By Chad Branton
Chad Branton, his son Clay and wife Melissa enjoy a quiet moment on the beach.
The time we have with our children flies by so fast. All we really have are the wonderful, fleeting moments that make life magical and teach us what is important. I want remember as many of those moments as I can, so I started a journal – things I don’t want to forget about my boy.
Age 5: Clay brought home a hand-made Father’s Day card from Sunday school that stated “I love my daddy because______.” Clay filled in the blank with “because he plays with me.” I’m holding on to that piece of paper and if I ever get so wrapped up in life that I start neglecting my time with him, I hope I’ll pull it out and remember how important it is to him that I take time to be with him.
Age 5: On Clay’s first day of Karate class, the Sensei began the session with a lesson on showing respect, following rules and having discipline. I could see my boy’s patience wearing away as he sat Indian-style on the dojo floor rocking back and forth. Finally, he blurted out, “Is this Karate class or sit-n’-talk?”
Age 4: I was running late for work on a morning where everything seemed to be going wrong. As I dropped Clay off at daycare he suddenly decided he didn’t want to go. With his little hands gripped tightly around my leg and tears flowing down his red face, a crazy high-speed stress-induced morning just came to a screeching halt. The way I saw it, I had two choices. Shake him loose and book it to work or scoop him up in my arms and take the day off. We got back in my truck and sang “Frosty the Snow Man” all the way to the park where we played for the next few hours. Later he asked, “Daddy, why does time go so slow at daycare but it goes really fast when I’m playing with you?” I’ve never regretted losing that day of work.
“Later he asked, ‘Daddy, why does time go so slow at daycare but it goes really fast when I’m playing with you?’”
Age 1: The night Clay was born I was working a banquet for my job and everything that could have gone wrong pretty much did. My stress level had maxed as the music presentation I was responsible for flopped due to a failed sound system. A room full of influential business leaders began to fill the awkward silence with whispers and giggles. We trudged our way through what was salvageable of the presentation. My heart raced as I was wondering if I’d still have a job in the morning. Then I received a phone call on my cell. It was time. Melissa was in labor with our first child and in route to the hospital. I arrived soon after still wearing a full tuxedo.
I can’t remember a time that I was more mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted than the day he was born. After twenty-six sleepless hours, and greeting my boy for the first time, I was reassured that everything was fine and that I should go home, change clothes, have a nap and come back to the hospital. I went home, settled in and unexpectedly felt the worse feeling I had ever experienced. What if something went wrong after I left? What if he needed me and I wasn’t there?
I had never been so overcome with dread and couldn’t rationalize why I felt all these things at once. I knew at that very second I loved him more than anything and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. I dropped to my knees and prayed to God like never before to please watch over my boy. I’ve believed in God since I was a child, but until that moment I never fully considered what it must have been like for Him to send His son to die on a cross. I asked God to forgive me for taking His sacrifice for granted for so long. Then God spoke to my heart again. He said that the same unconditional love that I’m feeling right now for my little boy is like the love that He feels for me. God is our Heavenly Father and I never want to forget the day that Clay helped me to understand that better than anyone else ever had.
Chad Branton has been with the Sevierville Convention & Visitors Bureau for thirteen years, serving several years as art director. He enjoys living and working in the Smoky Mountains with his wife, Melissa, and son, Clay.
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