When you become a parent, you fall into the understandable trap of believing everyone else in the world wants to hear about how great your kid is, and how parenthood is the best thing since sliced bread.
The most egregious example of this I ever encountered was when my friends Jeff and Susan (names changed to protect the guilty) had just given birth to their first child. Jeff was a youth minister in Austin, and I just happened to be passing through town –on my way to somewhere else– the day their child was born. The baby was probably not even two hours old. Almost nobody, outside their immediate family, had been to visit when I snuck by the hospital to give them my “congrats.”
I walked into the room, to find two new parents exhausted, but giddy. There was a lightness, a joy, on their faces. I thought to myself, “How cool to be here right now.”
They immediately started telling the story of their daughter’s birth; likely the first of dozens of times they have since recounted the tale.
About five minutes in to the story, Jeff stopped the narrative to say, “Oh…wait! We have video! Hey, Eric…you want to see the video?!”
Of course, there was no way in….um…no, I did not want to see the video.
I demurred, waving my hands, “No, no, nooo…. Ha! Yeah, no, that’s really OK I don’t really need to see…”
“Oh yes!” Susan chimed in cheerily, “let’s get the video going!!”
This was not what I was hoping to hear.
Jeff pulls out the camera and various cables. He reaches up to the TV monitor and, pops the right cables in the right slots on the very first try. Thirty seconds later, the camera is whirring back to the start of the tape, and Jeff is giving me one last warning.
“Oh yeah…um…it was a C-section.”
“Oh! NOOO! REALLY…..Guys!” I laughed nervously, “It’s really OK. I don’t need to see that!!! You probably don’t want me to….”
“It’s fine,” Susan said, interrupting again.
And with that, Jeff had pressed “Play” and every detail was on the monitor, narrated with running color commentary by two giddy parents.
They were so eager to re-live this seminal moment in their life, that they barely noticed when a church family walked in…a Mom and two kids; the oldest from Jeff’s youth group.
The younger kid, perhaps eight or nine, took one look up at the video monitor, covered his mouth, and went running from the room.
Only then did the tractor-beam of parental love break. And, as the hospital door bumped shut, Jeff and Susan looked at each other and said, “Maybe this IS a little to intense for other people to see…”
Yeah. No kidding.
It’s an easy mistake to make. If you are a parent with any kind of kind heart at all, from the moment your child is born just about everything they do amazes, astounds, and excites you; and you feel like telling everybody you can how wonderful they are.
That’s certainly been the case for me and Maria. On the day she was born, I felt that first giddy sense of love, that powerful bond that literally took my breath away, even as she was first drawing it into her.
All this is on my mind, of course, because it’s Father’s Day. Father’s Day doesn’t get the notice that Mother’s Day does. There are probably a zillion gender stereotypes that explain this, and I won’t get into any of them here. Sufficed to say, whether or not it’s a big deal to others, it’s always a special day for me, when I think of the girl who still makes my heart skip a beat.
She’s on the cusp of being a teenager now. Which means, of course, that there’s a very good chance she’s on the cusp of being “done” with us for a while. Already, I can sense a mother/daughter bond between she and Dennise on dozens of things, big and small that sort of keep my out of the picture. That’s not sad, just realistic. Or even when we’re together, now and then, I can sense a creeping silence.
Nothing major. Just little things.
Or, maybe it’s all just projection on my part. I treated my parents like crap during much of my early teenage years. Perhaps it’s the fear of karmic parental payback that I’m feeling.
I do know that I’m holding my breath about those teenage years, not because I don’t trust her, but because I know enough about teenaged boys to not trust them as far as I can throw them.
But she’s a good kid. A really good kid. And there’s a million stories I could tell you about her. There’s a ton of videos I could post (and in a YouTube world, a few that I have…). But I won’t bore you with all that here. I will say that I still believe every word of what I wrote a few years back on Father’s Day here.
Maria is smart. She’s funny. She’s comfortable with her friends, but also comfortable with adults. She seems to like school. (Got commended on two of three TAKS tests this year…) She can do stuff in gymnastics that gives me a coronary to watch. She’s a good listener, and it seems like she has a good heart for people.
She seems naturally curious about the world, and asks good questions about things. I can already tell that she can already tell there is much that is good, and much that is false, in how adults go about living day to day.
She’s an amazing person.
So, I won’t bore you with the blog equivalent of “C-Section” birth video. Because I wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.
But, sufficed to say, the tractor beam of love is still there every time I see her.
And today, and every day of her life, I feel like the luckiest Dad in the world.
3 thoughts on “Father’s Day ’09”
You made me cry..I miss my Dad every day. He lives in Memphis. he thinks I am in his words pretty freakin cool. thank you for the blogD'Arcy
I think you underestimate your role in the bonding process. Sure, mothers and daughters have a special bond – but it involves a loving push and pull of identity. For dads, it is quite different. All research indicates that the bond between dad and daughter is the most pivotal in how and with whom she will be in relationships. This bond is most critical in her self identity and sense of body image. The dad and daughter bond is the strongest indicator of whether a child will continue to attend church, if she worshiped with her father as a child. I think you have that one covered. My point is not to let her silence or seeming distance keep you from spending that bonding time with her. Walking, riding, shopping, outreaching, playing, listening, whatever….spend the time. Her life long relationships will benefit from the time and wisdom that you are willing to share.
Thanks for this, Anonymous. It's nice to hear. I certainly hope you are right about all this. And, as I said in my blog, it's entirely possible that the silence is from my own paranoia…perhaps payback for how I treated my own parents at this age, and a fear that she's gonna do the same thing!We do enjoy spending time together, and it means a lot to me that she likes hanging out.