There is a movement I've been following, to teach men to become better fathers. And in some cases, to simply be present fathers. To participate in their children's lives and to be a role model to their children, not only in terms of how to be a man, but for their daughters to teach them how to be treated by a man. And I couldn't agree more with this movement. I believe much of my strength and expectations arose from my relationship with my father.
Role modelling as a parent is, from my experience as a Mom of 4, how we truly teach our children the behaviours we want them to emulate. As a simple example, watch what happens when driving with your 2 year old, and out slips the occasional 'SH#$!'. Immediately, the word is repeated, over and over. So yes, they are watching, they are emulating, they are learning.
I lost my Dad when I was 37. When I hear the words, 'I lost my Dad when I was 37', it seems like a reasonable amount of time to have had a Dad at all. And I do feel lucky for that time. But when the time did come for him to pass, it seemed like a completely unreasonable time for him to go. Some people never knew a Father, some lost their Dads as children. But losing my Dad at 37 was a critical time for me and it affected me more than I realized it would.
I mostly feel sad about him missing the joy he would have had over watching me be a parent. Seeing me make mistakes, seeing me succeed. While he did see this for about 4 years, there is such deep sadness for me in knowing that he couldn't be here to see the critical moments of my kid's lives. My Dad didn't miss even the most mundane of activities related to my kids-he treasured all the moments. And the advice he gave me which I remind myself of often is 'Just simply enjoy them.' That's it. Simple. 'Just enjoy them.' Just enjoy them. Enjoy your kids, don't get hung up on the right or the wrong, or what they are eating or not eating, or the school they are in or not in, don't obsess, overthink and overparent...simply enjoy them.
As a parent myself, I feel deeply for my kids successes and failures. When they are proud of themselves I am proud of them. Beaming proud until my heart hurts. When something difficult happens in their lives, I think it probably hurts me more than them. And in those feelings, I know what kind of love my Dad had for his three kids.
What has surprised me the most, three years after he died is two-fold. First, I didn't expect that the pain of losing a parent would become, in many ways much more difficult. It changes and becomes about different things as time goes on. A different kind of pain. And second, I am struck by how much my kids talk to me about my Dad even though 2 out of 4 don't really remember him. And I'm not sure if I am teaching them what he taught me or if there is something else at play, but either way, I've learned that talking about him, keeps him here with me.
And as I write this as I listen to a beautiful version of 'Superman' by Boyce Avenue....have a listen