Sleepless Nights and Other Daily Sacrifices

Derek Johnson

It’s another normal night at the Johnsons. I awaken to my wife, Becky, shaking my shoulder.

“The baby is awake.”

Sure enough, I hear Julian’s cries coming through the baby monitor. Glancing groggily at my phone beside the bed, I see that it’s 3:30 a.m.

I swing out of bed, stumble across the hall to the baby’s room, scoop up my wailing infant son in a football hold, and head back to our bedroom.

I mastered the football hold when Julian was 2-4 months old and struggling with colic. For any parents who have been blessed to escape the experience of having a colicky child, you basically lose your mind trying to comfort your cute, precious baby as they squeal and cry like a dying cat for hours and hours without end. Though that season is now mercifully far behind us, it is still impossible to hold my son in the football hold without having terrifying flashbacks!

Julian calms down right away, knowing he’s going to be rocked for a moment, or even better, get some middle-of-the-night milk from Mom. I hand him off to Becky, lay back down in bed, settle on my side, and close my eyes.

Then, right on cue, like an angel coming to greet me in the night, I hear the sweet sound of my daughter Lucy’s voice.

“Daddy…Daddy…Daddy, I have to go potty.”

Wordlessly, I get up again. My daughter is four and capable of going to the bathroom on her own, but apparently, that doesn’t matter. She needs my help. I walk her to the bathroom, stand by as she does her business, then walk her back to her room and tuck her in. Staggering back to bed, I take one last look at my phone. It’s 3:45 a.m. I have less than three hours of precious sleep (I hope) before the kids will be up, full of energy and hungry for breakfast.

Nights like this are actually much easier than the typical nights we endured when Lucy was Julian’s age. Like clockwork, that girl woke up at 2 a.m. ready to party, and refused to fall asleep for several hours. I used to stand in the front room of our house, watching Mythbusters as I bounced her in my arms and tried to get her to doze off. Eventually, I began to suspect that her goal was to see 1) how much I loved her, and 2) how long a grown man can bounce a baby before his arms fall off. The answer is 4 hours. After 4 hours, the arms just detach!

Love and Transformation

Did I mention that one of my biggest pet peeves in life is being woken up? Being a dad has definitely forced me to get over that one. In fact, embracing the reality of nights with small children has become a point of pride for me. Why? Because I’m convinced that love looks like something. We can declare love, but only our actions prove it. I love my children. That love is manifested through a lifestyle of choices I make to point the best of who I am in their direction.

Yes, genuine love involves sacrifice. And perhaps the greatest sacrifice of love we can make for our kids is not just the individual acts we do to serve and care for them, but the battle we fight in our own hearts to deal with the fear, anxiety, disappointment, and sheer exhaustion that eat away at our ability to give our best each and every day.

How do you lead with love on the days when you’re running on a few hours of sleep, the baby has a fever, you have an intense disagreement with your spouse before bed, your toddler is in a nightly standoff refusing to sleep, and you’ve forgotten to take the garbage out to the road two weeks in a row? We can only do it by developing a plan, tools, and habits so that when the storm hits, we know how to navigate the seas without losing our focus of love.

This is why learning to love as a parent is one of the most transformational journeys we can take as people. Without hesitation, I can say that becoming a good husband and a father is by far the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve undertaken in my life. And while I absolutely am still in process, I know that I am a good father—because I have chosen, and will continue to choose, to be a good father. I choose to keep putting love in action, no matter what it costs.

Courage on the Journey

Of course, I wouldn’t even know how to make that choice if it wasn’t for the people who have invested in me, the books I’ve read, the research I’ve done, and ultimately, the divine wisdom of heaven that has shown me the Father’s love so that I in turn can give it away. I’m especially grateful for the stories of other parents that have helped me feel sane, not alone, and equipped to apply their personal breakthroughs in my own life. Much of my courage to press through challenges and love my wife and kids well has come from being encouraged by others.

Courage is one of the main things Brittney and I want to offer to parents, spouses, and really anyone with meaningful relationships worth protecting through our new podcast, Coffee, Kids, and Crazy. Just as others have done for us, we want to break open our lives in hopes that our transparency will make way for your breakthrough and transformation.

I have no doubt that you will be hearing us share some hilarious, wild, painful, and beautiful stories from our parenting lives. It always amazes me that some of the worst days have produced some of the funniest stories. I think that being able to laugh about our past pain reveals the strength we’ve been created with to overcome and learn from mistakes and challenges. Hopefully, you’ll be laughing with us!

On a deeper level, our dream is to call and encourage a generation of people to shoulder the responsibility of building family with such intentionality that it reshapes values and culture to better reflect heaven’s value and culture. We know that doing this comes down to making those intentional choices to put love in action every day, and that’s where we want to come alongside you with courage.

So, I invite you to come join us. Let’s reinforce our values of love and family together!

PS- Our podcast, Coffee, Kids, and Crazy, will be released this October!

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