The stereotypes aren’t always true. We men aren’t always as tough as some think we are. There are things in life that can quickly bring us to our knees. One of them is the relationship we have with our daughters.
The phrase “kids grow up so fast” doesn’t convey the depth of feeling that reality brings to a parent. This is one of the great mysteries moms and dads struggle with their entire lives; knowing how to handle each stage of those ever-changing relationships. It causes the kind of apprehension and fear that can crumble even the strongest most confident father. Or at least I feel that way sometimes.
It may have been too soon to imagine walking her down the aisle…an hour before she was born
When she was a newborn, I would think about what it would be like when she was crawling. Then as I watched her gain the ability to move from one end of the room to the other, Erica and I discussed what it will be like to understand what she says instead of always having to guess what the problem is based on the type and length of cry. Once she was able to speak, we pictured how nice it would be to have real conversations with back and forth dialogue. Now she talks all the time and I don’t have to wonder (smile) but never foresaw the unintended consequence of less dialogue with my wife at the dinner table.
And I’ve seen glimpses, I think, of what life with a tween girl will be like. The day when she got upset, stomped up the stairs to her room, slammed the door and blasted her music seemed ten years beyond her little age of four. Watching her back a motorized toy car out of the garage and scrape the side along the door jolted me to a day when we she would walk into the house with tears smeared on her face and car keys in her hands. Seeing her around boys her own age who are now too shy to hug her reminds me that will one day change. And the fear I have as her dad is, she will change so fast, and I will adapt too slow to keep any real connection going.
It’s not bad to think about the future. Granted, it may have been too soon to imagine walking her down the aisle on her wedding day at five in the morning, an hour before she was born, but at other times, concerning yourself with the details of what life will be like is necessary in order to help you be better prepared. I heard this week that a girl is considered a tween starting at the age of 8. If that’s true, Ella is more than halfway there. It’s not too early for me to think about.
The fear I have is, she will change so fast, and I will adapt too slow…
But how do we prepare? How do we gain the necessary skills to be an adequate father to our children? I don’t trust my instincts enough to just ‘wing it’. I try to be aware of who she is, and spend time with her now, so that it will continue to be natural to sit and talk to each other as she gets older. Is it that I need to change as a father, or is it that some things need to remain the same? Oh, how I wish there was a manual on parenting.
I worry about this more with my daughter than I do with my boy. With Pax, it seems like it will be more natural. Though I did have a different experience bonding with him than I did with Ella, as the years go by I think I will more intuitively know how to relate to a son. I could be wrong though. And right now, I’m flashing forward to when he is potty trained and not when he is navigating high school. Perhaps in a few more years I will start to worry about my relationship with him, too.
Today I’m wondering, what is the secret to a great relationship with your kids as they get older?