Daddy Issues

I heard joy in my husband’s voice today when his dad picked up the other end of the line.  One little word both filled my heart and pricked a scar mostly healed.

“Dad!!” he exclaimed, with a genuine and heartfelt smile.

Encapsulated in one syllable lies the longing of so many hearts and the responsibility resting heavily on so many others.

It’s perhaps the easiest and most welcome task for most men to begin the process of a new life.  It is perhaps the most challenging to hold that life as precious for the remainder of his own.

Many fail.  No statistic I can share is necessary.  Just look around at all of the souls obviously clamoring for someone to see them.  There is no need for me to try to tell the story that is already blaring loud and glaringly clear, screaming that we have a world full of folks with some serious daddy issues.

Daddies who are absent either physically or have checked out and are preoccupied mentally.  Daddies standing at soccer games who have no idea the heart’s cry of the child running in front of them, and daddies who aren’t standing at the soccer games at all.  Daddies whose own needs outweigh everything around them.

I write from a perspective of mere observation, and, of course, only my own two shoes of experience.  I can tell you what I’ve seen in the best of daddies.  I can tell you what I missed. And oddly, they are the same.

It’s just love, you guys.  It’s just plain love.

My husband was a busy, busy man through the growing years of my children.  His jobs kept him very occupied;  he took his responsibility very seriously to take care of his family.  He was the only source of income for us, and that weighed heavily.  Responsibility is important.  Providing is really important.  Both of those characteristics are things I admire very much about him.  I think he’d be the first to tell you that he was sometimes too busy.  Not sure he could have changed that, but I know there were things he missed out on sacrificially so his family had what they needed and so that I could stay home with our kids.

But, though that was so vital to us, it isn’t what made him a good daddy.  It’s part of the equation, but it isn’t the key.

My husband rough-housed and had tickle fights.  He built forts inside and outside.  He always went in the water and swam with his kids.  He disciplined justly and paid attention to the little things.  He KNEW his kids — both their attributes and their struggles.  His eyes got wet when their hearts broke.  Their dreams created a cheerleader and idea-maker in him.  He was humble enough to ask forgiveness when he hurt a heart.

All and each of these were things I longed for from my dad, but they aren’t what make a good daddy — rather the force behind each beautiful action.

When I read that list, when I recall all the moments, when I observe them even now, I don’t see perfection in my husband.  He wasn’t designed for that.  When I remember, though, when I watch him in action, I see so much love.  It makes him better.  It makes him present.  It makes him lead.  It makes him strong enough to carry what needs to be carried.  It is the reason and the motivator behind it all.

Love in action makes him a daddy. 

To those of you feeling like you’ve dropped the ball, to any of you who feel like your flaws are outweighing your fathering, don’t give up.  From a daughter who felt like a little girl waiting for her daddy to see her for all of her years, there was never going to be a *too late.*  If at any point, my dad would’ve said, “I see you.  You matter more to me than how I feel.  I would do anything for you,” and then lived it out, it would have changed my life.

It would’ve made me answer the phone with such joy!

Your legacy is what your kids will say about you.  It is the stories that they will tell, good or bad to their kids and their grandkids.

All it takes is to let love lead.  It’s never too late.

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Her little hands…

It’s her little hands. They just amaze me. To be honest, I love her little neck the most; there’s nothing quite like a little baby neck, is there? The way it smells, and the tiny-ness of it.
My first granddaughter, Josie has changed my whole life.

Once upon a time, I was the kind of momma that couldn’t share my babies well because I couldn’t stand to miss a moment. They were my whole world, one at a time and collectively. The way they smelled, the way they chattered and hugged me and held my hand. I just simply couldn’t get enough. And I honestly thought that I’d never feel that again.

But, I do love that much again, and it’s amplified because while I get to love her so so much — this time it’s absent of my responsibility. I don’t stare at her and hope we will be able to afford all she needs or wonder if I’m doing it all the right way. I just simply get to love her and make her laugh. And remain in awe of the amazing parenting I see in my daughter and realize I had a part in that.
Okay, before this sounds like this is all about me, I’ll get back to my point.

Her little hands.
When I was the momma, I somehow missed what I’m about to share. Perhaps it was the constant need of me that caused a zombie-like state, but back then I just didn’t have the perspective to notice their little hands.

Josie’s little hands began by being her own worst enemy. When she was born we had to protect her from them as they operated as if by some strange masochistic remote control and scratched her own face and eyeballs to the point of tears. Tiny, beautiful, delicate, claw-like hands whose only capability was to hold the finger of someone she loved.
As she grew, we became amazed when her eyes would connect with something and her little brain told her hands to reach toward it! You could practically see the wheels spinning in that little mind as she so vaguely realized that she could control the tiniest bit of her world.
It wasn’t long until she realized those little hands could effectively be a vehicle for bites of yum to get to her face. How handy!

Today, at 16 precious months, she can do a myriad of things with those beauties. She can rip apart Easter window clings in no time flat! She can almost open a child-proof baby gate! She can color on a wall quite brilliantly! She can oh-so-gently stroke her Momma’s face to show so much love that just waited all this time to come out. She can reach for my hand when a step is coming, knowing she needs a little help. She can finally pet Lily the dog (her partner in crime) quite lovingly and then drop her all of the good food that was supposed to be her dinner.

How she’s grown and changed! From hands that hurt to hands that share and love and create.

Makes me wonder about the power my hands have. I have had these same hands within my control for decades and though they are looking a bit tired these days, they serve me quite well.
They have loved and served and swatted and written words and made music and held and soothed and nourished and wiped many a tear, both my own and others’.

I think back to my parents’ hands. I know exactly what they look like even after all these years absent. I remember wanting so badly to hold my daddy’s hand, but it wasn’t very available. Though I knew both of their hands well and though they were hands that worked hard to provide me with food and a place in which to live, they weren’t hands of love.

I have certainly experienced hands of love, however. My father-in-law once grabbed my hand safely in his when we arrived at his home far from ours. He held it all the way from our vehicle to his door and called me “Sweetheart.” Still makes me cry.

I sat in a hospital room with a very ill husband and my mother-in-law wiped my tears and held me close.
Those are hands of love.

A beautiful woman I know hugged me once when I was dealing with one of the heaviest issues of my heart and her hands were like the very hands of Jesus — healing my heart-wounds.

A friend of my heart held my hand in the back row at the funeral of one I recently loved dearly. And another friend provided both my children and me food in a desperate time of need. You just cannot put a value to that kind of love.

My sweet man and his hands have literally ministered to my heart and rubbed away stress-pain and held mine through moments of trauma and sheer joy. His hands were the first love-hands I ever knew.

The hands of my babies, though stretched out some, have never changed. Except now, they serve me and reach for me and see me and validate me.

It’s a circle too beautiful for words.

We hold so much power within these tools at the end of our arms. It’s an awareness, isn’t it?

How to use them to love.
How to leave an imprint that matters.

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