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SALT LAKE CITY — When my wife and I were married more than 20 years ago, I envisioned a bunch of rowdy sons descending from heaven, following me onto the basketball court where I would mold them into the future NBA players that they were destined to become.
Well, it didn't really turn out that way. God didn't send down the basketball team; He sent the cheer squad.
For our first three pregnancies and ultrasounds, the lab technician would ask us if we wanted to know if the baby was a boy or girl. They were all girls. For the last two pregnancies, I asked the lab technician if she wanted to know — I could save her a few minutes.
Now, five daughters later, I have learned some valuable lessons about life in a house full of estrogen.
- Listen more than you talk.This one seems kind of obvious, and with five daughters it isn't hard. (I can't get a word in unless I start it off with something like "40 percent off" or "Bieber called.") Still, it's taken me a while to realize that "listening" and "hearing" aren't necessarily synonymous. Listening with daughters requires you to not only turn off ESPN with two down in the bottom of the ninth, but also wiping their tears and reassuring them that there probably is a heaven for flushed goldfish. Let them talk. Let them rant. Let them go off on tangents. And when it's over, give them a hug and tell ’em you love ’em.
- Learn how to live with royalty.Few people know I married a queen. My wife is the Queen of Patience — which makes me the Duke of I-Married-Someone-Way-Better-Than-Me. Growing up, I had a dad who always opened the door for my mom, who wasn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and do the dishes, and always did something special on Mother's Day. What I observed as a young punk became "normal" to me — that's the way dads treat moms. Like it or not, and for better or for worse, our children are going to look at their parents' relationship as a pattern for their own. So dads, if you want better marriages for your children, show them how it works. Treat your wives like the queens they are, in whatever way you can.
- Get some glasses.Steven R. Covey talks about seeing life through a different lens. Something that appears "normal" (here's that word again) to you, may be "off-the-wall" to someone else. When we can look through someone else's lens, their actions become more understandable. Now, I still don't understand why my daughters will walk for hours at the mall for no reason, nor why they still don't get what a squeeze bunt is. We're different, and that's OK. Just try to step in their shoes for a minute — preferably not the high heels.
- Get used to pink.You just deal with this one.
- Read a good book.God is a pretty good parent who has even more daughters than me. He has also co-authored some pretty good self-help books over the ages that show how imperfect people like me can make the most out of our life with His help. Read those books — a lot. Heck, if Moses can work through a speech problem to part the Red Sea, I can figure a way to get the dirty socks into the hamper.
- Nuke the comparisons and remember the pasta.I haven't mastered this one yet. There are no two snowflakes or two kids alike, so try not to fall into the trap of comparing one with another. Celebrate their differences and encourage them to just be the best they can be. Sure, there may be some who push boundaries and some who keep you worried and awake all night. Just remember that of all the parental spaghetti we throw against the wall, some of it is bound to stick. Keep the pasta cooking. Spend less time thinking how life should be and more time making it what it could be.
As I look back, it's no secret that I was unprepared for the children that came to our home. I still fumble for the right words, I still raise my voice way too often, and I will never understand why my girls pack eight outfits for a two-day trip. But, man, there are few things in life as enjoyable as sitting at the kitchen table — silently — and watching your wife and daughters engage in six different conversations at the same time. It's a thing of beauty.
So as I grab a basketball and head outside to shoot free throws, I may trip on a few Barbies, I may walk past one of the million pairs of shoes in our house, and I may even notice the "I Love Cheer" bumper sticker on the back of the car parked way too close to the garage wall. But as I clank shot after shot off the rim, I thank God that He didn't send the basketball team.
Tim Johnson is the art director at KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. He and his wife, Alicia, are the proud parents of five daughters who, thankfully, look like their mother.