So, it’s been almost a week since Father’s Day, and I still find myself conflicted on how good a father I really am…well, to Little Girl Blue, anyway. Son of Blue was a pretty mellow kid, and we’ve never really had any troubles to speak of.
It’s not that I think I’m a bad father. That would be foolish. I provide for my little girl. I give her love and recognition of accomplishments. I make sure her meals are mostly nutritious and healthy and I try to take all the boo-boos seriously, even the ones I know are mostly imaginary.
But I often feel like I don’t have the patience that I should. I fear that I get upset more quickly than I should. I am a mellow guy who likes to be able to talk, with a daughter who is the antithesis of mellow and who will routinely challenge my calm requests and directions until I feel I am forced into needing the (metaphorical) rod with which to discipline her or get her back on track.
And this is where I feel a disconnect between the daddy I want to be and the daddy I end up being. Sometimes I’m pretty sure that even when I don’t like what I do, I do it because it’s necessary, but at times I wonder if it’s just a bad reaction.
I was on a trip recently, with some people from our church, one of whom is a librarian at our local library. She was commenting to my wife how great she and the other librarians think I am with Little Girl Blue whenever we visit to get some books or DVDs.
Yet I often feel like I’m an ogre who’s always telling her “slow down” or “stop that” or “open those listening ears.” I feel like controlling jerk, and I also worry that she’s driving everyone up a wall.
And yet here I’m getting praise for my fathering, and everyone sees Little Girl Blue as a charming and wonderful child (which she is, despite the fact that her energy levels sometimes cause problems and stresses for me).
So it makes me wonder about my own assumptions. Am I a really good dad, instead of merely the (mostly) competent one I see myself as? Am I raising my daughter to function well in society and balance the needs of others with her frenetic approach to life?
I suppose in the end, it’s better that I question myself and sometimes beat up on myself. I suppose it’s better that when I discipline her, I try to analyze whether it was the right thing to do, and feel pain at having to deprive her of something she enjoys or otherwise make her life uncomfortable.
In the end, though, will I ever celebrate a Father’s Day without wondering whether I really deserve any special rewards for my efforts?
No matter what people tell your about parenting, these are among the things they don’t mention. You know you’ll wring your hands over your daughter dating but no one tells you how heart-wrenching it will be to tuck her in having wanted sweetness and kisses, but realizing that to get her under the sheets, you just had to take away some privilege or threaten to put a toy in the “black bag.”
I love being a father, but at the same time, I feel like I’m always in uncharted territory now. And I wonder whether that will ever change.