Crystal Clear: Father receives reward in hugs, kisses
June 17, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- On Jan. 23, 2009, I had to do something for which my military training had thankfully prepared me. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by something that despite all the preparation in the world, one can never fully prepare: my wife's water broke. My first thought was probably "Oh no," because I wasn't ready. I didn't have anything ready. Though my wife's clothes were packed, neither mine nor the baby's things (I was responsible for both) were ready. I thought we would have more time.
At my first duty station, I was trained as a field artilleryman. I led a platoon of infantrymen in combat. Today, I'm in charge of millions of dollars worth of equipment and numerous Soldiers. But that day, I was given what is probably one of the toughest jobs in the world: Dad.
The idea of parenthood for me was frightening because I didn't have a father to teach me the ins and outs of fatherhood. And although I had different mentors throughout my childhood - and into adulthood - I was never trained how to be a dad. And despite what G.I. Joe says ("Knowing is half the battle"), for me training is half the battle. And I was ill-prepared. It wasn't a matter of whether I could do it or not; it was just a matter of how I would perform.
The first few months after our son was born were a contradiction; it was easy, because that is the time in which mother and child do most of their bonding, but it was difficult, because I had yet to determine where I fit into their world. I woke up for late-night feedings, but since my son was still nursing, I could only help so much.
When my wife went back to work, I did what I could, allowing her an additional half-hour of sleep by getting his diaper changed and dressing him for the day. And as he grew older, my role became more evident.
While Mom takes him to most of his doctor appointments and stays abreast of his goings-on at the day care center, I make sure that he is safe and secure in the car seat in the vehicle that transports him each day.
And though Mom may make his dinner each night, I usually wrestle with him afterward to give her a chance to relax with a book or magazine.
I don't think I deserve an award for things that I do for my son; all fathers have a duty to provide, protect and love a child. But let's be honest; we sometimes get the short end of the stick when it comes to the parenting thing. When people talk about parenting, it is almost always about Mom. As a matter of fact, I've yet to see a "Daddy and Me" group.
But what about the dads who, day in and day out, are responsible for dropping the kids
off to school' Or the dads who take the time to comb their daughters' hair each day' Many of my own Soldiers are single fathers, playing the role of both Mom and Dad.
This week, I will attend a Father's Day event in my son's day care class. It is the first of many father/son events that we'll share. And although he's only 18 months into his life, my son shows his appreciation to me every day.
I don't know what kind of father my son will remember me as, but when he yells, "Da Da," and runs up to me to greet me when I get home, I know he appreciates me. I will just have to trust that the "hip pocket" training I gain from the daddies I encounter will be enough to get me to the next milestone.
So for all of you fathers out there, including stepfathers and foster dads, just know that your children's hugs and kisses are better than any other reward you could ever receive.
Happy Father's Day.
Editor's note: In honor of Father's Day, I decided to take a week off and have my husband guest write my "Crystal Clear" column. Maybe next Mother's Day, he will let me try my hand at his job.