I turned from my truck to go get a basket of fish from the lake — fish that we’d spent all morning catching — and there was Drake, lugging the basket towards me, grinning like only he does, dropping them, switching hands, doing the whole “this is too hard but I’m going to act tough” routine.
It wasn’t much, just seven crappie and a flathead catfish. But we’d just spent four hours fishing. Not once did I hear him or Aven gripe, they didn’t fight, and in fact, they both pulled fish out of the water, kept a couple, and threw some back.
Aven has picked up my habit of kissing largemouths before throwing them back in the water.
Drake has learned what to watch for when a fish takes a cork under.
I am spending time talking with my father-in-law…time that I wish I had spent with him years ago.
Things are hit and miss around here right now.
…Drake lugging that fish basket;
…Aven walking our leftover minnows down to another family on the bank;
…John saying he was proud of them both for how they’d fished;
…I had a happy moment today.
|Everyone just ignore my obvious face cancer, doc says it’s an overactive parotid gland.|
“I’ll be right back,” I said. “I’m going to shred some chicken for tacos.”
“That’s fine,” Tye replied. “Throw some in a box and mail it to me.”
I laughed and muted my gaming headset, mostly because of the ridiculous stuff that gets said in this house, and because Alicia won’t let me have a private gaming room where that stuff won’t get heard.
I shredded the chicken and came back to a chuckling clan mate.
“I just heard the best advice,” he said, barely able to speak through his laughter. “Your wife said, ‘If it’s not your butt, don’t touch it.’”
“Kids,” was my succinct and exasperated reply.
I’ve really got to make sure I start hitting the mute button better.
It’s 9:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and we’re not in church because I had photography plans today that were canceled by the rain. Somewhere, Brian Sloat is upset about that.
Isaac woke up at 5:45 this morning, ready to start his day, and quite offended that the rest of us weren’t ready to start ours. He made this known through noises that, thankfully, I’m too deaf to hear, but I got up with Alicia anyway and headed to the living room.
She fed him, then he griped until she stood him up and let him watch me play Destiny. I looked over at him, and he smiled. He smiled so wide he almost lost his pacifier, but he didn’t. He grinned at me every single time I glanced over for a solid ten minutes. It was inspiration an to me.
“I will write,” I said to myself, “about baby smiles this morning. I will compare them to something also wonderful, and make the kind of allusions that will undoubtedly go viral on the social media.”
My Muse was smiling at me, happiness personified, a very fat cherub with more chins than wings. It was a moment.
I didn’t get up and write immediately, of course. I was in a game, trying to level up a character. I couldn’t quit then.
The thought of the blog stayed with me for an hour or so, and from time to time I would formulate little ideas of how I would word things — powerful adjectives; not too heavy on the adverbs; and all of the other little things writers like to do when they’re putting something off.
Then it happened. The 8 a.m. fight between Alicia and one of the boys, this time Aven. My Muse vanished, not a tangible thing after all, definitely not a smiling infant with drool running down his chins.
For the last couple of months, Drake has been a complete nightmare. We’re talking a “there’s a new hole in his bedroom wall because he chucked his bed frame (he’s five) into the sheetrock during a fit” nightmare. It was bad. After speaking with his doctor, the conclusion was drawn that part of his brain is underdeveloped due to drugs consumed in utero.
He prescribed some ADHD medication that worked well with Aven. It did not work well for Drake. After a couple of weeks of tantrums and biting, a second doctor’s appointment was scheduled and a new medication prescribed. It’s working wonders.
I’m going to stop right there and talk a out something that is going to piss a lot of people off. I’m also going to use some language that might piss some folks off. I’m not here to apologize, and if you happen to be one of the pissed off folks, then I want you to do me a favor. Shut the browser down, and take ten minutes to think about it. Process it. I can promise you it took me longer than that to write and edit it.
The kids’ bio family reads these blogs. They follow me on Facebook, and more than likely they are reading these words right now. They had to read that little bit up there about the drugs.
I’m going to restate that: Drake’s biological mother just had to read that decisions she made as a nineteen-year-old have affected her child’s brain.
Darlin’, if you’re reading this, I didn’t type it to make you feel bad. In fact, I want to tell you a story.
The other day, Alicia texted me about the whole thing while she was at the doctor with Drake. She ended without blaming anyone. She told me about the medication he’d be taking and that was it. I was angry, and in anger I banged out a reply.
“Fuck her,” I wrote. “Fuck her and her stupid ass decisions.”
|Drake caught this and then was scared to death to touch it. It’s a lot like my wedding night.|
My thumb hovered over the “send” button, but I didn’t press it. I still don’t know why. An incremental move to the left, a double tap, “select all,” and “cut” were pressed instead. I never sent that message. I’m done blaming you. You were young and dumb, and I’ve done plenty of dumb shit. I have had an affair. I did irreparable damage to my marriage and my relationship with my wife. I should have been divorced. However, I was shown grace. That grace led to us adopting three children. Those three children came to us swimming in the dumb shit that both you and I did.
Grace hosed them off.
It’s a hose I have to get under every day. There’s a long way to go before I forgive you completely, but anytime you want to use that hose…I invite you to it.
Drake has gotten better. However, Aven has stepped back up to the plate, doing his best to make everyone around him as angry as he is. He’s hateful, he’s sneaky, and he’s deceitful. We’ve basically taken our foot off of the brake and pushed on the gas, only to find out that some horrible mechanic has swapped our gas pedal for another brake.
