Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Finding Their Own Way
There is a reason why it is so important to let dads find their own way in parenting. As a mom, I know that I have to work hard to fight the urge to intervene when he is doing something differently from the way I do it. I really try to only interfere if something is really off- in my opinion. Jeff may disagree- he may feel henpecked and nagged when it comes to parenting. I hope not. Because he's an awesome dad. And he's awesome beyond the playing and silliness and smarts. Last evening, we all spent time playing outside. Teagan and I went for a short bike ride. Zach and Jeff played in our yard. Zach eventually hit the tired wall and was Done. He and I go in for his bath and bedtime. Teagan gets to stay outside with Daddy with the understanding that she stays within the set safety perimeter- neighbor's driveways and our sidewalk. Jeff is working on re-screening our window screens while she plays. He's got one done and is working on a second. I sit down after putting Zach to bed and am enjoying watching Teagan play in our front yard when I hear Jeff's voice... "Teagan!" Not a happy or excited tone. I hear him calmly ask if she "did this?" She's frozen in the front yard, body pulled into itself, cheeks flushing a light red. Mommy fought the urge to rush outside and pick up my baby girl. I know that feeling. That tingling and numbness that comes over your body when you are "busted." The embarrassment and shame at having disappointed someone that you love. He tells her that it is time for her to go inside. I can hear by his voice that this is Serious. She goes to clean up her sidewalk chalk. I go out front to bring her inside. That first window screen that Jeff had just finished... the entire screen, frame and all, is mangled and bent up. Most likely ruined. He is Pissed Off. But he is keeping it within his realm and not getting angry at her. She and I go inside. He comes in shortly after with the other finished screen. Teagan is still somber and sad. Won't talk to me about what happened. Refuses to say a word but communicates through gestures that she is sad about Daddy and the screen. We all gather in the living room and I encourage Teagan and Jeff to talk about what happened. Teagan climbs up on Jeff's lap. J: "Was it an accident?" T: "No." "You did it on purpose?" "No." "Tell me what happened." "I wanted to turn the music on and I fell and broke the screen." Now this is exactly where I would have gotten fixated on the fact that she broke the screen and been focused on the irresponsibility and that my work had been destroyed and so on. But Jeff is a Good Dad. A Great Dad. And he set her- and me- up for an important lesson. "Teagan, you could have gotten hurt reaching for that radio. There are lots of things you can do by yourself but there are still some things you need help with. And when you fell into the screen, you should have come to Daddy and let me know right away what happened. You could have gotten hurt. Leaving the broken screen sitting out could have hurt someone, too. When things happen, it is really important that you tell Daddy so I can help and make sure things are safe. OK?" Holy load of enlightenment, Daddy-man!! He didn't get mad about the broken screen AT ALL. He focused on the important part... on the lesson... on the underlying message. He totally got it and calmly and lovingly passed it on to her. He claims to be selfish... but last night proved otherwise a thousand times over. He never once said "I worked really hard to fix that screen and you broke it and now I'm angry." She knew she screwed up and she knew why. The bad thing that had been done wasn't the focus because she already knew what was wrong. I can see this lesson applying sometime in the future. Because he totally set the stage to make it safe to tell Daddy when Important Things happen. Daddy just proved that he won't fly off the handle or lose his temper. He will listen and understand and be there to help her fix it. He is my husband. He is Zach and Teagan's Dad. He is amazing.