FATHER’S DAY IS AROUND THE BEND

Father’s Day is approaching! I know this because Target put out their selection of Father’s Day cards about, oh, three months ago (what is with this jumping-the-gun on the seasons thing??).

So, today, off to Target my girls and I trek to pick out cards.

We visit the “Daddy from Kids” section and the “Grandpa” section (where I had to explain that a card saying “Great-Grandpa” isn’t praising a grandpa).

A RECORD-SCRATCH MOMENT

As we shop, giggling at the dogs with the googly eyes, me diverting their attention away from inappropriate pictures, my youngest one sounding out the word “f-a-r-t” (I never realized until today that it’s on SO many Father’s Day cards!!), I suddenly find myself just trying to catch my breath. I literally feel like the wind has been knocked out of me, and I’m trying to find my breathing rhythm as we look at these ridiculous cards.

Because the words “Dad from Daughter” are staring at me.

And I no longer get to buy that card.

REALLY TOUGH DAYS

Parenting is tough. No doubt about it. There really are no easy days. There only are Tough Days and Less Tough Days.

And then there are the Really Tough Days.

Dealing with my father’s passing while raising a three year old and a five year old definitely fell into the Really Tough Days category.

At first, I thought that maybe I’d be able to keep them from seeing me cry. I had it impressed on me from somewhere that a strong mother does not cry in front of her children. I don’t know if that came from movies I’ve watched or my own family, but that’s the ideal that I thought I needed to live up to.

But I could not hide the tears.

TEARS OF LOVE

During my dad’s decline and after his death, the tears would just come. And when I could not stop them from cropping up, I reasoned that it’s much more natural for my girls to see me cry than to think I’m handling all of this with a slight wringing of my hands and a wistful look, à la Hollywood.

Also, I viewed the tears as more an expression of love than of sorrow. I’m no child psychologist, but I’m pretty sure kids are never harmed by seeing expressions of pure familial love.

And I knew that my girls had a need to cry.

Unfortunately, this was not their first loss of a grandpa – they lost another beloved grandpa very suddenly just about two years prior to this, and I felt like they STILL were trying to grapple with that one. And now they’d be hit with another great loss.

And while, of course, I was very deeply saddened by that grandpa’s passing, I had found it easier to be strong, because I felt like I needed to let my husband have room to be the chief griever during that time.

But now this was my own dad, and I wasn’t finding it as easy to “buck up” and hide the hurt. I tried, but I couldn’t. And I decided that it was okay – because I worried that hiding my own tears would imbue a sense of shame on my girls’ own natural desire to cry. To support their expressions of emotions, I needed to have my own.

Now, mind you, I did not curl up in a corner and sob uncontrollably for days on end (like potty training made me want to do). But I’d cry as I explained my dad’s sickness and resulting death to them, and I cried as I answered their very sincere and incredibly tough questions. I’d cry when my oldest would just suddenly burst into a sobbing fit in the middle of something totally unrelated and cry out, “I just miss him!” And I cried when my youngest would give me extra hugs throughout the day “because you don’t have your Daddy anymore.”

A MOM IS NEVER OFF-DUTY

Unfortunately enough, childhood does not stop just because a Momma needs to cry. This is part of what made these days Really Tough.

For example, I’d be bopping along my day, pushing through, and I’d be standing in the kitchen just opening the mail, no big deal… and then *BOOM* there’d be a very thoughtful gift or card from a dear friend in the mail. So I’d stand at the island, looking down at this token of support and remembrance, eyes welling with tears, heart beating fast… and I’d hear, “Momma?! Can you bring me a cheese stick?”

Or I’d be in the car and, let’s just say, the song “Let It Be” would come on and make me want to bawl like a little baby (which I didn’t) and I’d be feeling ALL the feels deep in my soul… and a voice would pipe up from the seat behind me, “Momma? Can we listen to ‘Frozen’?”

But in the shower I’d find peace. Or not. I’d stand there, able to really think on things, shielded by glass and my improper state from all normal interruptions… and the bathroom door would open and one of my girls would rush in and bust out her newest dance move for me to watch (through the foggy, water-spotted glass and the blur of missing contacts) and praise.

WE ARE THEIR ROCKS

But, as I’d go through these moments where I’d have to shelve my feelings, thoughts, and emotions in order to tend to my ever-needy children, it’d hit me: this is parenting, and this is what my Dad did time and again for us. He always put the needs of his children first. So, in a roundabout (and annoying) way, they were giving me constant reminders of my Dad’s own love.

As a parent, I am my daughters’ rock. No matter what else is going on in our lives, they can count on me to feed them, encourage their interests, praise them, and hug them. And when they are hurting, I will wipe their sweet, sweet tears as their very tender hearts break and they work through the shock and confusion from the realization that some types of pain cannot be kissed away.

This is what my Dad did for me.

IT’S JUST COMMERCIAL PAPER

So, after some time, it’s hit me that maybe it’s okay that I don’t get to buy that card anymore. Because I have something much more special. In my daily life with my girls, I have constant reminders of the love my dad showed me. And I’m sure he’s watching as I try to be as good a parent as he was, and I bet he thinks that’s better than any goofy card (even better than the one with the really bad golfing pun that I know would have gotten a chuckle out of him).

(One thing’s for sure – if my Dad were reading this, he’d have this entire blog piece marked up with grammar and proper writing corrections. And I’d love him for it!)