Love makes you do things you never thought you’d do

My wife and I recently took the kids to an amusement park. For 364 days a year, you tell your children not to scream, and then one day you pay tons of money to take them to a place to scream like crazy people.

My kids love roller coasters. I, however, do not. I don’t like heights, and I don’t like going fast. I especially don’t like when heights and fast are combined. On top of that, just getting into the coaster car is like sitting at my kid’s desk at parent/teacher night. And then, much like parent/teacher night, very little good happens after I sit. 

But my daughter begged me to ride with her. You see, my little 8-year-old wouldn’t be able to go on the ride unless an adult was with her. My wife was already in line for a ride with the other kids (probably the teacup ride.) And my little one really wanted to go on the ride. 

I told her no. I was solid in my principled stand. Insert a teary-eyed, begging kid and a weak-willed father and, as you already know, I said yes. My daughter jumped up and down, pumped her fist, and hugged me. Then we got in line — even though it was the last place in the world I wanted to be. 

To be honest, this is becoming rather normal for me. Here’s what happens: First, I proclaim before the entire universe the last thing I want do, and then the very last thing I want to happen happens.

In college I didn’t think I’d be Catholic. My parents were Catholic, and I swore I’d never be anything like them. I grew up in New York; I didn’t think I’d listen to country music. I didn’t think I’d drive a minivan. Well, five kids don’t fit that well into a Mustang convertible. And a stay-at-home dad? Not me. No way. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I was going to get married. But then something happened: I met my wife. Note: For those not interested in getting married, you should definitely try to avoid meeting your wife (just sayin’).

Honest to goodness, I was in college and planning to attend graduate school. I had successfully avoided any major romantic entanglements through conscious choice (and partially because I was short and chubby and tended to sweat around girls). But then I met her. She was running for class president, and literally the first thing that entered my mind when I saw her was that I would love to marry her. 

So I brilliantly employed my foolproof strategy of winning a woman’s affection by not having the guts to speak to her for a while and, when I finally did, bumbling all over my words and making ridiculous jokes — and sweating a lot. Part B of my brilliant plan included becoming friends with her and pretending to be interested in things that interested her (which I had absolutely no interest in at all). Then I asked her out, and she said no. You’re shocked. I know, right?

She said she didn’t want to risk losing my friendship. I ingeniously told her I never had that much interest in being her friend — I just tried to make her my friend in order to marry her one day.

Thankfully, this conversation took place before everyone carried cell phones so she couldn’t call the police right away, and pepper spray, while invented, wasn’t widely available yet. But miraculously she eventually said yes.

After that yes, everything changed. Ready, set, let’s go. 

Fast-forward a few years and we were married. At dinner one night at a cheap restaurant, I remember telling her I didn’t really like kids all that much. As a returned Catholic, I was open to life, but I just didn’t think I’d like them all that much. I told her I didn’t think staying home with kids was a worthy vocation for either of us. I said I could never be happy unless I was working as a journalist. She began crying, and I had the gall to ask her why. I even asked if the waiter did something to her. Her tears made me question my statement, and soon after we had a little girl. 

Ready, set, let’s go. Everything changed yet again. 

I remember dropping my precious little blonde daughter off at day care when she was 1 year old. She cried and begged me not to leave. I calmly explained to her that my job was very important and our future financial stability depended on both her mother and me working. Unbelievably, my sound logic didn’t convince her. She still begged me not to leave. So I didn’t. We ditched day care, and I quit my job as a newspaper reporter to freelance from home and raise our child.

Ready, set, let’s go. 

Two children, and then three, four, and five came shortly after. It’s been a heck of a ride with many ups and downs. We’ve prayed through hospital stays; we’ve had heartbreaks and disappointments. We’ve seen good and bad report cards, watched winning basketball shots made in overtime, and applauded earned academic scholarships. We’ve held onto each other through it all and usually come out laughing. The ride has taken turns I never saw coming. 

Now I found myself in line for a roller coaster called something like “Certain Spiraling Death in a Constrictive and Surprisingly Uncomfortable Metal Seat.”

It whirled; it whooshed; it plummeted; it climbed. And just when I thought it was over, it went upside down again. Throughout it all I held onto my 8-year-old. (I’ve learned just to hold on.)

The ride stopped, and my 8-year-old was breathless from laughing. As we stepped off she excitedly asked, “Dad, can we do it all again, please?”

Thinking of everything that led me here, I answered, “I would do it all over again.”

At the end of the day, my wife and five kids all climbed into the minivan. I pulled out my rosary because I like to pray while I drive. We turned on country music radio, and … ready, set, let’s go. 

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Catholic Digest.

His TurnMarriageMatt Archbold
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