We had a marvelous Father’s Day weekend. On Saturday we started a Dad-coached soccer team with some friends which was surprisingly successful. And then on Sunday, we completed our first-ever family bike ride on the Burke-Gillman trail. Everyone had two wheels of their own, including Grandma. Although O ended up in the ditch at one point after steering off-course, it was an injury-free ride and we proclaimed it a success. I think we all felt really grown up. We gave my husband a mixture of homemade gifts (paintings) and then a trite, expected one (a necktie). We played ball in the yard, pulled weeds from the grass, and Jonathan got a bit of time to himself for a run. When we went out for Italian food and ordered Shirley Temples we formally celebrated the fortune of having a father parenting so actively in our lives. The boys began the day with exclamations and closed it with a final, “Happy Father’s Day” after the lights went out. It was then that I realized it’s prime time for this holiday in our home.
I get that Father’s Day isn’t this Hallmark in everyone’s home and I certainly understand it won’t always be like this. These manufactured holidays bring up thoughts of the tension and distance many of us feel from our own fathers. I also think about my friends and patients who have lost their fathers and those children who are separated from their fathers due to work, military commitments, or unique family circumstances. Last week one of my colleagues pointed out that children had eras in their lives where Father’s Day was on the map; young children adore and celebrate but then retreat as we’d expect during the late school-age years. “They tend to check back in during young adulthood,” he said.
And it got me thinking: is there a way to keep the intimacy of preschool-parenthood alive?
Maybe. I’m certain some of you have. But part of what allows for this exceptional intimacy is the rigorous nature of parenting young children. We’re a part of so much of what our children do each day during infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool. Their dependence fosters our dependence and ultimately spawns exceptional intimacy. But as we all know, parenthood is far from static and each era is essentially always evolving. As independence grows and we let go, I’m thinking of ways to hold onto this intimacy. I was thinking about how it all began. And I realized it is very different for me than it is for my husband. Reading this father’s beautiful perspective on becoming a father laid the foundation:
The chapter titles in some of the pregnancy books we read featured “Being a Mom” versus “Becoming a Father.” I joked about it then, and now I find that it’s true: you are instantly a mom, but you become a father. My wife was never more needed than she was that first day, and will never be again. Her journey requires a steady sequence of letting go (giving birth, going back to work, weaning from the breast). My journey is in reverse, it’s a steady sequence of getting closer.
My hope is that we are all steadily growing closer with each day and each shared experience and that the intimacy doesn’t diminish but changes. And I wonder, how have you maintained intimacy with your children as they grow? I want my boys to have two wheels of their own, sure, but I’d really love for them to look back over their shoulder every once and awhile, too. Share your wisdom about preserving intimacy and please tell me about your Father’s Day.