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Saturday, April 2, 2011

In the Days Before We Met

Time for another escapade to Sam's Sunday Sentimental Side.

Our children age so fast before our eyes. My eldest will be taking her soon-to-be received diploma and heading off to University in the fall. Our middle child has begun her dream of working in a restaurant kitchen (part-time) and the youngest one has yet to pick any one dream from among his limitless imagination to follow, so he still pursues them all.

When I married the beautiful Dawn, I became the proud parent of two equally beautiful daughters, aged seven & nine at the time, but now young women. Our son is seven now, soon to be eight and my parenting has now come full circle to where it began.

What I’ve found is how much I missed by stepping into my daughters lives as late as I did. I have never thought of my girls as anything other than my own children. I’ve given them every bit of the love and affection that I would soon give to my son Nate. There were, as expected, moments of awkwardness and the like, especially while their real father was still around. Because I never thought of myself as anything other than their real father, I often took his existence as an insult. But he’s gone now.

Recently, as Nate has begun to really sprout into personhood, I’ve seen evidence of what I only suspected before. These past few years are playing a pivotal role in who my son will be and the time my daughters may have needed me the most was before I had ever met them. I realize that there is no rational reason to feel guilty for this, yet I do.

This past Wednesday, after our AWANA club had finished its meeting, our Pastor asked my son how his championship basketball game had gone. He gave a brief, three word summary, “It was okay” before launching into a rambling, excited description of the game that took place on Tuesday night. I’ve coached the sports teams for my children ever since they started playing – softball, baseball, football, basketball & hockey. One of my long held traditions is an after season party, which usually includes a parents versus kids game.

Tuesday night, we played an epic eight on five game with the kids against the parents. As excited as he had been about the championship game and his medal, the larger memory of the week was the fun parent game. Pastor Roger kept trying to get back to Sunday’s game, but my son would have none of it. For Nate, the game with the parents was the most important of the whole season.

It was then that I realized how important that parent-child interaction was during this time of his life. In just a few years, he will have all the usual distractions that will pull him away from his mother and me. But this time in his life, what he is learning will be the home base for him, the shelter that he will seek when life gets a little too rough.

My daughters, like most teenagers today, are sailing through some rough seas. I wish they could find greater solace during the storm from me. But I feel as though, when they’re hurting and they seek the comforts of those innocent days, they time-travel beyond my entrance into their lives to a time before they knew me and I want to cry - but not for me.

It’s wrong that at such an important time of their life, they were missing what they needed. My wife is so strong, but it’s so hard being a single parent in a world that really needs two. I’m so glad that we found each other and that together we can provide the type of home our wonderful children deserve. So many others don’t have that.

I love my children, each and everyone, with all my heart. Sometimes I try to overcompensate for the moments in life that we missed by attempting to stuff my girls back into a childlike cocoon and hold onto them a little longer before letting them go. But you know what? They’re young women who won't stand for that. The time for holding onto them has passed.

All I can do is be there when they fall down, pick them back up, clean them off, give them a hug to say that everything’s going to be okay and then send them off into the world again. I will gladly play any role in their life – parent, coach, teacher, and friend – that they may need. But what I wouldn’t give to have been there for my girls in the days before we met.

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