|Aimee and Rowan at the |
Key West Aquarium
Seriously, I do love Rowan, more than anything else in the world. And it is my greatest honor to be her daddy. When Aimee and I had her, we talked about how I didn't want to be one of those fathers that was so focused on my work and how I provided financially that I didn't really build a bond with my daughter. (That is not a criticism, just a statement about my choice.) And we lived that out over Rowan's first three and a half years. I took time just for Rowan regularly. We did daddy-daughter dates. I took her for ice cream, had 'tea parties' with her, and so on. We played together a lot. Rowan and I were great pals, even as I maintained my position as father in terms of guidance, discipline (that's been very rarely needed so far, thank God), and direction.
Once in a while, Aimee was almost a little jealous of how close we were, even as she loved me more for the effort I made to be as good a father as I could.
But things worked well because of how great a mother Aimee was. Each of us could cover household duties so the other could spend quality time with Rowan. We could interact with Rowan in different ways according to our different styles, and Rowan got a more well-rounded experience. Aimee told me how children NEEDED that, how good she felt that we were giving that to her.
That all changed December 18.
One of the first things I can recall thinking as I stood in shock of the news that night was how I couldn't possibly raise Rowan alone. I believed Aimee could have - she was amazing and could do just about anything, in my mind - but not me. Yes, I loved Rowan, and yes we had a great bond built already. But between working full time in Seattle (commuting four days a week from our home in Federal Way), and my fatal flaws as a human being (too little patience, too stubborn), I was not equipped to raise a child on my own, especially one so young.
Well, it's been a month now. Rowan's still alive. She's made it to school on time, eaten food regularly, never left the house in her underwear, etc. But covering these basics, while challenging to be sure, are not the measuring stick I use to determine if I'm a great parent. And that's what I want to be, great. Why? Because my little girl is amazing, and I think she deserves that. And that's what Aimee wanted. And that's really what this boils down to for me. Good, bad or indifferent, that's the thing.
I want Aimee to be proud of me as a father.
My biggest opportunity to date happened last night. Rowan decided, just as I was putting dinner on plates, that she didn't want what I'd made. In fact, she got pretty emphatic about it. I got emphatic that what I made was what we were having, like it or not (it was something she'd normally eat happily). As I felt the dialog turning into a confrontation, which I didn't want, and Rowan started to cry, which I also didn't want, I felt some part of my brain gently nudge me towards wondering how Aimee would have handled Rowan: redirection, compromise, choices. Our goal was always to get Rowan's cooperation without having to make it a battle of wills, and to do so without bribery or settling for less than what we expected from her. So how was I going to get out of this one?
Turns out, Rowan did it for me.
Just as my patience was running out (I'm sure Rowan could see it), she forced a big goofy smile (CLEARLY forced, through her tears), and said, voice still breaking but with every effort to sound sincere, "I'm just being silly, daddy. I'm just kidding." She was the one redirecting. She was the one who realized that a confrontation wasn't what SHE wanted and changed the tone. As she stood there with tears treaming down her face but that silly toothy grin plastered on anyway, I couldn't help but laugh and scoop her up and hold her close. "You're just teasing me?" I asked her. She nodded, this time with a real smile. I hugged her some more, kissed her tears, and set her down to finish getting dinner on the table.
We had a nice meal, and she ate pretty well. It was such an incredible moment, and I've never been more proud of Rowan or felt more inadequate as a parent.
I did not sign up to be a single parent. Aimee was the smart one, the patient one, the creative one. Aimee was the parent that knew how to negotiate these things. Not just because she majored in early childhood development in college but because she saw people through a lens of love and that gave her insight on how to deal with them. I don't have that, at ALL. I'm much more flawed than she was.
But I'm it. It's on me, and I have to figure this out. Maybe not 100% on my own, but let's face it, no one else is her daddy. And, well, now her mommy too, as best as I can be when it's needed.
Good thing I have such a wonderful little girl as my child. With God's help and more self-discipline, I'll be OK. I HAVE to. There's just too much at stake.