted for a while and then made our way back home. All the while your Mom continued to have small contractions.

When we got home we played with Myron and Mommy took a small nap. We ate dinner at 6:15 PM and then got Myron ready for bed.

After Myron went to sleep, at about 7:15 PM, Mommy’s contractions were short but they were strong and close together. We called our doula (a specialized birth assistant) and she suggested Mommy take a bath.

While your Mom bathed, I loaded the car. I thought things were getting close. I also called your brother’s sitter, who started driving over. While in the bath, your crazy Mom shaved her legs in between contractions!

When the sitter arrived we jumped in the car to go to the hospital. It was a 20-minute drive that seemed like an eternity! Mom’s contractions were intensifying but they were still relatively short. We thought we’d make it to the hospital and have to labor there for a long time, maybe several hours.

Boy, were we wrong!

We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 PM and you were born at 9:03 PM! You and Mommy did a great job! Everything was fast and uncomplicated. And y’all are both healthy!  Praise Jesus!

I’ll end with two things:

  1. Every month we pray as a family for something specific each day, things like our neighborhood, various people groups, or our nation. Well, all July Mommy, Myron, and I prayed for an uncomplicated birth and that both you and she would be healthy. And the Lord smiled down on us and granted us our requests! Never, never, never underestimate the power of prayer.
  2. We love you! I didn’t know that I had any more love to give. But when I first laid eyes on you Smith, love bubbled up in me from reserves I didn’t know I had. And here’s the thing: that’s how love works! There’s always more available, even if we don’t know it!

Welcome to the world little Richard Smith! We love you and we hope to demonstrate that love to you each and every single day!
I love you,

Dad

Last Days as an Only Child

last days as only child

 

Myron,

Welp, you’re about to be a big brother.  I know we’ve been telling you that for a while now…but the time has finally come!  In just a few days time there will be another child in our home.  And that has me wondering about a few things.

  • Will you be able to share the limelight?

I think so!  You already do a pretty good job sharing attention with Mommy and with Sunnie.  And the people at the nursery at church and at your daycare all tell me that you don’t have to be the center of attention all the time.  These are good signs that you might not be too upset that a brother or sister is coming to live with us soon.  But it’s okay if you aren’t perfect.  I know that from time to time you are going to throw a fit because you aren’t being held or played with at a given moment.  We totally get it.  We want to be crystal clear about something: We’ll always love you!  Love has this amazing capacity to grow when needed.  So just because we have a new person to love in the house doesn’t meant that our love for you is diminished in anyway!  In fact, I’m sure that our love for you will grow and grow and grow as we see you being a good big brother!

  • Will you get along with your sibling?

It’s common for people to assume that siblings have to fight, that there has to be a sibling rivalry.  Well, we know that’s not necessarily true.  Sure. you and the Barnacle will fight from time to time.  But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t friends and that you don’t love one another.  You know what, the closer you are to someone, the more likely it is that you’ll disagree and argue.  That’s natural.  So we, as your parents, are going to do our level best not to put it in your head that you must have a rivalry with your sibling.  No!  Instead, remember that the two of you are on the same team and that y’all are working toward the same goals.  Y’all will be different, no doubt, but those differences only make our little family stronger!

  • Lastly, What kind of big brother will you be?

Will you be the big brother who is over-protective or will you be distant?  Will you have to carefully vet all of the Barnacle’s friends or will you pretend that the Barnacle doesn’t exist when you’re in public?  Will you stand up for your sibling no matter what or will you sit back and let the Barnacle fight his or her own fights?  Truthfully, you’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle…and that’s okay!  Here’s what matters: We are confident that you will be the kind of big brother who loves the Barnacle.  And love doesn’t express itself in only one way.  Instead, love comes out of each in all kinds of different ways!  But I know this for sure — I’m excited to watch you love the Barnacle!

 

So it’s just a matter of time now…and just a little bit of time at that!  Little Myron, you’re about to be a big brother!  Ready or not, here the Barnacle comes!

 

I love you!

Dad

My Second Father’s Day

Myron (and Barnacle!),

Thanks so much for a great Father’s Day!

Now I know that your Mom helped you with stuff since you are not even a year and a half yet…but without you I wouldn’t be celebrating Father’s Day in the same way at all!  So…thanks!

This year (2016) you gave me a really sweet card along with a coupon that I could use to have Mommy do most of the chores this week.  That was an excellent gift!  Beats ties and socks any day of the week!

FathersDay02

But I need to clarify something important — you said on my card that I’m the “world’s best dad.”  Well, unfortunately for you, that’s just not true.  I like to think that I do my best to put your interests before mine and to set a good example for you…but I’m certainly not the best.

I lose my temper sometimes, I forget important things sometimes, I don’t know as much about child development, discipline, or potty training as a I should, and I often do and say things that I’d be horrified if you did and/or said.

But I can tell you this much — each and every day I set out to do my level best at being your dad.  Honestly, I think I do a pretty decent job most of the time.  And when I don’t, which is more frequent than I’d like to admit, I always try to do two things: 1) apologize to you for messing up; and 2) learn from my mistakes so that I’m a little less likely to make them again.

I’ve got a long way to go in order to deserve the title “world’s best dad” but I do love being your dad!

Since I wrote you last you’ve continued walking like crazy!  In fact, you hardly ever crawl now.  Just this week you started using your feet when taking the stairs instead of butt-scooting down them like you used to do.  And you eat like a wild man…like a ravenous dog…like an NFL offensive lineman…like a peckish vampire (see below)!

Vampire Baby

And you love to laugh!  In fact, that’s always one of the highlights of my day, hearing your laugh.  When we recently were able to put you in the forward-facing car seat, you laughed and laughed and laughed while watching me drive.  It was adorable!

So I may not be the world’s best dad, and that’s okay.  But I’m your dad and I love, love, love that!  🙂

 

I love you!

Dad

First Letter to the Barnacle

barnacle

Dear Barnacle,

Hi!  We’ve not met face to face yet…but I love you already!

That picture up there…that’s you inside of Mommy’s tummy!  The doctor took that photo with a special camera a couple of months ago.

First of all, I should explain why we call you the Barnacle.  Well, our last name is Barnes, so there’s that.  And a barnacle is a little creature that connects to things in order to get nutrients, which is pretty much what you are doing inside of Mommy.  Thus, the Barnacle!

And since your Mom and I found out about you, our lives have changed a lot!

We thought that your brother Myron would be our only child for a little while.  We had planned to grow our family by adopting another kid, this time through the foster-care system.

In order to do that we needed to wait until Myron was one.  As his  birthday got closer and closer your Mom and I started preparing to enter into the adoption world again.

Then we found out about you!

Listen, you’re no accident, that’s for sure!  But you are most assuredly a surprise!  We, after all, were planning to adopt again.

But, as they say, we make plans and God laughs!

So as you grow inside of Mommy’s belly, our anticipation to meet you gets bigger by the day!

You still have three months or so in there…and take your time!  It’s better for your development…and it gives us a little more time to prepare for your arrival.

We love you Barnacle!

 

Love,

Dad