I love it. There is nothing I would rather be, nothing I would rather have define me then that fact that I am a husband and father. We have lots of things that define us, and for our family, some of those have been stripped away since Jo's stroke, but the important ones for me at least remain: husband and father.
I am in the mood to talk a bout being a dad to daughters. I honestly think there is nothing better. When the girls were younger, people would always tell us, "Just wait till they hit their teen years. Then you'll have your hands full." Well, Audrey is a teen and I couldn't be happier. Is she more of a handful then she was when she was ten? Absolutely. But is a way it makes for a great and interesting parenting challenge. I never want to be a dad who puts it on auto pilot (and for a couple years I did that). I want to be a dad who is observant and responds relationally to what I observe. I want to be a student of my girls.
And they have plenty to teach me! Audrey has taught me to take advantage of the little moments. I try to get her to come with me when I run errands. And more often then not, when we are in the car and she is constantly flipping through the programmed radio stations on the car stereo, we get to talk. Sometimes it's about nothing much but sometimes it is more significant and we actually get to talk about what's on her heart and mind: school, boys, her mom, struggles with friends, etc.. Those are golden moments.
I have also discovered with Audrey that I need to affirm my love for her all the time. Saying "I love you" multiple times a day drives the point home. Every once in a while I ge to wrap my arms around her and hold her for a bit and let her know how special she is and how proud I am of her. And the payoff? I am one of her "safe people." She told me her list of people she trusts, people she feels safe with. Unfortunately it is a pretty short list, but I am on there. That's all I'm looking for and I will do whatever it takes to stay on that list.
Emma is a different cup of tea. She is quieter but she has a lot going on inside. She is all about proximity. She wants to be near Jo or all all the time. She will follow Joanne from room to room throughout the day, doing whatever it is she is doing, just near Jo. At night she almost always falls asleep on the floor next to our bed becasue she desires that nearness. I think this is born out of some deep seated fear. After all, Emma is the one who found Joanne after she had her stroke. Her therapist said that has left her with a little bit of PTSD type behavior. I ache that an 11 old (then 10 year old) has to suffer such a burden, but that's her life so what can we do about it?
One of my favorite things is that Emma will get in bed with Jo and read out loud to her every night. Jo loves to be read to and Emma is a really good out-loud reader. So that is their ritual. It feels like a reversal, like Jo should be the one reading to Emma (which she always did before the stroke) at night, but it is indicative of how things have turned upside down in our home. The things Jo used to do are being picked up by the rest of us, and reading out-loud is one of them.
What else about Emma? She has a heart of gold: she is genuinely happy and helpful much of the time. But she has a solid core too that she won't allow to be violated. In other words, she can really dig in her heals when she gets crossed. But she never lingers in that space. I see flashes of it, but before you know it she is back to her happy helpful self. I think one day she is going to have to do some therapy on her own to really process the challenges that she has faced over the last 18 months, but for now, she seems well adjusted and generally OK.
It comes down to this: I wouldn't change my girls in any way. I love them just the way they are. Are their things about them that drive me crazy? Absolutely! But the good outweighs the bad at every turn. I love that Audrey lets me in, lets me love her. And I love that Emma is joyful and always ready to help. Because of that, I can survive the rough patches. I know at their core that I have good kids, loving kids.
And finally, here is my key thought: they are looking for a protector of their hearts. They are looking for me to step in when their hearts hurt and try to process through with them what is going on. The heart of a tween/teen age girl is a fragile thing and not to be taken lightly. So I think about this all the time: how do I protect Audrey and Emma's hearts toady. I look for opportunities and pounce on those opportunities when they arrive. I am passionate about it. It is at the very core of my parenting.
Yes, I blow it all the time. Daily in fact. But when I do I try to make it right with them as best I can and let them know that they are my priority, that they are my love, and that I am here to protect their hearts.
1. Pray for strength that I would never, ever give up on these precious ones. It can be tiring but I never want to run out of steam when it comes to protecting their hearts.
2. School starts in a little over ten days. Please pray that both girls get off to a good start.
3. Praise God that he has blessed me with this family. For all the struggles and ups and downs there is no little group of people I would rather do life with.
P.S. Next post: On Being a Husband