Things are not okay at the Sloat house. We’re covered in brake fluid and ADHD medication, pumping brake pedals like they belong to a vehicle in a Carrie Underwood song. The resulting collisions leave us covered in the viscous lifeblood of relationships with our children, our friends, and the people we work with.
Grace keeps hosing us off.
|Photographer is Mandy Lundy, and she’s incredible. Go check her out.|
I started this blog eight years ago with a simple purpose: I wanted to make you laugh. If I could go back in time and read all of these blogs before I posted them, I’m not sure my purpose would still have been the same. One thing is for sure, I never would have believed any of them actually would come true. Yet here I am; here we are; and this is reality:
“If it’s not your butt, don’t touch it.”
“You’ve been acting like a dickhead for the last two weeks.”
“If I was Jesus I’d hide in the dark.”
“I’ll have sex with you if you fix dinner and clean some stuff tomorrow.”
“Those sweats make him look like he’s smuggling grapes.”
“Maybe one day we’ll all die and then you can be happy.”
“Yep, thank God. I’m gonna go get Taco Bell.”
“I’m getting the kids McDonald’s because of their shots.”
“Our children are stupid.”
Maybe you’re laughing at us. Maybe you’re crying for us. Maybe you’re angry at us. It doesn’t matter.
When you’re ready, just motion for us to scooch over, and we’ll make room for you under the hose. Until then, if it’s not your butt, don’t touch it.
“Why do You even love me? Why do You even care? Why should You think of me? Oh my God, I’ll never know.
|Fire emoji times a million.|
It’s unconditional love,
The Grace Flood.”
– “Grace Flood” The OC Supertones
|Look at that enormous Sloat head.|
I’m typing this from the doctor’s office. We’re here for a checkup on Isaac, making sure he’s growing like he should and hoping he won’t be covering his face for the next ultrasound.
I’m about to be brutally honest with you, and I hope you can forgive me for it.
I don’t want four kids.
Up until this morning, I have been dreading Isaac’s arrival, I’ve been worrying about my money, my time, and the fact that I’ve got three adopted children who might grow up holding a grudge against our sole biological child.
Akeeli, Aven, and Drake, if you’re reading this, I need you to know I never loved you any less than Isaac. Not for one second. I know you can’t help feeling like you might feel, but listen: I love you more than you could ever imagine. I love you so much I’d die for you.
On the way to Tulsa this today, I had to drop my truck off in Wagoner to get the oil changed. This is in no way a sponsored post, but the guys at Kevin Grover are seriously the best, and one in particular slapped me in the face with some truth this morning.
He walked over to me, and I spent some time trying to figure out if I was looking at his smile or the sun. That’s Neil being Neil though. I’ve never thought of him as car salesman, he’s a friend who happens to be exceptionally skilled at getting me to spend huge sums of money on things with four wheels.
My son weighs 2.6 pounds today. He’s grown tremendously in the last two weeks.
We’re sitting in the lab now, waiting on blood to be drawn. In fact, I’m almost positive Alicia is actually reading what I type as I type it. She’s talking about how much Isaac has grown over the past couple of weeks, and saying that he better slow down. I think she’s finally realizing that when you have a giant for a husband, his kids might be huge too. I don’t know, maybe just my head is giant.
Back to Neil. He came over and shook my hand.
“Two things to congratulate you for, Travis. One, you look fantastic, and two, your newest little one!”
Everyone always does that. If they’re familiar with our situation at all, they’re so excited for us; for me. I get that, and I’m thankful for the empathy, but up until today, it was a forced smile, forced enthusiasm. So I smiled back at him, and I gave my prototypical response.
“Aww, thanks! Be excited for her though, I don’t want four kids.”
Neil didn’t even blink.
“Oh stop that, Travis. You’ve created an eternal soul.”
I’m alone now, Alicia has gone back to have her blood drawn, and I’m fighting tears as I type this. It’s me and one old lady in the waiting room, and I don’t need her wondering why the behemoth four chairs down is blubbering quietly into his cell phone.
We’ve created an eternal soul.
My son is an eternal soul.
Isaac is an eternal soul.
Somewhere in my brain a switch flipped. I took a couple of confused steps and finally spit out a response.
“Thank you, Neil. I’ve never looked at it like that.”
“I’ll leave you guys alone, I know you’ve got a busy day planned!”
He bounced away, frustratingly happy, unaware of the chaos he’d just wreaked in my brain. Unaware of his creating a tectonic shift in the pangean plate that is my selfishness.
You see, that’s all it is, selfishness. One thing I’ve discovered since having children is that I am, by nature, a selfish person. I didn’t realize that until after we’d adopted the kids, but it’s true. I am a selfish person. I want my time, my money, my stuff, my wife. I, I, I, I.
I’m not saying all that changed instantly. I know somewhere between now and the next eighteen years, I’m going to be selfish. But I was given a new way to look at things today. I have four eternal souls that I am now responsible for. Five and six if you count mine and my wife’s, and that’s a whole lot of souls to be in charge of.
My dad figured it out. I don’t know how, but he figured it out. Reading his writings from when I was a kid, I know he was frustrated, unsure of himself as a father, and selfish. But at some point he cracked the code. He figured it out, and he took responsibility for the eternal souls he’d helped create, and he did a damn fine job of it.
Now I’m back at the doctor’s office, waiting for my beautiful wife and my son to come back from getting a shot, which is apparently what you have to do when your husband’s blood (A+), has a higher GPA than yours (A-). We’ll leave here and go pick up two other sons and a daughter, all of which are mine.
