The Resilient Father
I am only one-half of the stories I tell.
He could use a few new t-shirts…
Maybe I'll print up some photos….
I should cook him a special meal…
The kids can make him cards….
All week, I have been contemplating the best way to celebrate my husband on Father’s Day, and what I kept coming back to is words:
I can craft my weekly reflection in honor of him.
However, my husband is intensely private. When I started writing, we agreed I would leave his character out of the intimate stories I share. He has become a shadow figure in my stories while playing a prominent role in my daily life and that of the four children we are raising.
I am grateful he has not only compromised on the matter of my writing, but he has quietly become my biggest cheerleader. We talk about the book I am attempting to write daily, and he reminds me to stay committed to my goals in those moments my hope wavers.
I am crossing "our line" by writing about him now, but I cannot suppress this urge to tell you I have a really awesome husband who is the father of my children. His name is Eddie.
My kids adore their father, and they look just like him. This happens to be such a fascinating matter to the world at large, strangers frequently come up to me and remark,
“You know your children look nothing like you and just like your husband!?”
This strange obsession with my lack of physical influence on the children who genetically are mine is a story for another day. Though, I will note that when my fourth came out with blue eyes, blonde hair, and fair skin, I was ecstatic.
This excitement has since faded, because complexion aside, this girl looks more like her father with each passing day. When I solemnly note that she is a "Blonde Eddie," he smirks with pride, and laughs as he says,
“It’s not fair….it’s just not fair to you…"
But you know what? Lately, I’m beginning to think it actually IS fair that my children resemble him. While I grew them in my womb, gave birth to, and nursed these kids of OURS, he puts as much effort and love into them as I do. The absolute truth is:
I have a partner.
He is equally as hands-on, engaged, and committed as I am to our family.
On my hardest days in motherhood, I have not been alone.
I cannot discern where my influence ends and his begins when it comes to our kids.
When I’ve said, “I ended up in an ICU burn unit with my toddler son.”
He was there.
When I've said, “I lost a baby,” it was his too.
Point being, the story I own as mine is really OURS: just about every word of it.
Sometimes, even the words I write are his. For example, he refer’s to our first birth experience as, “The best worst day of our lives.” I've used this statement in my work, because it artfully captures the emotional extremes you face when becoming a parent. Since that day, we have survived a lot of adversity on the path to creating the family we dreamed of having. Often, we acknowledge how our struggles have strengthened our bond and made us better parents.
I realize that some women are raising children on their own: single moms, I revere your strength. Others have husbands who are mentally checked out but physically present; some fathers are physically absent.....
When I notice that Eddie is around and present just about ALL of the time, I feel incredibly blessed. For those of you who don’t have a husband like this, or even a father or partner for the children you are raising, I want to say:
YOU CANNOT DO THIS ALONE. IT TAKES A VILLAGE.
If you don’t/can’t have what I specifically do, take a close look at your current support system. Who are you grateful for? If you don’t have what you need, go out and find it. Though I believe an engaged partner is a cornerstone of my resilience, I also believe that support comes in different ways. Further, you can always find the support you need if you are flexible and open-minded.
Listen, I don't have everything when it comes to family support, but on my hardest of days since motherhood happened, I have always had Eddie. Even when I am mad at him (because that struggle is real), he makes his way onto my gratitude list, because we are raising these kids TOGETHER.
Take for example, the fact that I usually don’t bathe the kids any more, because that's "Daddy's Department."
If I do need to manage bath time, I hear complaints:
"Dad washes my hair better than you."
"You never dry me as good as Dad."
It’s a talent, I believe, this diligent washing and post-bath drying thing he does. Or rather, it's one of the many ways he connects with the kids when I don't, or simply can't because at the end of the day this mom is FRIED.
Bath time is just one of many things Eddie is known for like his jokes, bike rides, advice, and lately, his bedtime stories (I pretty much gave that up too).
In many ways, my husband and I could not be more different, but we are in harmony when it comes to our family values. Like me, he parents imperfectly, but continues to move towards his family with love.
I'd like to acknowledge him today in this Father's Day gift of written gratitude for the resilient father he is.
Tomorrow, I’ll let him fade back into anonymity where he quietly brings strength to our thriving family of 6.
May it forever be known:
I am only one-half of the stories I tell.