June 15, 2014

In Defense of Fathers

Dear Mothers,

At some point in your past, you fell in love with a man. Hopefully, you talked about what you hoped your shared future would be like. If you wanted children, hopefully you talked about that. I know Big Daddy and I did. I sat in the folding chair in front of a flickering screen and tapped hopeful words to Big Daddy about the children I hoped to have. Two children, we agreed. A girl first and then a son. Of course, life throws you curve balls and our family doesn’t look much like the family we imagined in a chat box more than a decade ago. That’s true for a lot of families. Your family probably won’t end up looking like what you imagined it would. Maybe it took longer than you thought it would or maybe it happened too quickly. Maybe the son or daughter you always wanted turned into a child of the opposite gender that you wouldn’t trade for all the tea in China. Maybe the half dozen of children you thought you’d have turned into a only and maybe the only you thought you’d have turned into four.

Life throws you curve balls like that.

But, sitting across the dinner table from you is the partner you chose and with whom you dreamed about the family you created. And, you know what? I bet marriage to him isn’t quite what you thought it would be either. After years romance fades and small annoying habits seem to grow under their own steam until you can’t handle those damn dirty socks that end up on the floor instead of in the hamper.

But, I’m digressing, I’m back to that guy across the table from you. The one whom you chose and dreamed with. Ladies, don’t discount him.

There’s this culture, sometimes, that encourages mothers to discount their partners. In corners of the Internet women are encouraged to ignore the desires of their husbands under the umbrella cause of “you’re the mama”. Ladies, parenting is a partnership and your husband is an integral part of the life of your children.

The children you dreamed of.

With him.

As a young mother, it was hard for me to realize that, while Big Daddy brought different skills and abilities to the table, what he brought was as important as what I did. Even if he did it differently. Especially because he did it differently. I researched. I read. He didn’t. I cared more and knew more!

But, I didn’t.

Big Daddy and I were both vulnerable. We were both trying to make our way through a new marriage and a new baby and I wasn’t kind. I discounted him. I got angry at him. I took the baby off him.

If I had a time machine, I would go back in time, hit myself with my own shoe and order myself to stop being a dumbass. Not only was I creating a situation where my partner, my husband, the person with whom I’d chose to have children stopped having confidence in his ability to parent I was undermining my daughter’s trust in him too.

And, I paid for that and not just in regret. I paid every single time the Princess walked past Big Daddy to have me do some small task because I taught her that I was the only one to come to. I taught her that he couldn’t comfort her. In my actions, I taught her that he just wasn’t important.

I was so wrong.

I can’t fix that mistake. I can apologize, and I have. I can make damn sure that I didn’t repeat my mistake and I did, but I can’t fix the confidence and happiness I took from him. I can’t give back the trust that I took away.

I knew that man. I picked him. I listened to him talk about the kind of father he wanted to be. I knew that there wasn’t an uncaring bone in his body. I knew how much he loved the Princess. I was such an idiot.

We were lucky. I realized my mistake quickly and worked to rectify it, but in some families, that mistake never gets corrected. Mom and the kids form a club that doesn’t include Dad and the family fractures in small ways.

Part of this generational growing pains. Our husbands are stepping out of the shadows of the Provider only Dad and we’re all shuffling around trying to figure out dynamics in our families that don’t always look very much like the ones we were born into. How we create our families will influence how our sons and daughters create theirs and having a partner is so much better than forcing your way forward on your own with the person across the dinner table from you nothing more than a stranger and a paycheck.

Big Daddy drops Littlebit off at dance class.

He gives the nightly baths, scrubbing Baby Bee’s boney back and knobbly knees.

He drives the Princess to school on rainy or cold mornings.

Choose to have a partner.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Jamie

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