Today is a new day. Today I was verbally slapped by a friend who has obviously figured some of it out.
Here she comes. Gotta go. I’m gonna try figure it out.
“Watch Travis here. He’s going to learn something. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to.”
“What’s he going to learn?”
“Shut up and listen, this will be good.”
Let’s be real for a second. As an adoptive parent, I have a problem. It’s a problem that stems from my selfishness and pride, both of which can spiral out of control very quickly in my life.
I don’t need your kind words and panegyrical speeches about how awesome we are for adopting kids. I really don’t. I still don’t think we did an amazing thing, I think we did what any human being on earth would do, we saw some kids who needed a home, and we gave them one.
By the way, I’m getting all the stuff that makes me look like a douchebag out of the way early, so if you want to scroll a bit you can. I’ll understand.
For whatever reason, though I don’t want your edification of our character, I do expect our children to be grateful.
See the problem yet? Again, the offer to skip forward still stands.
I feel like my wife and I (who I am absolutely not speaking for here) pulled these kids out of a situation where their lives could have taken a much different turn. Some of the birth family reads this blog regularly (Hi guys!) and I’m not out to skewer them about how the kids’ lives would have turned out. For all I know, they might have changed their lives around and raised better children than I could ever dream of.
So the kids should be grateful. No, I don’t expect kissing of rings or regular shoe shines from them, but maybe stop the entitled behavior a bit, yeah?
The other day Aven decided he didn’t want to live here anymore. Said it was awful. He wished he lived somewhere else.
Guys, seriously, skip ahead.
So I told him anytime he was ready to leave I’d help him pack. I was pissed. I was offended. I’ve also never parented an eight-year-old boy before, so cut me a little slack.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. Aven had a real bad day at Drake’s birthday party on Sunday. Drake got Legos, and Aven got pissed because he thinks he should have all the Legos in the house, and he threw a fit then gave everyone the silent treatment, and basically took all the attention away from Drake on his big day.
For his behavior, he earned some alone time in his room, along with the promise that when the family left, he’d be getting his rear end lit up.
For an explanation of why I was waiting until family left, see the following tweets:
Well, eventually the party died down and I went into Aven’s room with the paddle. I had planned on doing a bit of yelling, a bit of paddling, and ending in a lecture about his choices.
I told him to sit down, and I explained what was about to happen. I told him that he had made some real bad choices today, and that he was now going to pay the consequences for his actions. I told him he had options when he got mad. I explained that one of those options was walking away. I explained that another option was some alone time in his room if he wanted. I made sure to reinforce that these were his choices, and no one could make them for him.
I then told him he was to go apologize to his mom and his brother, and then he was coming back to get his spanking.
He walked back in to the room, and I told him that he could get mad about the punishment, but my dad busted my butt and that’s why he was getting his butt busted.
And just like that, words stopped coming out of my mouth, because a very shocking thought crossed my brain.
Aven doesn’t need Brian Sloat as a dad. Aven needs Travis Sloat as a dad.
The revelation floored me, and I’m sure I seemed a sight to Aven as I stood there holding the paddle while being unable to communicate.
I heard a voice in my head. It wasn’t Brian Sloat. To tell you the truth, I absolutely know it was the Holy Spirit, giving me a direct order that I wasn’t ready to accept.
“Pray with your son.”
Eventually I put the paddle down. I sat down on Aven’s bed and I told him to stand in front of me. I looked at the wall for a while, then at the giant Superman on the wall. Then I looked at the dresser, the whole time trying to find words that adequately suited the situation, and that would affirm to my son that I had not gone completely bat-shit crazy.
I finally looked him in the eye.
“Aven, I love you so much.”
The tears fell. Through blurry eyes I watched as everything in his countenance changed, his features softened from anger to what could almost be called remorse, and then tears fell from his eyes too.
“Dad, I’m sorry,” he said. And then he hugged me.
It was one of those classic father/son hugs you see in the movies. The whole tears staining the shirt, me gripping the back of his head like a man desperately trying to keep a hydroplaning car on the road type hug. If you had been in that room, you’d have cried, trust me. Nicholas Sparks in all his writing glory could not have manufactured a better hug than that one.
And we cried.
Eventually the crying stopped, and I looked at him again.
“Son, if anything ever happened to you, I would never be the same. You are wanted. You are special. I love you so much, and I know it seems like I’m mean to you sometimes. I’ve never had a son before. I don’t always know how to be a good dad.”
And then we prayed.
“God, help me have a better attitude, and help me not be jealous, and make better decisions, amen.”
“God, I’m a bad father sometimes. Please help me realize that Aven needs me as a father. Please help me be a better dad. Thank you for showing me what mercy looks like. Thank you for Aven. Amen.”
May 15, 2016 will mark the second time ever that I have prayed with my son. The first was his salvation. I am an absolute idiot for not doing it more. I should be praying with all my kids. I’m going to try and make that happen.
As for Aven, well, there will be more bad decisions. He’s eight, after all, soon to be nine. He’s got a whole lifetime of bad decisions ahead of him. Just like his dad.
And I’ll spank him again. It’ll happen. Not for fun, not because it’s what my dad did to me, but because I’m biblically bound to do that. I just need to remember that I’m also biblically bound to love my children as my Heavenly Father loves me.
Alicia walked in the house yesterday and said, “I don’t know what you said to him yesterday, but he’s been amazing today.”
I guess sometimes sparing the rod is necessary. I guess ultimately, that’s what Christ did on the cross. I deserved a beating, and instead I got told that I was loved, that I was special.
