Saturday, June 18, 2011

Somewhere Between

Note: This was not an easy to post to write. Just couldn't get what I wanted to say quite right. Hoping there is something worthwhile in my textual wrestling match. Perhaps someone can help me in the comments.

A few days ago, I posted a letter I had written to my five year old daughter for her to read when she is older. I was feeling emotional and overcome with pride and needed a space to unload some emotions; they felt warm and soothing; I didn't need to put them down, but still I felt the need to share them publicly. Perhaps I feel that sharing positive emotions like pride and love can help others feel. What you might ask? Perhaps, I think that sharing our lives can help others feel connected, not necessarily to each other, but to our shared emotional pool, or maybe I wanted you to see what a caring father I am, can be, so that your admiration might negate the occasional feeling of guilt I feel for the times I am curt and frustrated and angry with my girls.

I received a few quick tweets about what a great dad I am, and instead of feeling a sense of validation, I felt like I was being dishonest for highlighting only the photoworthy events of our lives. I guess this post is my attempt to balance the notion that fatherhood is all pretty pictures and good times. I hope this post doesn't tarnish the earlier emotions or the perception that people may have of what kind of father I am, but rather I hope this post can be an honest attempt to take a closer look at what it is like to be a dad. To explore the complexity of fatherhood. It is easy to read lists like this and pat ourselves on the back. It doesn't take a father of the year candidate to understand that you should enjoy spending time with your kids. Really, I need to be reminded to tell my kids I love them? Even we can make lists of verbs list like the one below describing what it means to be a great dad:

Listen, understand, hug, ignite, play, inspire, love, guide, comfort, soothe, challenge, entertain. We can add a few inspirational photos and voila! Happy father's day to everyone.

But let's be honest, there are times when we scream and yell and say things that make our kids feel small. It isn't right or good and the  side effects feel terrible. No one likes it when we see the effects of our frustration and anger reflected in our children's faces- mirrors of ourselves when we were kids. Nothing like breaking promises we made to ourselves as children, "I will never do that to my own kids!"we said!

The reality of fatherhood lays somewhere between the Hallmark card and the PSA about emotional abuse. Like most things in life, I am learning that raising children is about vulnerability and honesty. It is about not needing to win all the fights. It is about empowering others before ones self. It is about building up and giving wings. It is about patience, understanding, oh oh here come another list…Fatherhood is about learning how to let go of ego. Isn't everything in life?

It is about letting go of selfishness. For as long as I can remember, my life has been all about me. I think most men can relate to this need to be babied and adored. Who knows, maybe it is beyond gender, but women appear to have an easier time caring for others before themselves, at least the women in my life always have. This male selfishness has been the demise of many relationships. This selfishness has resulted in many lonely nights and hundreds of mediocre poems about being misunderstood.

A few years ago, I made a resolution to once and for all, try to put my selfishness to bed. I vowed to put my daughter in the place that had always been reserved solely for me. No longer would I think of my own needs before hers, but what I am learning is that it takes time and practice to be able to care for others the same way we take care of ourselves. This is what fatherhood is all about- balance. I am learning.

As I get older I am learning how to find a balance between who I am as a man and who I need to be as a father. I think this is where many men struggle. It is for me, the hardest part about being a dad. The realization that my life is no longer just my life alone; that it needs to be shared with my family has not be so easy to get my head around.  I made the vow years ago, but the reality is harder to actualize. There are times when I am doing something, it can be as trivial as uploading a picture or finishing up an email, and my daughter, who may be hungry or tired and whining demands attention. I catch myself saying something like, "Just give me a minute!" I don't take pictures of those moments or write letters about them, but they are also a part of being a dad.

That is all I am trying to say.

cross posted at inrepidflame


  1. I have those "give me just a minute" moments, too. I think I've been struggling with how to convey this side of me (the broken, the impatient, the occasionally angry) side, because I tend to share the "better" side of both teaching and parenting.

  2. Wow, that's a beautiful post and I really related to it and I think my partner would too. I think in my case you could replace "man" with writer... Writing as a job is a very selfish pursuit for many reasons and though in some ways it's perfectly suited to parenthood (home based, imaginative, inexpensive to do) in other ways they are not at all compatible.
    My children are doing a pirate scavenger hunt at the moment drawn up by their dad, and I have been drawing pictures and writing poems as their reward. We just said to each other "I hope this is some of what they remember of their childhood and not just the shouting and busyness and tiredness".

  3. Thanks for your honesty and transparency, Jabiz. I, too, can relate to the "just give me a minute" moments. I enjoy being with my kids...and they make me a crazy person. Or, maybe I am the crazy person and occasionally my kids draw out the better person inside me. Or, maybe I'm just one big, inconsistent mess--yeah, that's probably it.