Saturday, February 23, 2013

Daddy issues

     The father-daughter relationship gets a lot of attention. The phrase "Daddy issues" has been uttered in jest or judgement so often that virtually everyone knows what it means. Tonight as I watched my husband and daughter engage in their latest Daddy-daughter bonding ritual (she lays on her back while he rubs her belly, usually with her pacifier or toothbrush handy) it sparked a thought or two. I envy her sometimes, for the relationship she has with her Dad, and at the same time, I am proud of my choice in her father and I want to brag to the whole world that I picked a Daddy so brilliant, people should take classes from him. The funny thing about that is, he will tell you he has no idea what he's doing, he just loves her. Sounds easy enough, right? I don't think it is, for every man.

     Our family has a mission statement. BE HONEST. That's all. It's what this family was founded on. It's what I have learned from experience is the most important thing anyone can do in order to live a genuine and happy life. Sometimes honesty hurts. I have had to say difficult truths to husband and son that even though I was aware I may hurt their feelings, I knew in the end that my integrity and respect for them would trump our being temporarily uncomfortable. I love them, and so I must be honest. That is love.

     In generations before ours, honesty was not a part of child-rearing. My parents did not want to worry me with "adult things" and so I was left out of certain topics and forced to come up with conclusions of my own. To be fair, I must add that my parents were not even aware of some of their own truths to a degree that they could include me on any of those topics. That was a result of their own upbringing, as well. It took me years of observation and detective work to figure that out.

     The excuse for my father's behavior towards me growing up was, "He doesn't know what to do with a baby girl." So, as soon as I began to seem girly, have crushes or whatever, around 5, Dad checked out. He would take me to parks and things, but getting a push on the swings was a feat in my manipulation skills. Physical contact was sporadic, to say the least. My Dad's younger sister, Aunt Laura, had serious Daddy issues. She grew up believing that her father was the best man on earth, and the only man who would love her to that great degree. Her parents taught her that. She measured every man up to that standard her whole life, and ended up dying alone because of it. Or at least, that's how my Dad saw it. My Dad also dealt with my Mother's father, who abused my Mom and her siblings, and likely also molested Mom, although that is one of those things she only hints at to me, and can not be honest about. Dad took all that in and decided he didn't want to chance fucking me up. He wanted my love, but he wanted me to be able to love another man one day and get married and the whole shebang. He wanted the best for me. The hands-off approach was the best he could do to that effect. How do I know that? because we had a long, drunken discussion about it after everyone went to bed one Christmas night. I learned so much from that talk, I think it's what saved any relationship we still had.

    My mother was the opposite in parenting. She never denied me a cuddle or a piggy back ride. I practically had to pry her off me. Those that know me well and have any basic knowledge of psychology will read that and say, "Ooohhhhhh....." Daddy issues. And they're right, I have had "Daddy issues", and they have affected my choices and behaviors in a negative way. These days, it is merely a memory and a learning experience. But I appreciate the importance of it. And as I watch my daughter interact with her father, I gain confidence that she will be just fine.

     My Husband is the most honest person I have ever known. It is the most comforting trait I have ever experienced in a person. I truly believe that if everyone were just honest with people, there would be far, far less divorce, violence, heartache, and pain in the world. If you're honest about things, they are in the light and can be addressed, no matter how uncomfortable they may seem. It's so strange to me how a person can keep secrets from the one they love in order to protect them, but then create more and more secrets to protect those lies, and on and on until the relationship is so broken from lies that you can't even respect them anymore. That is not to say that I haven't been guilty of this. I have. I still think it's strange. It must be some kind of unevolved human survival technique.

     Bug's Daddy stops whatever he is doing, at all times, to be present with her. No matter how long his day was, or how much he hurts from working. He cares about what she says, even though she doesn't know English yet. He pays attention to what she's pointing at and takes her over to it and talks about it with her, "Yes, that's the refrigerator. Food goes inside it...". He notices when she's sleepy and has that presence about him that lets her know it's time to calm down, lay back and get her belly rub so she can go to sleep. And she always does. It is intimate and beautiful. It is what we try to teach the kids through example about how a loving relationship is supposed to be like. Be present. Be physical. Be confident. Be honest, and do not be afraid.

     When I was pregnant with Bug, Husband and I had many conversations about raising little girls. One time he told me, "Do I have to have tea parties? I don't know what to do at a tea party..." Without thinking I said, "You don't have to do anything at the tea party, you just have to be present in her femininity." Huh? At the time I felt like random words just flew out of my mouth, but I have thought about it since, and it really is true. Well then, what IS femininity? Merriam-Webster defines it as: 1. The quality of being feminine, and 2. Womanhood. That's pretty vague, and I like it that way. Femininity is going to look different to everyone. Whatever makes a woman feel like a woman, is feminine. To a girl who likes tea parties, that is a piece of her own femininity. To a girl who feels at her best when she's digging holes in the backyard, that's a piece of her femininity. I think it is extremely important to have those things validated in you by your parents, and especially your father, who is the first man a girl ever becomes familiar with, and ultimately, the one which all future men in her life are measured against, good or bad. And little Bug....will one day be a remarkable, open, and happy woman.


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