Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers just want a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Did you see this survey on MSNBC?

Or the follow up article by a dad feeling the sting.

I'll admit - reading these twanged the guilt strings a bit.  I do sometimes realize that I find it much easier to criticize than encourage when it comes to my husband and parenting.  Rather than praise him for the efforts he makes - even though I do notice it and smile to myself - often what comes out of my mouth is a tip on how he could do it better or showing him the way I do it.  I don't usually hear the criticism or bitterness that can creep into my comments in the moment but in that rewind in my head (usually when I'm wondering why he's clenching his jaw and making excuses to head to the garage).

When it comes to my kids I try to be plugged in to what I'm saying and how I'm saying it and the effects it can have on them (although I find I fail there sometimes too), but when it comes to my husband I don't usually censor myself and it comes out with whatever frustrations or issues may have built up through the day (and often have little to do with him).  Partly, I think this happens because we have been together since we were smart-mouthed teenagers.  There is a comfort level that we can talk about anything, any way, at any time - and maybe sometimes we should just shut it.

Another piece sometimes I think comes from my position in my extended family and the way I was raised.  As the oldest, I had to be the toughest and take care of everyone.  As a member of a family full of strong, independent women and having gone through a tough divorce with my parents, I tend to lean toward the feminist side.  Sometimes when dad is involved I feel like I have to defend my territory - you know, 'cuz I don't need a man to fix it for me - even when it would be nice if he did.  So when he does take control of a situation I feel like I need to monitor - and then he's insulted, we are arguing about whose way is right, and I'm resenting that he couldn't just handle it himself (even though I know in the functional part of my brain that I'm the one who is in the way and he's perfectly capable).

I also find it hard to be conscious of the fact that he needs that pat on the back from me.  I mean, he's a big, strong, manly man.  It feel awkward sometimes to utter those words - he is much better at giving the compliments than I am - even though I think those things to myself - I rarely say them and I don't even know why.

So I'm glad to see the survey - and the dad's complete and open response.  Because I think its something a lot of us struggle with but find it hard to put into words why we feel the way we do.  Its so much easier to read than it is to say to each other.  Just as its so much easier to blame and criticize each other than it is to voice those feelings and put aside the right-fighting.  But I don't want my children to see parents who are critical and antagonistic and combative.  And I don't want that kind of relationship myself.  I want them to see parents who honor and value each other, who lift each other up through the hard times, and who present a unified front even in disagreement.  So that they learn those values themselves and so that we can be in this for the long term.  I want to be that couple in rocking chairs holding hands wordlessly because they already know what each other are thinking.

Honey:  I love you.  I respect the man that you are, the husband that you are, and the father that you are.  You are our SuperMan.  I am so happy to be on this journey with you.  And our children are blessed to have a father with so much love, loyalty, honesty, and strength.  Happy Father's Day!

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