I’m a horrible father. Nothing you can ever say to me will change my mind about that. But I love my kids, and Christ loves me, and that’ll work just fine. And in the meantime, I’ll be busy reminding myself that although Brian Sloat was a brilliant father, he doesn’t need to be the one who parents Aven Sloat.
That’s my job. That’s what I do.
“Travis have you talked to your wife?”
“Was she upset?”
“She was, very.”
“Well I’m going to need you to call her back. You’ll never guess what happened.”
This story has been a long time in coming, and after spending a week away from technology and clearing my head, I felt like I was finally ready to tell it.
Then, this morning, as I was walking across the church parking lot, bathed in the voices of worshippers headed to their cars, I heard a voice cut through it all.
There must have been ten kids hollering for their fathers, but I recognized that voice. I turned, and he was smiling at me, head full of curly red hair bouncing as he struggled to get away from mom and run my direction. That cemented the decision to write.
This is a story about 04AN022E-001.
Of course, you might know him as Drake.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you’re all caught up on our family situation at the Sloat house. If you aren’t, I’ll give you the short version, and then you can click here and see all the stories.
My wife and I have adopted three children. These children all share the same biological mother. We adopted the first two, Aven and Akeeli, earlier, then got a phone call about Drake, the youngest. We finalized on him earlier in the year, and changed his first name to Greyson, although we still call him Drake.
Many of you read the blog I wrote when Drake was born. Of course I didn’t know his name, I just knew that my two children suddenly had a brother, and my wife and I were faced with the decision of “What to tell the kids.” How do you let them know they have a brother they’ll never meet?
We did the best we could. Our children grasp things fairly quickly, possibly as a result of so much change in their lives. They’ve never had the luxury of having many abstract thoughts, reality struck them much too harshly, much too early on. They accepted this brother without much emotional involvement, kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. A philosophy that didn’t come easily to Alicia and I.
Then of course we got the call.
Drake had been taken by the state, and he’d be coming to see us. Foster care, possible adoption. I hate the term foster care, but no matter, the kids were finally going to get to see their younger brother.
Then we got the email.
“We’ve found a kinship placement, he won’t be coming to see you.”
There are certain words, when strung together in a certain order, change your life forever. Being notified of the death of a child or loved one, a relationship ending, or sitting in a doctor’s office as he uses the word “terminal.” Certain words in a certain order can proclaim worse fates than death.
So we cried.
A few months later, we got a call.
“The kinship placement didn’t work out. Can you meet us to pick him up?”
So we cried. And we drove.
I will never forget that drive home. I will never forget strapping that curly-headed monster into his car seat, I will never forget Aven and Akeeli calling him “bubba,” and I will never forget when Drake pointed at me as we were driving down the road and said, “Dad!”
And thus our lives were changed.
We got still yet another call.
“Travis, the biological mom won’t terminate her parental rights. We know you have a way with words, can you write her a letter letting her know Drake is in good hands?”
I have written stories about murders, tragedies, and love. I have written a commencement speech. I have written cover letters and resumes, and I have written numerous blogs to convey important points to my readers.
None have ever come close to the importance of the letter I wrote to her.
After reading the letter, she decided to terminate, but was fearful of the biological father’s more stubborn attitude about relinquishing. He is in prison, but had said he would not terminate. She didn’t want Drake to go back to him, and we understood her fear.
And so we waited.
We got still yet another call.
“Alicia, the biological father is refusing to terminate. He has court on this date, and we’re going to try to get the judge to terminate then, but technically he can have some time to try and accomplish the things required to get Drake back. He has said that he will not give up his rights.”
So we cried. And we prayed. And we enjoyed our time with Drake, dancing on the razor’s edge of hope, hanging on to the truth proclaimed in God’s Word that all things work together for the good of those who trust Him, and that if God is for us, no one can be against us.
Finally the court date came.
Alicia and I waited nervously by our phones, and kept refreshing our email inboxes, waiting for the news, dreading the appearance of certain words and the order they might be put in.
Finally the email came. Through tears, Alicia told me that the biological father had refused to terminate, and the judge had not granted the state’s request to terminate. Through tears, I told her that things would be okay, there’s no way any judge in the world would give a child back to a man in prison for the crimes he was in for.
Alicia said she was going to call the social worker for clarification on a few things. Things did not get any better after that call, which prompted me to call the social worker and ask a few questions of my own.
“How can they consider handing him back to that man after what he’s done?”
“Well, it’s a jury trial, and they might convince the jury that he’s a great person except for that one night when he made one bad decision, or they might say that a child this young needs his biological father since the mother gave him up.”
“I just don’t see how anyone would ever see it that way.”
“Stranger things have happened. We’ll see how it goes.”
I hung up, crying, and called Alicia.
I told her everything, told her God was still in control, and I hung up the phone.
About ten seconds later it rang again. It was the social worker.
“Travis have you talked to your wife?”
“Was she upset?”
“She was, very.”
“Well I’m going to need you to call her back. You’ll never guess what happened.”
“He was walking out of the courtroom, stopped, turned around and looked at us and said he was ready to relinquish. Said he wanted one more visit, but he’d sign him over immediately.”
I hung up, crying, and called Alicia.
I would not even begin to guess the amount of phone calls made since the telephone was invented. But I can say with complete authority that none of them has ever made anyone happier than that phone call at that time.
We finalized on March 30. As the social worker was having us sign all the paperwork, I saw a number across the top: 04AN022E-001. Drake’s number.
