Today is Father's Day. I am lucky -- I have my father AND my stepfather still alive, still kicking, and Bryce has the same -- a father and a stepfather, still very much here. We have spent the morning making phone calls, as very few of these influential men live near us (California, Texas, Maine...). My stepfather is on another long-distance biking journey, this time across West Virginia. We celebrated him for his Father's Day and birthday celebration last weekend, in a barbeque up at their house on the lake.
Father's Day has always been tricky, because I love my father very much but he missed a lot. He moved out when I was 13, and shortly thereafter moved across the country to L.A.. Due to his crazy entertainment industry, he was gone for long periods of time anyway, but after the divorce, with two weeks per year in the custody agreement, I saw him even less. It was (and is) hard -- so many missed moments, a whole teenage period, missed. It makes finding Father's Day cards hard, because so many say how "you've always been there, Dad" and while that's true in terms of 3-hour-time-difference phone conversations, in person not so much. I am proud of the relationship I culture with my father, probably free of some awkwardness BECAUSE so many of the teenage years were missed, and we can talk as friends on the phone. I see him once every few years, something complicated further by our family building efforts, but those times are precious. I wish we lived closer, I wish I could visit more frequently, but we do well given the time and modes of communication we have. Recently, my dad has been calling Bryce, too, to talk about audio things (he is a HUGE audiophile), and that makes me happy, that they have something to share in and bond over.
My stepfather came into our lives when I was 15, and he married my mom when I was 16, and so it was a very fast introduction and then all of a sudden there was this other man in my house where my father had once been and it was awfully hard not to feel teenagery and resentful. It was also hard to stay that way, because my stepfather is a man who exudes joy and adventurousness and has a goofy sense of humor often involving sticking things up his nose... and he survived the period where I really wanted to dislike him but frankly, couldn't. His family was skeptical about the wisdom of joining a family with two teenaged daughters, but he made it work. He is a unique individual, one who bikes across the country and takes trips to Nepal because he can, and then comes back for barbecues and croquet with questionable rules.
I treasure both the dads in my life, and I know how lucky I am to have them to talk to, to visit, to laugh with either in person or over the phone.
And even though I do feel fortunate, I also feel so sad, because Bryce is not a father yet. This is his 7th Father's Day without truly expecting to be a dad or actually being one, and it just seems so unfair. He would be amazing at this fatherhood thing, because:
- He is patient. Like, really patient. When I come from school having used all mine up, he has enough for us both.
- He is funny, and he can use laughter to defuse tense situations. I mean, sometimes the jokes are terrible puns, but isn't that perfect for a dad? Horrible jokes for your kids to groan over?
- He is supportive. He always pushes me to do more, to be a better person, to follow my dreams, and I can just see him doing the same for our child, wherever he or she is hiding.
- He is playful. He loves to do silly things, from playing with the cats to playing games to ridiculous prank-like jokes.
- He has a way with small children, when he comes in contact with them, that isn't condescending, just silly and playful. He is able to "get" them. He is sufficiently weird, and kids love that.
- He just has so much love to give. So. Much. Love.
When we have our discussions about how we'd like to parent, and what we value (both because it's good to do and we'd do it anyway, but also because we're legally required to due to the home study process), we're on the same page. We know that it's real easy to idealize what things will be like when we're not exhausted and don't have someone screaming or running or whatever. But, we feel the same about the importance of nature, of reading and books, of severely limiting screen time, of positive discipline, of building character and valuing perseverance, independence, and open-mindedness. Of supporting passions, even if they are foreign to us (please, please, please, do not send us a super football-obsessed kiddo...we'll figure it out but it will be like raising an alien until we get into the swing of things...). When I hear him speak of our future child and the life we want to build as a family, it makes me so warm, fills me with joy...and then stabs me with a million tiny jabs because this isn't reality, not yet.
Today we are staying low key, calling our dads, doing some yardwork, barbecuing in the backyard to celebrate the dad Bryce WILL be. I asked him if he wanted something special, if there was anything in particular he'd like so that I could make that happen. The one thing he wanted to do was to go into the park we can walk to from our house and see families, see dads in action, see what lies in store. It was surprising -- I mean, that to me sounds like a special kind of torture. But, he was feeling hopeful and optimistic--which is beautiful. And so like him. I warned him to stay off Faceb.ook, because it is just a landmine of men with their children, new fathers with babies, a barrage of everything we hope for but have been denied for so long. It's too much.
We live in this space where we waffle between "this is just never going to happen" and "this could happen any moment," between despair and hope and all points in between. So today I am thankful for the dads we have, and most appreciative and looking forward to the dad that Bryce will be, the Future Dad he will be for our Future Baby.