To the Dads,
Let me take a moment to remind you how important you are.
I’m sure you’ve had flashes of it, the practical importance of the hands on help, the cuddles, the giggles and secret jokes between you and your kids… but sometimes in amongst all the busyness you might miss the enormity of those moments.
You likely grew up in a time where ‘boys don’t cry’ and we should ‘toughen them up’. You likely were told to quit it or cut it out when your heart ached, or to pull it together when you needed to be held. Maybe over time your walls went up. Maybe it changed you, even if you were loved beyond measure, to grow up when ‘good’ meant quiet or stoic, not sad, not vulnerable, not needing more.
And maybe your walls get in the way sometimes, when you try to connect to those close to you. Maybe they divide you and your wife, or even the parts of who you are. Maybe they’ve been there so long that you fail to notice them, until someone breaks them down just enough for you realize that it’s ok to feel what you’re feeling. That you’re worth it just as much in your angst as your joy.
Your kids are building right now, Dads, they’re building themselves. Allow them to chip away at your walls with you, so they don’t feel the need to build their own. Every hug, every ounce of compassion and connection, every ‘are you ok?’ ‘it’s ok to feel like that’, every ‘I love you’ helps shape them. Every time they feel like you’re their safe place, where it’s ok to be soft even if the world feels hard, moulds them into someone to be proud of.
You see they learn a lot from you, and most of it happens when you don’t think they’re watching.
Your sons are watching you and learning what it means to be a man. Over the years the world and their peers will bombard them with images, ideas and falsehoods, but right now, when they look at you, you’re it. You’re their first example of the richness of growing up. In you they see strength, love, commitment, hard work, laughter, and romance. Let them see the hand holding and the arms around your wife or partner. Let them see the thoughtful gestures between you and the dancing in the kitchen or snuggles on the couch.
Every time you help in the home your sons learn a little about responsibility, every time you treat someone with respect they learn a little about integrity, every time you show them how precious they are, even if they might be driving you mad in that moment, you show them the fierceness and beauty of love.
Your daughters are learning about men from you. Before the friends and the boyfriends, TV shows and romance novels they see you. They see how you live your life, treat their mother (or your partner), and value yourself and them. They learn about body image from remarks you make, about true compliments when you see the wonders in them, and from hugs that ask for nothing. Because as they grow up they will be flattered, and the authenticity of your interactions with them will ground them. They will hurt, as we all do, and they will remember the strength and love you showed them and accept nothing less from those around them.
Life is busy, especially with work, and sometimes the conversations, connections, board games and adventures feel like they may take the last out of you at the end of a long day. But remember that these aren’t small things for your little ones. These are their memories. Those bedtime stories, lego building, bush walks, sword fights, star gazing or cubby houses will feel all the more rich to both of you as time passes, and it does pass oh so quickly. One day, all too soon, they’ll be too busy for silly games or adventure stories read by lamp light. One day they wont want to hold your hands as you jump on the trampoline, and they wont need that push on the swing.
And now, the time that they do? That matters. You matter. So much more than you realize.
They’re building themselves right now out of moments Dads, and your moments with them hold it all together.
Copyright 2013 Nirvana Dawson