© 2013 jen

Father’s Day Retrospective – Absentees and Great Dads

The quote above in the photo pretty much sums up what I thought of  fathers, but that was before I knew my husband.

Let me start at the beginning . . .

Growing up in a single parent family without a father never really bothered me.

I never felt like I was lacking anything in the father department.  My mother never blamed our problems on not having a dad around. She never really talked about our dad, and when she did, it was only to mention the good qualities we had that were like his.

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This is a picture of my mom and me on her back when she was still with my father,
which she was with him until I was 3 years old.

When I picked up a friend’s violin when I was 8 and within a short period of time I was playing a song, my mom said that was just like my father. He had a really strong musical ear. He loved to sing, play instruments and could learn an instrument almost instantly, said my mother (who is and was prone to exaggeration). He also had this skill with his hands. He could make anything, according to my mom.

I was always making things as a kid. I taught myself to knit and crochet when I was 7 years old and I didn’t even have the proper tools. My first knitting project was made with pencils and thread. I was designing and sewing my own clothing by 10 years old, with no one teaching me. I was teaching myself. When I would do these sorts of things, my mom would sometimes tell me stories, like how my father decided we needed new lamps in the house, so he bought a tool and some wood and built a couple of lamps, wiring them himself with no previous experience. Somehow he knew how to do these things by studying some beat up old lamp on it’s last legs.

Another quality that is similar is my father was also a very social and fun-loving person. My mom is really a quiet, studious, academic type, but I was notoriously loud, friendly and was always ready to laugh. My mom would say,  “You’re the life of the party, like your father.”

One of the more recent things I learned is that my father was a natural with a camera, even though he rarely owned one. I’ve never taken a photography class or had any interest in photography until I bought a Cannon for work about 3 or 4 years ago. I was pretty good at it from the moment I tried to take pictures.

Genes are amazing, really – creating natural inbred abilities,
whether you live with the person you inherited your genes from or not.

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This is a photo of my father and me, looking miserable and pouty. The interesting thing
in this photo is my father’s profile. I have his identical nose.
It’s strange to me that I share so much with that old, bald dude.

My mom mentioned his skills, but she didn’t build him up or vilify him. When we asked about him, she gave us enough information to answer our questions, but never anything extra. For all the things my mother didn’t do for me and my sister, this is one of the great gifts she gave to us.

I’m not going to get into it in this post, but my father was a truly troubled human being – far more troubled than my mother, who was in the very early stages of falling off her rocker. My mom knew how damaged my father was and knew he couldn’t parent us well, so rather than making it a big deal in our lives, she let us think what we wanted to about him, giving us as little info as possible about who he really was.

When I got older, my mom started revealing the story of my father to me. I remember asking, “Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” She said, “Because I felt like telling you anything negative about your dad would be like insulting you. You have half of his genes and you’re his blood. To tell you the truth about your dad, I’d have to say some pretty bad things and saying bad things about him felt like saying bad things about you. Plus, we were enough without him.”

My mother never thought it was a big deal that my sister and I didn’t have a father, so we believed it wasn’t a big deal that we didn’t have a father – just following her lead.

This was a huge gift. We really WERE enough without him. Even though it wasn’t easy.

I grew up feeling totally fine that I had no father. Not even once, did I consciously yearn for a father’s affection. I had no contact and never wanted to find my father. It never occurred to me.

I’ve always felt that it’s hard to miss something you’ve never really had.

As much as I didn’t want or need a dad a growing up, I did want to have a husband someday.

From the time I was little I could see that it was my mother who needed the man in her life (even though she had the worst taste in men possible). It wasn’t my sister or me who needed a man around.

I remember seeing how difficult it was for my mother to be a single mom. How she tried so hard to do everything right and in the process lost her mind. I believe that years of not sleeping enough and not eating that well, along with a sensitive predisposition, made her crazy. To put it another way: the work associated with being a single mother – with very little support – was too much for her. She was too fragile. From what I’ve witnessed in my life, single moms have to negate their needs regularly and often, sometimes for incredibly long stretches of time, which is pretty much unreasonable to expect from any human. Some people cannot recover from this sort of selflessness.

Being a mother is tough, but also rewarding. Being a single mom – double tough, but is it double rewarding? I’m thinking probably not. It’s just twice as hard, because all too often the mother is trying to fill the role of both parents.

