Growing Pains

Eli woke up crying last night, growing pains in his legs. I remember those pains, and my mother giving me two chalky St. Joseph’s aspirin, the ones with orange flavoring. There’s something about being cared for by your parent in the middle of the night that almost makes the hurt worth it. So I gave him medicine, and rubbed his legs, and told him a story that my grandmother used to tell me at bedtime, about a little mountain boy who liked to chop wood, but who got careless (this being a grandmother’s story, and perhaps more to the point, one of my grandmother’s stories) and chopped into his own foot, nearly taking off a toe. But, through hard work and determination, he not only recovered from his injury, he entered the wood-chopping contest in the state fair and won first place, despite being the smallest competitor.

“Does he have muscles like me?” Eli asked, yawning, the pain disappearing in a cherry Tylenol haze.

“Yes. Big muscles for a little fellow.”

“Did you ever chop wood?”

“Yes.” I showed him a scar from cutting wood. He showed me a recent ouch. I curled up next to him on his bed, and we whispered to each other about little boy things, until his eyelids began to flutter. I put my face down on his pillow, and breathed in his smells of soap and toothpaste and the slobber dried into his beloved blankey. I thought about how one day too soon for me, and not soon enough for him, this will be over. He will lie on a bed with his own child and tell him about the little woodcutting boy, and I will be Grandpa, who visits sometimes and barks at the television news and always has chewing gum or candy to share.

I remember holding Eli once, or perhaps it was Caleb, or Isaac, or maybe this realization has happened with each of them, and the Wife coming up and helping me hold and hug him. I remember the smile on his face, eyes closed, a look of bliss. “I have no knowledge of what this must be like,” I told my wife. Neither does she. We have never been held by a mother and father at the same time, both loving us and loving each other. It is an alien gift that we give our children, yet we sense its power in the peacefulness that comes over them.

The only thing better than feeling that embrace, I imagine, is giving it to my children, and knowing that they will never hold their own children and marvel, without experience, at what that feeling must be like.

This is part of the discovery, as I’ve written about our family, here and in the pamphlet (and have you ordered your copy yet?) and in pages that perhaps one day someone will read — that it is possible to build a foundation on razed ground. Perhaps it even makes us more careful, knowing how easily a home can crumble. Each brick matters very much to us. We have a generational vision, not only of how far we can get our children along a path free of neuroses and fear and insecurity, but how far they in turn will take their children. I think you have to have that vision as a parent — am I laying the foundation for my children and their children to live full, meaningful lives, or am I just feeding them the seed corn, set as I am on my own comfort and temporary success?

These are the things I thought about as Eli drifted off to sleep. They wonder sometimes, I think, why I watch them, why I search their faces. That’s one thing I’ll be happy for them never to know, that endless question: Am I getting it right?


  1. Jo Taller

    Ah yes. Growing pains. Growing up we called them “leg aches” which then morphed into being called “achey legs”, and then “eeky legs”, and then “leaky legs.” One of those family things I guess.

    My mom never had the orange flavored aspirin. She would place an aspirin tablet on top of a teaspoon of sugar, and carefully drip water onto the spoon. The water would dissolve the aspirin into the sugar. Yum.

    My husband and I also are giving our future generation security and love that neither of us experienced growing up. Our oldest is 19. Our youngest 5. I look at our family and am in awe of how fantastic this life is.

    Beautiful post. Gotta order multiple copies of your pamphlet. Really.

  2. chronicler

    I have a new grandson and a son in law completely sure he is going to flub it up. So I have ordered your directive. Maybe it will calm a few nerves. If it written as well as the rest of your writings, I can attest his time will be well spent reading your tract. Thank you Tony.

  3. Brutally Honest

    No one writes about Fatherhood…

    … with the clarity and talent as Tony Woodlief of Sand in the Gears:Eli woke up crying last night, growing pains in his legs. I remember those pains, and my mother giving me two chalky St. Joseph’s aspirin, the ones

  4. Casey

    That’s a wonderful post. I have a one year old son, and I pray that he will someday be a better man that I am.

    I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, but it is a wonderful book about masculinity and also about raising sons. It’s definitely a great read…

  5. Nathalie

    I’m a mom of 3 boys and mom and step-mom of 3 girls. I’m not a believer. I’m not a full-fledged conservative though I’m finding myself becoming more and more conservative every day. I did purchase the pamphlet for my husband. I read it myself this morning and laughed so hard I was crying. The kids were all wondering what was happening.
    I’ve been reading your log as well today, stopping every few minutes to email my husband about it as I believe he will enjoy it a lot.
    No matter if we don’t see eye-to-eye on a few things (and actually I agree with you on a lot of them!), all your posts about your family have made me cry. Your love for your kids shines through and that’s the best measure of a man I believe there is.
    Congratulations on your new baby and best wishes.

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