I snapped a picture. “One day I’ll blog about this.”
Oh and the visit? It never happened. He decided he didn’t want to see him after all.
It’s not all been roses and amazing phone calls since that day. In fact, about an hour ago, I had to spank him for not laying down and taking a nap. Right now, as I’m proofreading this blog, we just discovered he’s had a relapse on his potty training and has pooped his pants. He can be insufferable.
He is hard-headed, has a will of iron, and can be as immovable as only red-headed children can.
He is handsome, has a million-dollar smile that makes you feel like the best dad in the world when he gives it to you, and can turn a simple word like “Daddy!” into something that can take my spirit from the lowest depths to the highest peaks.
He just turned three. He looks so much like me that people constantly tell me, “You can’t deny that one.” I look at Alicia, and we just laugh. He’s officially spent more of his life with us than anywhere else. He’s a holy terror to his older brother, and a real-life baby doll to his older sister. He loves Mickey Mouse, nachos, and milk at bedtime. He has nightmares that are painful to witness at 3 a.m. He drives me crazy because he won’t eat when he’s supposed to, and he doesn’t always like to tell me goodnight, which cuts me deeper than anything, and I just pretend it doesn’t.
He’s my son. He’s a Sloat.
One day, I’ll get to meet Jesus.
I have a lot of questions for Him.
But I think the one I’ll ask first, the one that will be on the tip of my tongue before I even get to the throne, will be what made that man change his mind on the way out of the courtroom that day.
I believe in miracles. I also believe in science. I know there’s a chemical in the brain that made him change his mind, and I know that God is in charge of that chemical and every other aspect of our lives. But I’ve got to know. I’ve got to know how He did it.
In the meantime, I’m satisfied with the fact that God took an impossible situation, named it 04AN022E-001, and entrusted him to our care for the next fifteen years. I’ll do my best, and when things seems impossible again, I’ll remember that God is big, and we are His.
|The boy who lived.|
The rock staircase was steep, but adventure was calling. The Youngest couldn’t resist the siren song of adventure, and his older brother and sister were already halfway down, yelling and having fun.
He decided he’d do it on his own.
“Daddy, let me.”
“Go for it son. Be careful.”
I got the phone call on Wednesday morning. I really want to give you more details than I can right now, but I can’t. I have to be careful how I say and word things, but in a couple of months, hopefully I’ll be writing the blog that reveals all.
The call was from Alicia. She was crying.
“Travis, he picked the hard way. What are we going to do?”
To be honest, I didn’t have any clue. I immediately starting thinking of ways I could fix it, ways I could make it better and create a world where I didn’t have to get phone calls like this.
“Things will work out,” was all I could say.
I hung up, and immediately got another phone call from another side of the state. The side of the state where the problem was.
The person on the other end of the line told me the same thing Alicia did, but also gave me more bad news, news I had to give to my wife.
“Alicia, here are a couple of problems. I know we thought this would be easy, but it turns out it won’t be as easy as we thought.”
Then it was my turn to ask.
“What are we going to do?”
Independence did not suit The Youngest well.
He started struggling on the very next step, then tripped on the next one. He stood there for a moment, examining his options, looking for another way down, fully exercising the extent of his independence.
Finally, he reached a conclusion.
“Daddy, help me.”
And he held out his hand.
I grabbed his hand, and the second I did, his descent down the staircase was transformed. He leaned out, taking the steps as fast as he could—as fast as I could—pursuing the goal with reckless abandon, his thoughts now only on the fun.
He trusted me. And in that trust, he found no fear, only freedom. Freedom to take chances, and freedom from doubt.
I hung up the phone with Alicia and I sat there, wondering.
I didn’t pray, although I’d like to say I did. I was too busy thinking of ways I could fix things. I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to fully exercise the extent of the independence I have in my Savior.
“Daddy, let me.”
But there was nothing I could do. No way for Travis Sloat to handle it.
“Daddy, help me.”
Then the phone rang.
The call was from the other side of the state. And this time it was incredible news.
“Travis, he picked the easy way. We don’t know why, but he changed his mind. It’s going to be the easy way.”
Making that second phone call to my wife is on the top five list of the best moments in my life. It might even crack the top three.
We both sat there on the phone sobbing like idiots, completely lost in the massive mystery that is God.
I told someone later that it felt like God reached out, gave me a friendly pat on the back, and said, “Hey. Hey Travis. I don’t need your help. I got this.”
When all hope has completely vanished, when the road ahead is dark, scary, and twisted, and when you stop, look around you and wonder how you’re going to go on, all God wants is your trust. All he wants is you to look back, hold out your hand, and say, “Daddy, help me.”
I have no idea what the future holds for my family.
But I know that right now, I’m leaning out, testing the firm grip of the One who knows my future, and I’m pulling Him as fast as He’ll let me go.
God is big. We are His.
And so are you.
|Good Lord I’m a dork.|
I’ve wondered about the title of this blog for four years. As it turns out, I didn’t even have to think of it. This morning, while I was getting a glass of water from the refrigerator, my son walked in and said, “Yay! Daddy’s graduating today!”
My daughter looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Finally.” ***
Thursday night was bad.
I kept having dreams where I died. I’d drift off to sleep, and wake up gasping, having just crashed an airplane, fallen off a cliff, or having been pushed in front of a bus.
I cried Friday morning when I was watching the news before class. Someone paid off someone else’s layaway, and I got all weepy.
So of course I texted my wife and told her what was going on, and she was very succinct with her reply: “You need to calm down.”