As a kid, I decided that I would not be a single mom. I’d have a husband someday and he would be a great man. He’d be the sort of person I would want to be with, someone I could talk about and share with my child because I’d be proud of him.

I knew this would happen when I was really young.

How did I know?

Because I only really had one wish for the first half of my life.

I wished for a loving husband.

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Me on my 8th birthday wishing for my future husband.

I started wishing for this when I was four. I remember blowing out the candles on my birthday cake with that wish on my mind.

Every birthday, every wishing well, every falling star had the same wish attached to it.

Occasionally I’d change it up and wish for a happy family someday, but it was really the same wish.

I was single-minded in my secret wishes.

I was focused.

I knew I’d have a good husband someday because I visualized him and willed him in my direction long before most kids even had thoughts of dating.

When we met, I knew he was the one. After about two months of dating, I told him I was going to marry him someday.

He was like, “Whoa! We’re only 21, we’ve only just started dating, no one’s ever said anything like that to me before and you’re sort of freaking me out!”

I told him, “Get used to this. There’s plenty more bold-faced honesty in me and I can’t help but tell you the truth. We are a forever thing.”

Three years later we were married.

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Trent and I at 22, back when we had youthful jawlines.

I’ve learned so much from this man. I’ve learned so much about myself and the world from him. I’ve learned what it feels like to be loved wholly and completely by a stable, considerate person.  I’ve also really seen what it means to be a father, in a way that I never knew before.

{Let me just preface this by saying, families can look a lot of different ways. I think a single mother can do a great job of being a solo parent, so can single dads. I think two lesbians can do a great job of parenting a child as can two gay dads. I don’t think there has to be a father in the picture, though – I didn’t have one growing up and it was fine.}

These are my experiences of what I’ve seen that a father can do for his child. It’s been such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

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Trent and Oliver wearing matching black shirts and baseball hats on backwards.
Here’s a video of baby Oliver – naked wearing rain boots with Trent filming him.

Here’s what a good father can do:

1. A father can bring laughter – he can produce a belly-laugh in his child, a deep laughter, like nothing I’ve ever been able to produce. It comes from a rough and tumble, physical play that typically a father is more likely to do with his child.

2. A father can come up with elaborate ideas – like birthday party activities involving buried treasure, maps, digging and help along the way to decipher the clues. This makes for amazing and special birthday parties where the child feels lavished with love and excitement.

3. A father can hold a child accountable – in a way that I think is more challenging for mothers who are often the day-to-day rule makers in the house. Mom’s words sometimes turn into “wha, wha, wha,” like the sound the teacher makes in the Peanuts cartoons. I can sometimes tell my son fifty times to do the same thing; his dad says it once and it’s done.

4. A father can model what it means to be a man – for his sons and daughters. He can show them how it feels to be loved by a man who is good and kind, making the child feel more safe in the world, making them more willing to trust in relationships and more trusting of themselves too.

5. A father can be proud of his kids – not that a mother cannot do this. It’s just that I think having a second parent around to beam at a kid and say “I’m proud of you!” is a great gift for any child to have.

6. A father can be part of a parenting team – by cooking, doing housework, helping enforce the rules of the house and by just being an extra adult to share the responsibilities and joys of parenting, which makes both parents more relaxed, because they don’t get as tapped out.

I never really made the connection when I was young that having a great husband and a child would mean that I would be living  in a family with a great father.

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Trent and I on the Coast in our 30s.

I wanted the good husband to support me in being a good parent and to keep me sane, not even really understanding what a dad can do for a child. How could I have known?

I never wished for a father, but I got one – for my son.

And it’s been a wonderful thing to be a part of.

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Trent with his phone with a photo of himself in his teens wearing fake nerd glasses;
next to our teenage son wearing fake nerd glasses.

Happy Father’s Day to the father that has always exceeded my expectations.

I love you, Trent!

Comments

comments

2 Comments

  1. Posted June 15, 2013 at 10:00 pm | #

    This is such a beautiful post. I truly enjoyed reading it. I cry most often when a TV episode or movie has a strong father/son moment or plot, and I think it’s because my dad passed away (several years ago now).

    Before my dad passed, he told me he thought I would make a good father some day. It’s one of the best things he’s ever said to me. It may happen, but even if it doesn’t, it’s nice to know that my father thought that well of my potential. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on fathers.

    • Posted June 22, 2013 at 4:36 pm | #

      Thanks for sharing your story Dedrick! So sweet! I love that you had such a wonderful and loving relationship with your father! xo