"Don't thank me, thank your mother," my ex-husband told our daughter this morning. Then Claire, 29, called me.
"Mom, I want to thank you for raising me on healthy food," she said. "I changed my diet. It's basically a vegan diet except for protein: I eat eggs, chicken and fish."
"After 10 days, I feel great!" she enthused. "My skin is glowing. I have more energy and lost weight. And my allergies are better."
"Next week, I will see a nutritionist to make sure I'm getting enough vitamins and minerals," Claire added. "It's free. Nutritionists are paid by my work insurance." Good idea.
"At age 27, I stopped eating fast food, beef, preserved and processed meats," I replied. "Your dad always insists on turkey and ham for Thanksgiving dinner. It's his family tradition. Did you notice I never ate the ham?"
"I feel proud of you, honey," I said. "Good for you!"
My daughter actually thanked me for insisting on her not being so serious and do silly stuff, while her mom, typical Chinese Tiger Mom, was always pressuring her to excel on everything. She told me one day that hadn't I make her do all these silly things, like talk to each other improvising songs like a broadway musical, or imitating Monty Python silly walks at random moments, she believes she would "have blown a fuse." She's currently getting her PhD in Biology at MIT.
I took my daughter to work with me....Handyman, construction, plumbing, electrical, re-model...that was 20, 25,years ago... she called awhile back...said she wanted to thank me for all I had taught her to do. Said it she had been talking to one of her friends. That had expressed admiration for her that she didn't have to depend on a man to do things for her. Had to laugh. Felt good...
My children thank me for always making time for them and being there. I was a stay at home mom, I had time to take them everywhere they needed to go and time to hang with them. I always stayed up til they went to bed, I'd usually hear what was bothering them about 9:45 pm. I pushed them to step out of their comfort zones, and with one of my kids I literally marched her right out of hers, it was for her own good and turned out to be a turning point in her young life. She had gotten in HUGE trouble (police involved) and our pastor friend said she could come help out at a parents/caregiver night out for people caring for mentally handicapped older children and adults. She DID NOT want to go in, and I hauled her ass up there and turned her over to one of the leaders of the group that we knew. When I picked her up she was SO excited! She had the best time of her life. She discovered she has a heart for challenged people. Now that the other two are mom's themselves, they know what being full time with babies and toddlers is like.
My oldest boy came to live with me at 10 yrs old...the divorce was rough on him and it took everything I had to raise him in a stable home...there were many obstacles we faced but I anchored us in one spot even though it wasn't where we wanted to be...after he graduated HS he thanked me for giving him a stable home...he told me he finally understood why I kept us there...it was HOME...be it ever so humble.
My wife, acting on the suggestion of the bishop, took the children and disappeared when I wised up and left the Moron (oops, Mormon) church. Later, I was served with divorce papers. The children were only toddlers at the time. They are adults now, but they wish to have no contact with me. The Morons claim to be family oriented, but they destroyed my family.
In my experience, kids tend to remember things you don't think were that significant and to not register things you thought were important.
My daughter can never say enough about a business trip I took her along on when she was maybe 15 and I was still Cool Dad. I taught her about what I was doing, how to write and present a business proposal, things like that. I think she felt special and taken care of. In other words what "stuck" was her subjective emotional response at the time. I'm guessing it was also a bit of an escape from her pesky little brother and the mundane everyday existence.
On the other hand the endless (and ultimately thankless) hours I spent helping her with her mental block on long division ... that was just me haranguing her. That was an unpleasant experience with a negative emotional bias. So was the six months we spent in a temporary trailer waiting for the construction of our home to be finished ... she came down with pneumonia that winter so it must have been the squalor we were (not!) living in.
So it goes with kids. It's not the rainbows and unicorns people claim it is sometimes. And when it is sweetness and light, it seems to me at least a bit random and I don't know what to attribute it to when things "click".
I always wanted a lot of kids but it didn’t pan out that way, so I have one biological daughter. But I have three daughters of my heart, who are all “sisters” my daughter brought into our family in third grade. One has a verbally and physically abusive mother, and she has lived with us from a weekend through months at a time all through college. Countless times a year she was chased from her home and would call me in hysterics (once, in winter, without even shoes), and the girls were wide-eyed and agog in the backseat as I calmed her and brought her “home” with us. It was hard for me because I don’t handle aggression well, so having a crazy woman wildly screaming at me on my doorstep was ... very hard. But the girls were watching, and I love her, and she knew I would be there at any time, day or night, to be her shield.
After we went out one night a few weeks ago, she was reminiscing, and broke down, saying she sees people she went to school with who are into drugs and drinking, or went into foster care or something, and she knows that’s where she’d be if it wasn’t for me. It was a tearful night, but it was very touching, and reaffirmed I’d done the right thing. It felt really good. She's working, and will be starting on her PhD soon.
My eldest daughter said that she learned more about effective teaching from me than she did from a university teacher education program. At that time I was heading up a multidistrict staff development center focusing on improving teaching. and leadership.
I was initially going to make a goofy comment like "in my mind they thank me for not making them in the first place," which I just did anyway, sorry.
But your back and forth with your daughter was something I have to admit I occasionally feel like I have missed out.
Having kids isn't for everyone, but when I see good people doing a great job of it, I'm grateful as a human that you had the guts to have kids.
For having their back, no matter what.
For earnestly seeking their input and opinions about things (rather than dictating).
For listening attentively.
For letting them share THEIR fave music, movies, shows, books with me, being genuinely interested.
For taking them to concerts by their fave artists, even if a flight or road trip away.
For not freaking out about sweating, porn... etc.
For explaining why when I say no. Not just "because I said so".
For not forcing them to give up their only sleep in day to go to church. (:
My children witnessed a lot of abuse, and were abused by my situation with my wife.. I was often humiliated in front of them, accused of cheating, lying, and physically attacked, and I often slapped back..I never lost it.. I never just beat my wife..
I had to stay.. My honor meant too much to me, but I loved my children, and committed to doing everything necessary to be as good a father as I could be.. I felt so alone, and I was never cut out to be a father..
In defense of my wife, she grew up with violence, was raped as a child, felt abandoned by her real father, and we also lost our son, our first child, and she had endometriosis that made her absolutely crazy for a long period..
I asked my girls if I should have left... It meant so much for me to be there for them, and I felt so often that I was teaching them to accept abuse, and otherwise not doing them the good they needed.. They both said they were glad I stayed.. Understand that my wife even on a bad day was so much more emotionally in tune that I am.. I didn't think I could be a parent without her help, and that help was too often not there.. I needed love too; and crazy, insecure, grieving people have no love to give.. They, we both were in survival mode long after our son died... But; my daughters could see my wife through her treatment of me, and they were glad that her abuse was landing on me because they wanted no part of it.. They knew I loved them.. They knew their mother was wrong, and they loved her too.. We were all trapped, and it hurt to hang fire, and I just wanted to run and hide under a rock... It was good to know that for them, I made the right choice
I had a home cooked turkey curry this evening. Delicious!
Last night I made "Githeri" with added spinach. It's another dish I love, which is accidentally vegan.
I never "pig out" on meat, but I certainly don't avoid it!
My children thank me for telling them to "Listen to your body".
I believe most children including myself realize the gifts that you give them come out as they struggle with raising their own families often time after we're gone and they have a chance to reflect. That said both boys appreciate our more strict guidelines and largely just explaining and discussing why something was wrong. They're in their forties now and we're a close family to this day.