Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Tomorrow morning, Dads everywhere will wake up to brightly colored, overly taped packages full of golf balls, ties and technology. Tomorrow, there will be Dads and daughters, and Dads and sons playing outdoors, attending ball games and having BBQs with family. Tomorrow, older children will return home to have a beer with their Dad and thank them for being influential in their lives. Tomorrow, I will visit both of my dads, but my sons won't see theirs.

You see, for five months now we've lived away from my husband. Not because there is anything wrong between us, but because it was best for us. Life threw us some curve balls: My mom got cancer, we had to take care of a flooded house, we had to sell that flooded house, we had to move across the country, and live in a state we didn't yet have a home in. Instead of dragging our kids through that uncertainty, Eric and I decided I'd just return to Michigan where the boys would have their grandparents, some stability and a routine.

While the boys and I have been having fun playing outdoors, going to "school" and having play dates, their Dad has been working harder than they will ever know. They are too young to understand that their Dad sacrificed time with them so that he could make life better for us. Our boys will never know or really understand that not only has Daddy been rebuilding a home from nothing, but he's literally moved 10,000 lbs of our stuff six times (from house to house) by himself. They won't understand that in our new house Daddy is building them a dream bedroom, unpacking their toys and reassembling their playhouse in our new back yard so that when we arrive at the new house, the boys will recognize their things and immediately feel like we are home.

The boys don't know how much their Dad is missing out on so that they can spend quality time with grandparents, aunts and uncles. They don't realize how much time has passed since we last saw Eric, and they don't know how much it makes him smile to see Pix Messages of their artwork, or see their photos on Facebook. They may never know.

And Eric doesn't really understand how much the boys miss him. He sees their delighted faces when we do get together every month or so, but he doesn't know how much they talk about him, look at photos of him or pretend to call him on the phone or computer. He doesn't know that they long for their Dad to wrestle with them, fish with them, ride bikes with them or play trains with them. He doesn't know that when they play pretend, the boys pretend to be him, or that they pretend to be a Daddy. He may never know.

But I know.

I know that Eric is the best father I could have ever asked for for my own children. I know that there is more love between these boys and their father, and this father and these boys than there are stars in the sky. I know that Eric would do anything, ANYTHING for these boys and our family. I know that without knowing it himself, that Eric is already a role model, a hero, to our boys. Our boys believe that their Dad can build anything, even if it's as big as a house. Our boys believe that their Dad is the strongest Dad in the world because he packed up and moved all of their toys to Colorado. Our boys believe that their Dad is the coolest Dad on the planet because he's in the Air Force and has missiles and really fast jets. Without knowing it, these boys love their Dad and show their affection by carrying and kissing photos of Eric around the house, excitedly include him in ideas or plans they may have, and fight over who gets to hold Daddy to "see him better" when we Google Chat.

I know that being a Dad is a hard job: dads are portrayed as foolish on TV shows, they get told what to do and how to raise their own kids by mothers, other family members and our society. They get excluded from their son or daughter's lives during breastfeeding and don't often get to make up that close parenting bond. And, they tend to be the ones who work instead of staying home during the crucial imprinting and development phase.

In our case, being a Dad is tough. We know that at any time, Eric could be gone. We know that he works long, unpredictable hours and he often doesn't get to spend holidays or birthdays with us. But no matter how hard it is, Eric always makes the time for his boys. He's the Dad who races home for a family dinner then goes back to work to finish what he started. He's the Dad who pushes back bedtime to read one or two or five more books because he's having a great time with his son. He's the Dad who, when mom is away, creates a whole new house out of pillows, couch cushions, blankets and sheets or has dance parties, or wrestling matches, or car races or band practice.

Even though we won't be with Eric tomorrow, I'll make sure that my boys know that it's Dad's day and we're incredibly lucky to have a man like him as our Dad. I'll make sure Eric sees how wonderful his parenting skills are and how he's rubbed off on his kids. I'll promise all three of them that they will get to celebrate in person in a few weeks. I'll make sure that no matter what they do, and where ever we are, my boys know that their Dad is always going to be there for them. If you ask me, that's the true spirit of the day anyway, it just helps that I have technology on my side.

I always knew that Eric was going to be a great dad, I could just see it in his eyes. But, after the few years we've had, I've been even more impressed, even more in love, and even more in awe of his parenting skills and his passion for being a father than I ever thought I could be. And someday, maybe, my boys will read this or have some memory of their Dad and what he did at this time. Maybe it's in a year, maybe it's when they are in their 20s, but someday, they will truly understand that they are the luckiest boys in the world to have a Dad who has stood by them even when he was thousands of miles away.

Happy Father's Day, Eric. The three of us are so lucky to have you.

PS. I can't forget to wish my own Dads a happy Father's Day. I'm a lucky girl to have two of them in my life! They both have been instrumental in helping me become the woman I am today. Thank you!

With my Dad and Sisters

With my Step-Dad, Sisters and Brother

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