I didn’t believe I would make it. I really didn’t. When I started college four years ago, I honestly thought I’d quit again. I mean I’d tried it twice before, and I left both times. I don’t mean I dropped out, I just left. My grade point average was abysmal.
But I started again.
And I slugged along. I took some classes I really thought I’d like at first, just to pick up the momentum. I took elementary algebra four times, and I took intermediate algebra four times. I won’t tell you how I got through college algebra.
I fell in love with literature. I decided against a journalism degree, then decided against a computer science degree, and finally settled on English Education. Teaching. Geez.
I quit my job after my second semester. I burned an enormous bridge at Connors State College, simply because their math department (certain faculty, really) is the biggest bunch of idiots God ever put on earth.
We got a couple of kids. Then we got another kid. We went through a really rough patch in our marriage, and I genuinely thought it was all over. Then I learned how to ask, “How can I help?”
I’ve worked 16-hour days for an entire semester now. I’ve gained an enormous amount of respect for high-school teachers, and not only them, but the students as well. I fell in love with those kids (totally not in a weird way), and I’m sad I only have one more week with them.
I interrupted the semester with a trip to Washington, D.C. for an amazing reason. I had a wreck my second day of my internship. I got sick for like the second time in my entire life. I yelled at my daughter for making a C when I was struggling to keep up a C in a class myself.
“You’re a Sloat. Sloats don’t make Cs. Sloats don’t make Bs. Sloats make As.” – Brian (and now Travis) Sloat
I ran out of gas halfway through the semester, then got an email from my wife that changed everything.
And, while we’re on the subject, can we just take a moment to enter my wife in the “Best Wife of the 2010s” contest. The woman is amazing. While I’ve been slugging away at my internship, then working nights at the paper, she’s been raising three kids essentially by herself, and, not only that, actually tried to sleep with me a few times too.
You know I still remember the first day I actually noticed her. I don’t remember much, I truly think I’ll have dementia in about a week, but I remember noticing Alicia for the first time. I can tell you exactly where I was, and exactly where she was, and almost exactly what she had on.
God, in His amazing and infinite wisdom, completely changed my life when He let her fall in love with me. She is a rock, and I am fully prepared to spend the rest of my life trying to thank her for these last four years in particular. I love you, Alicia.
I woke up at 7 a.m.
I rolled out of bed to get in the shower, and Alicia asked me, “What time are you leaving?” I replied, “I need to leave in about 45 minutes.”
“What? You told me it started at 9:30!”
“Yeah, but I have to be there an hour early.”
She made some sort of noise, and then I honest to goodness didn’t see her the rest of the morning. Somehow, she got all three kids ready, herself ready, and ironed my clothes in 45 minutes. Did I mention she’s amazing?
Just before we left, I remembered something. In my sock drawer, there’s an armband with some initials on it. B.R.S. Brian Ronald Sloat. I had it made for basketball after he died. I grabbed it, and slid it on under my shirt sleeve. It just seemed right dad should be there with me.
We made it to the event center. We didn’t die.
The separated us at the door, and ushered me around the building where I had a moment of sheer, unadulterated panic when the lady in charge of the cards with our names on them couldn’t find mine. It wound up being the only one in the pack stuck to the back of another one, and if that right there doesn’t prove to you that The Lord has a sense of humor (a sick one, sometimes), then I don’t know what will.
I met my friends, Krista and Katelynn, who have been with me through this whole thing, and don’t seem to find it weird that they have attached themselves to a 32-year-old man who has a penchant for being inappropriate.
|I freaking love you guys.|
We teamed up with Bret, another fellow English major, and we lined up.
I didn’t die. I didn’t trip. But I was sweating bullets.
My mom sent me a text. You see, she got married today in what was the biggest scheduling SNAFU of 2014, and couldn’t be at the graduation. I’m okay with that, because I like the guy she married. I think, for the first time in 14 years, I’m cool with finally calling someone my step-dad.
“Congrats on your graduation today! Sorry I’m not there to see it, just know that I’m SO proud of you! Your dad would say, ‘Good job, son.’ Love you.”
And now, typing that out, I’m crying for the first time today. I’m honestly surprised it didn’t happen sooner.
My dad would be proud of me, just like the rest of my family is. But I honestly think he’d laugh a little, and smile at me the way he used to, the way I can see so perfectly in my mind right now, and he’d say:
I walked in that gym, and I had my chest out and my head high. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I waved to my friends and family. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I sat through a commencement speech that I can’t even come close to remembering now. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I stood up when my row was ready. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I walked to the stage. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I heard my name: “Travis Gene Sloat.” I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I shook the hands of two people and got my degree holder. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I walked out of the gym and into life as a college graduate. I didn’t trip, I didn’t die.
I found a professor I’ve really grown attached to and I shook his hand. “Thank you.” That’s all I could say.
I found some friends and hugged their necks and shook their hands. They congratulated me, and I thanked them, looking all the while for my family.
I finally got a text message from Alicia. “We’re at the truck.”
You know, I didn’t even pause. I just started walking that way. I completely missed Krista and Katelynn, and missed a couple of other professors I wanted to thank, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be with my family.
We got in the truck, and we went out for a celebratory lunch. Mexican food, because what else?
I looked at them, gathered around the table. Aven, who was of course distracted by everything; Akeeli, who is just about the cutest little girl on the face of the planet; The youngest, who we’re hoping to finally have a chance to adopt in a few short weeks; and, finally, Alicia.
