On this Father’s Day, I spent a lot of time thinking about dads, my dad, my step-father-in-law, my father-in-law and my daughter’s father. My husband spent much of our daughter’s first year in Iraq, from just days after we finalized her adoption until after she turned 15 months old.
I was her everything for that year. We had brief periods of visiting family, but very few and far between. It was the all mommy show all the time. It was hard in many ways, but it was also easy because I could do everything my way, which is the way I like it or I wouldn’t do it that way, obviously.
I didn’t have to be a wife. I just had to be the mommy.
Then he came home, a bit lost in this new little-girl-land after two boys. He almost didn’t know how to be with her, this tiny willful stranger. It was hard, his learning to fit in with us, us learning to let him back in. It is part of the returning from war people don’t really understand, the reintegrating after the reuniting.
We had to find our family normal again.
One of the lessons that I had to learn was to let him be her dad. He is going to do things I never would. He is going to tickle her until she screams and throw her too high in the air, and give her ice cream for dinner. He is going to discipline her when I just want to wipe her tears. He is going to kiss her cheeks until he leaves whisker burn because she loves his “grouchy whispers”, and someday, she is going to associate manhood with the way his cologne smells, like I do with my dad’s Old Spice.
He lets her style his hair with a penguin. He wears her jewelry and pretends he doesn’t see her when she hides under the covers on his side of the bed. They have daddy-daughter dates to fly kites. As much as I want to go with them, I know that is time for them. She held a kite soaring magically through the sky for the first time with him. He teaches her to take life less seriously, catch a bass, identify a bird as it flies overhead. Someday, he will probably teach her to hunt. He will be a window into a different world than mine.
My world is full of books and words, feelings and communicating, dancing and art, learning and education. It’s a good world, but it isn’t the only world. His world is full of animals, dirt, bugs, cooking, living outdoors, patriotism and honor.
And she needs them both, like she needs us both. And I need to love him and respect him and let him be her dad so that she can always look up to her first superhero.
I see God in her, in the lessons I’ve learned raising her, in the ways she fits with me so perfectly. As I see the stark differences between her father and I, I recognize how perfectly God planned her family so that she would have the best of us both. Now if I can just relax, close my eyes, and let him be her dad, frogs, mud, and all.