Husband & Wife Articles


Father's Day

My newborn made my day a joyful mess

By Matthew Petesch

With an active infant at home, my wife and I have few moments for deep reflection. Life has been a long series of “in-the-moment” tasks as we respond to the needs of our newborn.

Still, I would like to reflect on my first Father’s Day this past June, the day I earned my fatherhood stripes and learned a lesson for life. I woke to the piercing cries of my son and rolled out of bed to heat up some milk. Following our normal ritual, I flipped on the TV to the morning news station. When the milk was properly heated, I carried my son to a chair in the living room and settled in for his morning feeding. Everything about that day was normal, until my son finished the bottle of milk.

I lifted him on to my chest to burp him, and he began to spit up all over me. Even the burp rag I had strategically placed on my chest couldn’t contain the overflow of warm fluid. When I had recovered from the initial shock, I cleaned up and settled back into the chair. I began to rock my son and pat him on the back when he erupted with more spit up. Once again, his clothes and mine were soaked. We changed yet again, and then sat back down in the living room to catch the rest of the news. But my son wasn’t done. He spit up a third time, creating yet another sticky mess.

Thankfully my son wasn’t ill; he just happened to have a little difficulty with his milk that morning. The rest of the day was normal, but the initial chaos that marked the beginning of my Father’s Day left a sour taste in my mouth. I was frustrated, annoyed and at the end of my patience. I had gone through three shirts in the span of one hour, and my son was wailing uncontrollably. Father’s Day was turning out to be a total drag. But after my son settled down, something wonderful happened – my 2-month-old son smiled at me for the first time.

This simple gesture transformed my miserable day into a joyous occasion. My wife and I shared in his joy, smiling along with him, and congratulating him on his beautiful accomplishment. It was one of the coolest moments I’ve ever experienced. His smile washed away all of the messiness of the day and gave me the strength to carry on. Not only that, it helped me to see the day in a whole new light. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of my Father’s Day, I was able to transcend those hardships and remember why I love being a father. What I experienced in that moment was nothing less than a grace from God.

I realized that I had not shown compassion to my son when he was struggling to keep his food down. I had seen it as more of an inconvenience for me than a distressing moment for him. My selfishness had prevented me from being as consoling and loving as I needed to be in that moment. When my son later smiled at me, I was faced with my own sinfulness in that moment. He reminded me of how much I needed to improve as dad and as a person, and how much I love him. It was simply another occasion in which my son revealed to me my own brokenness.

Since that Father’s Day, I’ve continued to ponder those things in my heart. His smile was not only a beautiful moment, but a wake-up call for me to become a better father. I’ve continued to reflect on the experiences of that day, and I’ve found my son’s smile to be a constant source of joy and consolation.

Matthew Petesch lives with his wife, Mary, and their 3-month-old son in Helena, Montana.