Cake everywhere! 

It was in their hair, in their ears, and all over their clothes. 

Laurie and I decided to celebrate the first birthday of our triplets, Grace, Brady, and Berkeley, by laying a plastic sheet on the floor and letting the kids dig into a birthday cake. It was a giant mess as they grabbed handfuls and stuffed cake into their mouths. It was their first real exposure to sugar, so they got very wired very fast. Afterward, the bathtub had a ring of grease that took lots of scrubbing to clean up. Though it was really a bad idea, it was a lot of fun to watch and made for great photos (I’ll post some on my social media).

This past Friday, our little babies turned 22. So Laurie and I flew from Florida to Austin to celebrate with them. This time the cake went on a plate and had 22 candles. 

Now that our kids are working and/or in college, we don’t get to see much of them and each moment is precious, which is why we went to the trouble to fly in for the special day. Once they have their own lives and families, it will be more difficult to gather them. 

No Kids, Please!

When I first got married at age 25, not much older than they are now, I did not want kids. Instead I wanted to be free to travel the world and do what I wanted. But time changed my desire to have children, once I stopped believing every day was about me. And though it has been the hardest work my wife and I have ever done (harder for her than for me), it has been the most rewarding.

Good and Bad All at Once?

How is it that one thing can be two opposite emotions at once?  Parenting is both horrible and joyful, at the same time.

Horrible moments like when all five of us got the flu, and we had to figure out a way to care for three sick kids and ourselves when we could barely lift our heads off our pillows. Or when doctors misdiagnosed them with a deadly disease and were about to put them through three years of drug “cocktails” to save them. When we insisted they be tested again, the doctors humored us, but discovered they were wrong. We’ve had horrible moments like numerous trips to the hospital, calls to doctors, calls to EMS, dealing with school bullies, difficult teachers, and some tough school years. 

We’ve also had some expensive moments, like three sets of Big Wheels, then three trikes, then three of the next size of trike, then three small bikes, then three bigger bikes, and then bigger and bigger and then scooters and wagons and every other imaginable contraption until we got to cars. Then it was three college tuitions at once. We’re still writing those checks.

Or frustrating moments like having all of our tools disappear, or finding moldy candy bars stuffed in the deep recesses of their disgusting closets. Or having to repeat ourselves 50 times and still having them forget to do things.

Not Good for Landfills

The years have been a blur. We don’t remember a lot of it. Triplets kept us very busy. We once calculated that we used over 16,000 diapers. We did three science fair projects a year for several years. Then there was homework, band, after-school activities, and so much more. It was exhausting. And we only had three the same age. I can’t imagine what it’s like for families with four or more kids, all different ages. 

Even Bad Days Are Joy-Filled

Yet the last 22 years have been filled with joy. It’s been the most incredible experience of my life, more incredible than traveling the world and meeting important people. I would not trade anything for the joy and pain of parenting. We would both do it all again, including the sleepless nights, the tears and fears, because the joy outweighs any challenge we could face. And we’re realizing that parenting never stops, it just changes. We have a lot of new things to look forward to in the future. 

The best cure for selfishness is to have kids. I was really selfish, but kids took all of that away.

The best way to learn to love is to have kids. There is no love like the love of your children, and there is no way to explain it to someone, but once they have kids, they always agree. 

The purpose of Sunday Coffee has been to express my thoughts, my ideas and ideals, and to share moments about life that might serve my kids well in the future, if and when they ever decide to start reading these. So today I dedicate this missive to my children in honor of their birthday. 

Being Selfless

For those who don’t have kids, don’t care to have kids, could not have kids … joy is found by serving others. I think that’s why parenting is such a wonderful experience — because it’s selfless. Seek places and people you can serve and you’ll have a very fulfilling, enriched life.

Eric Rhoads

PS: We had a massive number of people sign up for our Plein Air Convention before our Valentine’s Day price increase. Thanks to all who plan to join us. 

There is still room for our online event called PleinAir Live, coming in March. It’s a great way to experience plein air and learn all about the lifestyle and the process while staying home.