Monday, July 9, 2012

The making of a modern single father

I do not know what most of today's fathers are like. I know what MY father was like (we're not even going to go there!), and I'm not much like he was. He had a lot of faults, but in some ways his attitudes about being a father were fairly typical of his generation: child rearing was for the women, his job is to go earn the living. His involvement in my life was mostly restricted to discipline or assigning work.

When Aimee and I found out we were going to be parents, we talked about what we saw our roles as being. We both agreed that my role should be considerably more involved than my father had been. I would help with the tasks of raising Rowan from Day 1, and be more than just a breadwinner, but a parent with whom Rowan had a significant and close relationship with from her earliest years.

So, this was how we proceeded, with me helping with feedings, changings (yuck), and other parts of raising her. But more than that, I spent time with her, playing, reading, etc. As she got a little older, we did daddy/daughter dates. She helped me when I worked in the yard or did laundry.

Yes, I have a goofy daddy,
but I love him
But, there were differences. For example, while I sometimes travelled for work for several days at a time (up to 10-11 for some trips), and took the occasional trip to Phoenix to visit my best friend. During these, Aimee was often parenting solo. Me? I never had to do that, and the thought of it terrified me. My longest stretch alone with Rowan as of December 18, 2011, was about 8-9 hours. Never even once overnight.

When Aimee died, this was one of the things that I was dreading - being a single parent. The lack of someone else to 'tag-team' with was bad enough, but going days on end on my own? God help me. And God help poor Rowan. But there was one thing going very much in my favor. My involvement with Rowan meant that we already had a close love and bond. Plus, it meant I knew the basics of how to care for her. I knew where her clothes were, I knew her routines, and I knew how to handle her moods, fits, and fears. I wasn't starting from scratch.

Well, we're going on seven months now. That knowledge has helped immensely. So has Donna's frequent help, plus the occasional break provided by friends here and there. But as expected, I've had to step up and be a single dad. And as much as I've felt inadequate at times (see also "Single parenting, I didn't sign up for this" and "I make a lousy mommy"), I know that on the whole I am making this work. I've cared for her when she's been sick. I've weaned her off of her pacifier (without scarring her). Threw her a birthday party, bought clothes that fit her, made sure she saw a counselor when she's needed it, and most importantly, showed her love and let her grieve in her own way. Much of how I am raising Rowan and coping with these circumstances is due to things I learned from Aimee. Between her degree in early childhood development, training in childhood grief and trauma, and her amazing empathy and love, I picked up a ton more knowledge from her than I would have thought possible.

She used to say to me with some regularity, in a very happy and proud tone, "Patrick, I want you to know that I am very confident that if something ever happened to me, you'd do a great job taking care of Rowan." I'd typically tease her and tell her she was off her rocker. And in all seriousness, I DID think she was off her rocker. I felt like a competent father with her by my side, but had serious doubts I could do this it on my own.

Now, there are days when I am just clicking as a dad, when doctor's appointments are scheduled and clothes are clean and food is fixed and Rowan is happy, and I WISH WISH WISH Aimee could see me and I could see her and I could say to her, "Love, you were right. I doubted you, but you were right. I CAN do this, thanks to you." And she'd smile her sweet, proud smile that she gave me more often than I deserved and she'd nod and tell me I don't give myself enough credit and that I am a good man and that's why she married me. I know this because she said those things to me often.

I want Aimee to be proud of the job I'm doing. I think on the whole, she would be.


  1. Pat, I know for a fact that Aimee would be VERY proud of you. You don't give yourself enough credit, you are a great dad, and this I can tell just by your posts. You are a great dad. Aimee is smiling upon you to this day, and I know she is and would be extrememly proud of you. Never doubt yourself.

  2. She is so proud! Many of us are very proud of how you are doing. Rowan is an AMAZING little girl and could not be sweeter and that is because of who you and Aimee are and how you are raising her together even now. A lot of Aimee lives in you whether you realize it or not and that is why you will continue to raise her together. It was great to see you guys. Hugs to you both! ~Julie

  3. Thanks Julie. It was great seeing you guys as well. Too bad Rowan was so shy during most of the visit. :)