You’ve all seen them. The pictures, the posts, the memes with a father and his infant / young / teen daughter. Sometimes the father has his arms crossed with a scowl on his face. Other times he’s holding a gun with the same menacing expression. Sometimes there’s even older male siblings practicing being a bodyguard. All of these with the intent to intimidate and be confrontational when it comes to future male suitors for their daughter. “To get to her, you have to go through me first”.
I know, no big deal right? Harmless fun. Only I find these things laughable and ridiculous for a few reasons.
a) It shows that there is absolutely no faith that boys can be raised to be respectful and polite to women (or by default to people in general). Instead of raising daughters to fear men, lets raise our boys to respect women. To have self-worth. To say it’s wrong to go against a woman’s wishes. To stand up to those who do.
b) It shows that those fathers have zero confidence in their ability to raise their daughters. If they truly believed they could raise a self-aware, strong, confident woman then this whole song and dance becomes pointless and unnecessary. It shows no confidence in their daughters ability to be a good judge of who she befriends.
c) It shows that feminism still needs to be talked about. It shows that woman are still weak and feeble creatures that need their fathers with guns to protect them. It shows ownership over someone else’s body and decisions.
Yes I have a daughter. No, I will never bully or intimidate a friend or future boyfriend or girlfriend she brings home to meet me. If s/he is worthy enough in her eyes to bring him/her home, then s/he worthy of my respect until s/he proves otherwise. This thought process of the possessive, over-bearing father is outdated and rooted in insecurity.
Down by the creek bed he crouched, grabbing stones without discrimination. He watched as they splashed with a kersplunk when they entered the water. Ripples spread to the tiny shore and he giggled at his accomplishment. Another rock was sought.
It was a very sunny Sunday morning and still slightly cool, requiring a light jacket. The air was clear and we were all alone in our adventure, basking in the moment.
There was an area of calm water that had a shore riddled with fragmented shale begging to be skipped. I was a bit more selective with my choices, picking only those with characteristics optimal for their skipping ability. Too square, too thick, too thin. Ah! This one. It fits perfect between my finger and thumb, perfect weight distribution, just the right circumference. It was beautiful.
This will be the stone I show him his first skip with. I placed the stone in my palm; eager to show him it’s capabilities. I stood and turned towards my son. He was still indulging in his circular pattern: find stone, throw it in water, listen to splash and repeat.
I watched. His blissful moment. There was no concern for the type of stone he selected. No worries on how it entered the water, just as long as it does. His concerns lie in what it can do, not with what it could do. It can splash crazily in the water. He couldn’t care if it has the potential to skip wonderfully to the adjacent shore. It was beyond his realm of current interests and abilities.
I joined him; with my perfect stone; and tossed it high into the air. It spun and twirled until it hit flatly against the water with a quiet plop. My son giggled, commented on its tiny splash and went for his next stone. There will be many future opportunities for that perfect skip. For now this moment is complete with a slash and kersplunk, it was his agenda.
I have slowly lost a connection.
It wasn’t realized until a few days passed and my irritability level increased way beyond my normal demeanor. The listening, on both sides, decreased. I was putting my self-interests unhealthily above that of our relationship; and he was attempting to communicate as much, but I wasn’t listening.
When bedtime became an immense struggle; I was looking at my son (2.5 yrs) with contempt, rather than compassion for his plight. And that’s when the disconnect struck me. I had the next day just him and me while my wife worked her 12 hour shift; and I dedicated it solely to him.
We spent the day building snowmen, playing games, giggling and reading many books while snuggling on the couch. We went out to eat lunch and made silly faces without a care in the world; followed by a shared afternoon nap after we got back to the house.
All aspects of our relationship righted and our bond restrengthened. That night, at bedtime, I heard a quiet voice call out in the dark: “Daddy, can I have a kiss?” “Of course you can TB.” I leaned over and we pecked: “I love you TB.” “You too daddy”. And with that he snuggled up to me and drifted off. This on the heels of the previous night which took over an hour of back and forth struggles with much frustration.
I quickly reestablished a connection.
According to the experts I should have a clingy child. One that will not venture out or become independent. Supposedly he will need us forever because of how he is being raised.
Little do these experts know my son is the one I have to constantly remind to stay close because he is so eager to explore all of his environments. When we are out he seldom needs our guiding to navigate his world. Should I tell these experts that my son often shuns my help in an attempt to conquer his endeavors all on his own? “I can do it!” he will scream as he takes control.
