Through a strange convergence of events, I stood alone in the hospital room on that cold December night in utter panic, with no one else but a nurse in the room telling me that I would have to deliver my son. Trying desperately to conceal my panic, I pleaded for instructions on what I needed to do, and was coached as I delivered my son. In that moment, as I stood there holding that precious, fragile child, I knew that I would never be the same. I knew that I would dedicate my life to protecting and caring for that child and my wonderful wife who’d brought him into the world.
Over the next 17 years, my wife and I would bring seven more children into the world: three more sons, and four more daughters. I was with my wife for every minute of labor and delivery with each of my children, and even delivered three more of those children myself, two of them at home. Each time I held one of these, my beautiful children, as they took their first breath in this world, tears of gratitude streamed down my cheeks as I thanked God for entrusting me with another of His children during their stay here upon the Earth that He has created. Each one of these children has been such a blessing in my life, as well as my greatest challenge.
Marriage, and the resulting fatherhood, has been a case study in contradictions for me. It is both the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done. The greatest extremes of emotion, from joy to sadness to frustration to peace, have all occurred within the walls of my home. It has been a mystery to me how eight children raised in the same home by the same parents and under the same rules could all turn out so differently.
Elijah has always embraced his role as the oldest child, helping to watch over and guide and protect his brothers and sisters. He has always been good-hearted, and the thought of disappointing his mother was always more powerful than threats of punishment. He was his mother’s protector and defender when I was away, and it has always given me comfort to know I could depend on him. Naomi, my oldest daughter, has always been confident and headstrong, determined to do things her way, and immovable once she made a decision. She has an absolute sense of right and wrong, and cannot be swayed by anyone.
Shai is my overachiever, a perfectionist who is driven to excel at everything she does. Like her older brother and sister, she has an unshakeable moral center, and she firmly stands for what is right, yet in a quiet way that somehow never comes across as judgmental. Noah is my middle child, with a witty, dry sense of humor, and jokes so subtle it often takes a few heartbeats to catch the clever meaning. He is a good boy by nature, in a way that I wish I had been at his age. He also has a depth of wisdom far beyond his years, which his playful, almost shy nature does not reveal unless you are in a calm setting with him.
Malachi is probably more like me than any of my children, for good and bad. He has my fiery temper when he feels that he or someone he cares for has been wronged, and he is quick to express his displeasure. On the other hand, he is fiercely loyal, and will do anything he can to help anyone who needs it, no matter how dirty the job, and he never goes looking for credit or accolades. He loves to laugh and takes pleasure in the simple things in life: family, friends, and enjoying the wonders of nature. His little brother Zeke is full of energy and laughter, and loves nothing more than to play and have fun. He’s never met a stranger, and his laughter is infectious. I can’t count how many times he’s had the whole family in stitches, not because what he was laughing at was funny, but because there is something innately funny about watching someone laugh so hard that they may pass out or squirt milk out of their nose accidentally.
Mahalie is my little scholar. She started reading before she turned 4 years old, and has not stopped since. She loves telling about all of the things she has learned, and is fascinated with the world around her. Like Naomi, she has a bit of a headstrong streak in her, which is not necessarily a bad thing. She is an independent thinker, and will develop her character based on what she feels is right, not because of peer pressure. And then there is Echo, my youngest little princess. And I do mean princess. She rules the house and expects her wants and needs to be met by the rest of her family, or anybody who happens to be around. Yet she is also loving and sweet, with such concern for those who are sad or hurt. Most importantly, she is a huge daddy’s girl who showers me with hugs and kisses and proclamations of her love for me … which is why I can’t get mad when she pats my belly and tells me that I am getting “squishy.”
In our society today, there is a war between two cultures: one being the traditional culture at the core of America’s foundation and history, and a culture that has emerged over the last 50 years or so that rejects the precepts of our traditional culture. It is the latter culture which rejects the necessity of the nuclear family (married father and mother, plus children), and tells us that it is just one of many equally valid family constructs, where fathers are not critical to raising children. This segment of society minimizes or dismisses fathers, or portrays them, especially in the media, as inept oafs or philandering, irresponsible cads (I challenge you to think, off the top of your head, of even three TV fathers that are faithful, loving, kind and intelligent). Yet tradition and history show us that fathers are integral to raising happy, well-adjusted children. Study after study has shown that children with a father in the home do better in school, are less likely to be substance abusers, are less likely to engage in criminal activity, less likely to suffer from mental or emotional problems, and in general are happier and more balanced members of society.
There is one other thing that should be considered, and that is that men need to be fathers as much as children need them to be fathers. Men are by nature aggressive and self-focused. We focus on what we want and need. Yet marriage and children force us to consider the needs of others before our own. It teaches us kindness, patience, temperance, sacrifice and unconditional love; it smoothes down our hard, rough edges without making us soft.
Children need fathers, and to those men that have stayed faithful to their wives, who have been kind and loving fathers to your children, I congratulate you and testify that you have done more to strengthen society than an army of politicians and bureaucrats. It is your work, alongside your wife, that lays the foundation for the rising generation. It is you who are doing the greatest good. For those men who have abandoned your responsibilities, who have broken the tender hearts of your wives and children, I say, do better. God will hold you accountable.
And to my beloved wife, I say thank you for making me a father. I know that you and our children need me, but I also know that I need you just as much. Without you, my life has little meaning. I cherish the time I spend each day with you, whether those days resemble “Leave It to Beaver” or Ultimate Fighting Championship. It is a wild ride, but I would not trade it for anything.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is chairman of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.