I smiled and took a drink of my beer, completely satisfied with my life at that point.
In case you’re wondering, the answer is three.
It took three slow dances with my daughter for her to look up at me, smile, and say, “Daddy I love you.”
I wanted to tell you that now, both because it was hands down the best part of my night, and because you might leave this blog prematurely, thinking this post might not be for you, and you might be right, because this is mostly for Akeeli.
I love you too, daughter.
She came into the room in a rush, holding a flier. It had some hearts on it, and a date and a time, which meant it involved a commitment, and with the precious little amount of time I have, I didn’t want to make one.
It was the annual Daddy-Daughter Dance put on by a local organization that I heartily support because of the good work they do for children. Forgive me for be extremely cliché, but I consider them the proverbial catchers in the rye, rescuing children before they run off a very dangerous and emotional edge.
But back to the flier.
I didn’t know it until later, but a conversation had taken place before she asked me to the dance. In the car, she looked at The Missus and said, “Do you think daddy will take me?”
“I don’t know if he’ll have time.” “Well if he doesn’t, I’m asking uncle Brad.”
I have class on Thursday nights. From 5:30 to 8:10, I’m cooped up in a small room learning how to teach English to secondary school kids. The teacher is amazing, but I wasn’t too sure how she would feel about letting me off early for a dance.
But I decided I would go anyway. I told our daughter to be ready, and that I would be a little late, but we’d go.
I didn’t miss it.
As I left class, I got told by every. single. girl. including the teacher, to go get flowers. I told them they’d have flowers for sale at the dance, and one of the girls said, “Yeah, but she’ll have the best flowers.”
So, crunched for time—always crunched for time—I stopped and got my daughter flowers.
Keeli, if you ever find this, they were cheap flowers. I’m sorry. You were 8. You didn’t need a dozen roses.
I’m glad I got the flowers. She didn’t realize at first they were for her, but her face lit up when she saw them. Then I threw on a sweater and we jumped in the truck, speeding off to our “date.”
“The flowers were very pretty daddy.”
I’ve got to compliment my daughter, I forgot to do that, I opened the truck door for her but I didn’t tell her how beautiful she is, crap crap crap, Travis tell her how beautiful she is.
“You are very beautiful, daughter.”
“Thank you daddy. And you’re very handsome.”
We finally got to the dance, walked in the door, and she immediately handed me her coat and she took off to find a friend. She hugged her, they screamed like little girls, and immediately went to the cookie table, where she got good and hopped up on at least eight cookies and a fruit punch.
Meanwhile, my arm was sweating because I had a coat on it, and the rest of me was sweating because that’s what I do in hot confined places.
Then they played a slow song.
It was “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me.
When you think about slow songs you can dance to, I’m not sure that cracks even the top 100. But she ran up to me, grabbed my hand, and led me onto the dance floor, just like every other little girl in the building was doing to her dad.
And we danced. In reality, we swayed, but I’m sure she’ll remember it as dancing. I’m a terrible dancer. But I can sway pretty well, so I stuck with what I knew.
|An example of how I dance to fast songs.|
Then they broke for a fast song, and almost all of the dads cleared the floor for the daughters to have their fun. These little girls screamed every time a “popular” song was played, and when the DJ spun up “What Does the Fox Say?” I actually thought the glass would break in the place. Woo.
Then the next slow song came up. I don’t remember it, but I know that my daughter looked me in the eyeball and said, “Spin me daddy!” So I twirled her a couple of times in a very awkward way because we couldn’t quite get the hand placement right. But she laughed, and it appeared she was having a good time, and I’ve got it on good authority from several people that this is the kind of thing she’ll remember the rest of her life.
I just hope I remember it for the rest of mine.
A few more fast songs, then another slow one. This one was “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw.
About halfway through the dance, Akeeli looked up at me, smiled at me, and said, “I love you, Daddy.”
When I say I forced myself not to cry, I mean it. I pulled up more happy memories than it takes to conjure a Patronus, and I forced myself not to cry. I glanced around the room and saw a bunch of stone faced men and I have a strong hunch that I wasn’t the only one in the room with that problem.
Here are a few highlights of the night:
- I watched a grown man in a three-piece suit sing along with “We’re Never Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift (it wasn’t me I don’t own a suit)
- My daughter did the Cha-Cha Slide
- The sheer number of people in attendance gave me hope for Muskogee
- My daughter told me she loved me
And then it was over. We hopped back in the truck, she talked about wanting to bring a limo next year because someone in her grade had a limo, and I reminded her that limos cost money. But in reality, I’ll probably do my best to get her a limo next year.
Here’s my end goal: Maybe, just maybe, if I can set impossibly high standards for my daughter, not just any idiot young man will be able to impress her. Maybe it’ll take a man who gives her flowers, who gets her a limo, and who takes time out of his busy life to win her heart.
I am not Ozymandias. I do not expect this blog to live forever. But maybe that young man is reading this now.
You aren’t good enough for my daughter.
But if you treat her like I tried to treat her, like the way she deserves to be treated, then you’ll have just a little bit better chance of winning me over than the last testosterone-fueled jackass that gave it a shot.
I’ve failed more times than not at being a good dad. It’s hard work. But last night I got something right. The Good Lord smiled down on me and blessed me for making time for our daughter. It was a great night.
And I didn’t miss it.
Note to the reader: I am not kidding about making mistakes. In case this blog gives you the feeling that I’m holier-than-though or think I’m the best dad ever, here’s one where I royally screwed up to make me look worse. Just click this.
