Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good Dads

Dads who are involved with their kids are inspiring to me. My dad, who died 8 years ago this March, was not what I would term a good dad. I know he loved me and my siblings, but was too damaged within himself to express that love in a way that we could understand and access. He was lost to us because of his pain and mental illness. Kids that grow up without a strong dad have a hole in their life. It's a bit like standing on one leg instead of two. You struggle as an adult to find your balance. I had the feminine side of my personality developed due to my mom's daily involvement, but I'm missing the ease that others feel in masculine company. I'm thrilled my kids will know the love of their dad and have no reason to doubt or question it.

Jason came home a little early yesterday, as he does on most Fridays, to make pizza for family movie night. He makes the best pizza in the western world (and possibly the entire world). If I'm ever forced to make it, my crust is all wonky and it doesn't taste at all like his does. It's so great not to have to make dinner on Fridays at the end of the week, especially after a long and stressful week like this one. Then he gets the kids in the bath and ready for bed. I read to William while he reads to Ava, then we trade spots to say goodnight to the other child. I was in the kitchen while he was "cuddling" with William (in William's 3 year old language) last night, and I enjoyed listening to them play various games, hiding Mr. Bear under the covers and popping him up to surprise William, talking about the day, and laughing with each other.

As a child, I never experienced that type of a bond with a man. It's as foreign to me as speaking Swahili. My relationship with Jason has healed many of those old wounds as I learn to be comfortable and accepted by him, but when we have arguments I realize I'm out of my depth; I panic and worry that the jig is up, that he will withdraw from me as my Dad did and I'll be left on my own. I struggle to be at ease with Jason's dad since I have no model for how that daughter-dad relationship is supposed to work. Maybe these things take a lifetime to improve. Every year that we've been married is helping me. Watching our kids interact with Jason makes it better too. It shows me what is possible: children moving into adulthood with the confidence of both sides of the male/female coin in their personalities. They will take it for granted that they have this balanced approach to life, but I am here to teach them compassion for those kids who didn't have the benefit of two involved parents. I would like them to recognize that what they assume is normal isn't the same for every person. That kind of sensitivity goes a long way to understanding the experiences of others.

For now, I'm grateful for the home life we are providing for our kids. We work at our relationship so there is peace and stability as a general rule. When conflicts arise, we can show our kids how to navigate the conflict and resolve it so it doesn't linger. It's never easy, but worth it in the end. As parents, it's important to step back and look at the big picture once in awhile. We don't want to get so bogged down in the details of each day that we forget to see the forest for the trees. Our children are learning from us, every day, how to function in the real world. It's okay to make mistakes, because they are inevitable, but how we handle ourselves in the midst of everyday life is what they will learn and model for their own children.

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