Standing in…

For the last four days, my wife and I took care of the three daughters of a friend of ours – a 9-year old and 5-year old twins. Adding our own 2-year old daughter into the mix and we had a house full of girls. I was quite out numbered.

I wasn’t looking forward to the weekend. Adding three children who aren’t your own can be a test. On top of that, these girls are going through the roughest time of their young lives. This family is recently divided and in the process of divorce. The father was unfaithful and is now apparently living with another woman (he won’t even give the mother his residential address and claims he is living with a “friend”).

We volunteered to watch the girls because their grandfather is dying and their mother went out-of-state to see him before he passes. The girls’ father lives in another state and has had little contact with them since they moved. No letters or cards, no phone calls – just a text message or two to the oldest.

It turned out their stay was the opposite of what I expected. These are three beautiful girls and, in spite of their troubles, they were well behaved. Oh, there were a few little tiffs here and there as young sisters will have, but they all showed great hearts in helping each other when we asked (and even without asking sometimes) and helping my daughter when they could (who loved playing with the older girls).

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and was blessed by my time with them. I ended up putting out a twitter joking that my wife should know better than to volunteer for these things because every time we watch someone else’s children, it makes me want more of our own. I even got hugs from all three girls when I left for work today.

Here is the part the gets me. As I was reading a story to the girls last night, I was thinking how great it was to have them sitting around me on the couch. The twins on either side of me especially seemed to need the attention and I enjoyed reading to them all. The thing is, it shouldn’t have been me. I shouldn’t be the one getting their hugs before work. My complaint isn’t about being with them. It’s that they have a father but he isn’t providing financially or emotionally for his children.

It is beyond me how a father can abandon his children. It is just so far outside of my experience that I can only believe the man who does is dead inside. Shoot, these three girls aren’t even mine and I want do what I can do to protect them and let them know they are loved for who they are. When they are under my roof, they are.

Maybe this one hits too close to home. My own father left my mother and me when I was about the age my daughter is now. I know first hand how it affects kids. Everyone knows that mothers are important. When I see what I saw this weekend, it reminds me how important fathers are too.