My eldest daughter turns eight today. A little less than nine years ago my world came to a grinding halt when my wife asked me to stop at the pharmacy. I was twenty-five, recently married and searching for a house. And, of course, I was working on becoming a writer.

I distinctly remember a conversation my wife and I had about a month after the realization that we were going to be parents had settled in. We talked about the changes coming, our lack of preparedness, and our overall thrill. And then my wife said, about my writing, “I know this will change everything for you, the amount of time you will have, and I’m sorry for that.”

I was crushed. Not only because she was right, but because I was so transparent. I was, indeed, scrambling to figure out how I was going to be a father, husband, homeowner, teacher, AND writer. More than that, her words hurt, because being sorry wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted her to be feeling. The conversation altered my perspective, because I knew right then that for my marriage to work, and for me to be the best father possible, I needed to straighten out my priorities. Writing mattered, but not nearly as much as family.

Somehow we made it through those zombie days of infancy, and through it all, I kept writing. My schedule shifted to early mornings, because it was a race to see if I could write before the morning feeding. Once our daughter was old enough, and slept through, I’d become accustomed to the hours and kept them. They served me well as three years later, we had our second daughter and two years after that This Side of Normal was published.

However, being a parent to an infant is difficult, but being a father to two toddler girls is wonderful and all-encompassing. My wife and I are both educators. We understood the importance of those early years, how vital they are to building the foundation of personality and intelligence and security. To say I struggled balancing that demand and my writing is an understatement, yet one very important element crystallized: my motivation.

I was tempted to quit writing after This Side of Normal. My next work didn’t sell, the publishing industry was changing and I wasn’t sure if I had what it takes to succeed in this business. But both of my daughters, when the saw the cover of TSON, would say, “That’s daddy’s book. Daddy’s a writer.” How in the world could I ever say to them, “Well, I used to be.”

And so I forged ahead, not solely for me, but because of how I felt after that initial conversation with my wife, after the grind of writing while half-awake, the excitement of seeing my work in print, and for my daughters.

This kind of story is not unique. People work hellacious hours at jobs they despise for the sake of their children. Some work two or three jobs to provide. I have to believe that they feel as I do, that this work is not about me anymore. It is much bigger. It is about us.

I would not have that motivation without my wife and daughters. The roadblock my wife thought children might be has become the best kick in the pants. I love writing. I love my daughters. I cannot imagine a world without either. I get up early and write to the last minute before work, and I think about the craft all the time. And I parent. I am their daddy who writes. This is my life.

So thank you, Carrie, for putting it all into perspective.

And that leads me back to Grace, the birthday girl, to whom I also want to say, thank you. Without you, I would be a shadow of the man I am today. My wish for you is a life that provides insight into just how amazing you are. Enjoy this birthday and every one over the horizon.