These are the same experts that said my son will never sleep on his own or through the night if we allow him to nurse to sleep and not have access to our bed. Or that he will be unruly if punishment wasn’t provided for misbehavior. Or that we are creating an entitled brat because we reach agreements by compromise instead of dictating demands.
No dear experts. You are quite wrong. Independence is fostered through connection and a safe, secure home-base. Respect, validation and responsiveness provide that foundation. Oh experts, I hate to inform you that my son is quite capable, independent, respectful and cooperative despite going against your expert advice. Thank you anyways.
On the mornings I take my son to daycare (2-3 times a week) I always take our things to the truck first and then come back in to collect TheBoy (2 yrs). He was playing with some toys in the living room while I gathered up our daily haul. After I made my coffee and had everything in hand I turned to see him standing in the doorway, his Woody doll held against his chest, looking deeply concerned and saddened. “Are you leaving me?” he asked somberly. Instantly a new emotion I can’t explain took over and my heart struggled to react.
We’ve done this morning routine since before he’s capable of remembering. Why on this particular morning he thought I was leaving him I have no idea; but this was very real to him. In that moment the fear of abandonment dominated his emotions.
Me: dropping everything and kneeling next to him. “Aww, buddy. Do you think I’m leaving you?” I manage to say with tears forming as I read his expression, the sincerity in his eyes and understanding the depth of his emotion.
TB: shaking his head yes and accepting my open arms as I pulled him in close and sat him on my lap.
Me: rubbing his back, “I can see you are upset and sad. I could never, ever leave you TB. I love you so incredibly much the very thought of leaving you makes me very, very sad. I will always be right next to you forever. Come here TB, let’s have a hug.”
And we sat on the kitchen floor, hugging. Me sniffling and him refilling on confidence. After our embrace we stood up, TB wearing a smile and excited to see his friends at daycare, and went about our day. I could have brushed off the notion of me leaving and how it was affecting him. But I chose to acknowledge it, accept it, and work through it with him and in the meantime expose my emotions to him as well. I think in that moment that made all the difference in the world for both of us.
It’s 8 pm and I just sat down for the first time. I watch my 2 year old son as he peacefully nurses, curled up in his moms lap like an armadillo. His eyes are slowly closing and opening; still gazing into his moms eyes while his belly fills with warm nourishment. His hand, resting on her chest, relaxes and falls lazily to his side. My wife, glowing in motherhood, who just got home from a 12 hour shift and was met by our eager son, glances my way. I smile and she sighs in defeat of the day that was. TheBoy’s eyes are no longer open; he has succumbed to the sleeping potion that is his nursies.
This is our routine; their relationship. This is his comfort, his safe space. His 2 years of existence have teetered on his nursies. They turn his bad days good, and a strong bond stronger. The road to this relationship staple was rocky, but victorious. Every night ends with his mamma’s milk. While it does not actually put him to sleep that often anymore, he still has his safe place; his nightly fulfillment.
This will all soon change in 7 short months and what was once his refuge will now be communal; a shared commodity between him and his new sibling. I sit, watching how blissfully unaware TheBoy is about what his future holds. Peacefully lost in his happy dreams he sleeps. His life will forever be altered. Mom’s attention will be divided.
I can only speculate how he will take to this change. Will he be receptive? Annoyed? See it as a rival for competition? Embrace the newness? Regress in his behavior? His routine will now involve an extra human; one to look after, to care for, to bond with, to love. I’m both excited and nervous at this change he will experience, that we will experience. Time truly will tell and as I think about all his attributes, he’ll adapt well to his new sibling. I think my worries lie within me, not my son.
I do not babysit.
I am a father.
I am a clothe diaper changing ninja.
I am a bath-time scrubber.
I am a playtime aficionado.
I am a night time warrior.
I am a teller of stories and master of cuddles.
I do not babysit.
I am a father.
I am a giver of life lessons. A mentor and teacher.
I am a guiding light in the journey of life.
I am a tree of knowledge for my hungry caterpillar.
I am also the learning pupil.
I do not babysit.
I am a father.
I am a security blanket. A safe place.
I am a secure hug during a nightmare.
I am a shoulder for expelling emotions.
I am a life-long bond builder.
I am a friend
I am a confidant.
I am all accepting.
I am endless love.
I am a father.
I do not babysit