Most of us have read the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney to our children countless times. It tells the story of just how much the character Little Nutbrown Hare loves his Daddy. But Big Nutbrown Hare can reach farther and hops higher to prove to his son just how much he loves him back. Unable to physically compete, Little Nutbrown Hare loves him right up to the moon, only for Big Nutbrown hare to whisper the words “and back” as his son drifts off to sleep.
I never realized I would have a chance take this figurative story of loving someone to the moon and back and demonstrate it to my son and daughter. In July 2009, our family made the difficult decision to move to Tuscaloosa so that our son, Jonathan could attend a preschool called Rise. This was our only option as our son was turned away from three different preschools in the Huntsville area. Jonathan was 2 years old at the time, but because of his Down syndrome, he was developmentally at about 12 months of age. We were told by each school that they were not “set up” to handle children with special needs. Our goal was to simply allow him an opportunity to socialize with his typical peers, and break his bond of isolation.[sws_pullquote_right]Our son was turned away from three different preschools in the Huntsville area…we were told by each school that they were not “set up” to handle children with special needs.[/sws_pullquote_right]In August of 2009 Jonathan started at the Rise school, my daughter Lauren began kindergarten, and I began the process of a daily commute to work in Huntsville from Tuscaloosa. At this same time my wife Amanda accepted a greater role in her parenting as I added 5 hours to my workday. As people hear our story, I am often asked “how did you manage to do that?” I also hear, “you must be exhausted.” The short answer is I do it for my children, and “yes” I am exhausted, but my spirit is well. The more refined answer is: I do it because I serve a God who has provided the most incredible model for me to follow as an earthly father.
I don’t consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones that hears God’s voice. I certainly feel his spirit, but I can’t say I had ever heard him speak to me. That is, until about 10 years ago. I was sitting in church listening to a Father’s Day message from our pastor. I had a moment of grief as I reminisced about my own father’s death some 20 years prior. All of a sudden I began to weep in church and became speechless as my wife continued to ask me what was wrong. The only thing I could do at that moment, was to point to the words “fathers are critical” on the sermon outline. It was that moment that I actually heard the words, “you will be a good father.”
It was only a short few months later, my wife would tell me she was expecting. That one moment has always defined the lengths to which I would go to be a good father. I choose to be a Dad over what could have been a lucrative career. I choose to spend the extra time to play with my children even though my logical brain screams of exhaustion from time to time, and yes, I choose to drive from Tuscaloosa to Huntsville daily. Most assume I do it simply to provide my son the best education possible. The real secret is, I choose to do it so that I will not lose my paternal influence over their daily lives. Things like having a meal together, wrestling and rough housing after dinner, and bath and bedtime rituals all parents go through with small children. I also love my wife enough not to ask that she be a single parent during the week. This is not a footnote, for it is loving your spouse first that makes you a great parent, not loving your child over your spouse.
[sws_blockquote align=”left” alignment=”alignleft” cite=”” quotestyles=”style03″]Is it possible to love your child to the moon and back? You bet. From here to the moon is 240,250 miles. As of last month I have logged over 264,000 miles. [/sws_blockquote] At the end of July, Jonathan graduates from the Rise School and we will be moving to Madison. Our hope is to call this home forever. The last 4 years have been challenging and rewarding. Unwillingly to see other families do what we had to do just because their child has special needs, we led the charge to develop a Rise school in Huntsville. In January of 2013, we officially opened the doors to serve ALL children regardless of their abilities. This has certainly become a labor of love.
Is it possible to love your child to the moon and back? You bet. Because I am required to log my mileage for my job, I took the time to add up all of those monthly reports. From here to the moon is 240,250 miles. As of last month I have logged over 264,000 miles. I made it to the moon and look forward to the voyage back. This time I have a few co-pilots.[box style=”lavender rounded” ]ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Lee is currently employed as a sales consultant with Merck Pharmaceuticals covering the North Alabama area. He also serves as the President of the board for the Rise School of Huntsville. It is an all inclusive preschool serving children from 18-42 months. He is married to Amanda Lee and they have 2 children, Lauren age 9, and Jonathan age 5.[/box]
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