P.S. Maybe you didn’t read this. Maybe you did. But if you’re a father, go read this right here. Seriously. Don’t even read what I wrote. This is better.
Just under two years ago I posted this blog.
I was full of resentment and hurt and all of those things that can make a very bitter person out of you if you hang on to them. You see, I was having trouble walking the walk I talked about so much when it came to other people.
I will assume you’re familiar with the phrase: “Just pray for God’s will.” You may have even spoken those words to someone, hoping they’d give comfort and peace.
I can assure you that living that phrase is harder than saying it. And I’m just about positive that you already know that, because undoubtedly you’ve lost a loved one, a job, or have been in a situation where you desperately wanted your will done and not God’s.
If you aren’t a Christian or don’t believe in God, that’s fine, I have to figure this would be the equivalent of someone telling you “Things will work out, just give it time.”
So fast forward to a few months back. The Missus and I got a phone call. The bouncing baby boy born back in 2012 was needing a new home. You were on the list. Be ready. He’s coming to you.
We might have freaked out just a bit. The Missus did a deep cleaning of the house the likes of which I have never seen in my life. Things were stored, things were bleached, things were thrown away, things were painted. Rooms were changed. My brother came over and threw his back out hanging up a ceiling fan, God love him. We were going to be prepared.
Then came an email.
“We’re going to give him to someone else instead. We’ll keep you posted.”
The pain The Missus felt was extraordinary. I felt empty. I was disappointed. I felt like nothing good would ever happen again. We cried, we yelled, and we questioned the very God whose will we were supposedly praying for all along. We sat down and had a giant pity party. We broke the news to the kids, and then everyone in the family was broken hearted.
I do not claim to know why that happened. I don’t know why we needed to feel that pain, and why we had to explain to our children that the new baby, their brother, was not coming to us after all. But we did. And we moved on.
Then we got another email.
“The someone didn’t work out. He’s coming to you.”
After swearing we would never get our hopes up again, we…well we got our hopes up again. We cleaned. We did background checks and home studies and physicals. We decided not to tell the kids until we were a bit more certain. Then we told the kids.
Then we made the drive. Just under two hours, and we had a Tahoe full of toys and clothes and baby, whose name I cannot give you for a while, for the same reason I couldn’t give you the others’ back in 2010. It’ll take a little bit. We don’t know how long, that’s up to the state and the Lord. This situation isn’t as fluid as the other one. There are a lot of extraneous factors that could result in us not getting to keep him.
However, I serve a God who is in control of this situation. He knows what’s going to happen already, in fact He saw it from the beginning of time. And what’s more important, He knows what I can handle. He knows what my family can handle. And if it’s His will that my family should now number five, then so be it. If not, somehow, with His help, we’ll get through it.
But right now the boy is home. He’s at our house, with his brother and sister, and they love him. We love him. He loves all of us. In fact, on the car ride home, he said something, and I turned and looked at him. He pointed right at me and said “Dad.”
He hates nap time. He hates bed time. He loves bananas. He has the reddest, curliest hair you’ve ever seen and looks exactly like a Sloat. Hates to be told no. Can high five with the best of them. Loves the rabbit, doesn’t really care for Fabulous, but he’s warming up to her. Loves to say “Bye” and act like he’s walking out the door. He cries when I leave for work or school, which breaks my heart. Gives pretty good hugs. Is calling The Missus “Mom,” and his brother and sister “Bubba” and “Sis.”
The addition to our family has also created an imbalance of sorts, as represented by the following pie charts.
|This seems natural and right and in complete harmony and accord with all things.|
|THE PURPLE AREA IS GROWING HELP ME BABY JESUS.|
In the past two weeks I’ve taken hundreds of pictures, the majority of which I can’t put on social media or my blog. I forwarded one picture to about 20 different people before I realized that it had my boob in it, clear as day. Here’s one that makes me proud, but I can’t tell you if it’s him.
|This could be him, this might not be him. I’m not telling you for sure.|
It seems as though he’s had a hundred visitors. Family, friends, and everyone who meets him loves him. They play with him, hold him, talk to him. God has blessed us with people in our lives who genuinely love us and who want good things for our family. It amazes me that He would take so many terrible situations: broken families, infertility, abuse, drugs…and combine them into something so amazing. Something I’m able to call a family.
The other day, the day after we brought him home, he was screaming his lungs out about taking a nap and I was there beside him to make sure he didn’t abscond from the crib. As I watched him tire himself out by crying, something struck me as humorous and I looked down at him and laughed. Then, the comparison hit me, I started crying while I was laughing. So I stood there like an idiot, chuckling silently while giant tears slid down my cheeks.
God throws me a lot of curveballs. And sometimes, when I’m right smack in the middle of something God knows I should be going through, I lay down and I kick my feet and I scream about it. I say “No” a lot and I think God is the worst person in the world for handing me the situation or set of circumstances. It’s so unfair. The world is unfair. It’s the worst.
And then I calm down. I realize that what I’m going through is what’s best for me. I realize all those things I wish I would have realized sooner. I realize that I serve a God who can handle me when I’m having my biggest screaming hissy fit ever, and he’s looking at me saying, “It’s for the best. Trust me. Just trust me.”
So yeah, I’m hoping God works His will in this situation. And even more than that, I actually believe that His will is best for all of us, including the new guy. Do I want things to work out the way I think is best? Absolutely. But what do I know?
I know that God is big.
I know that I am His. I know that my family is His. I know that you are His.
And I know that The Missus and I are officially outnumbered, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.