Time and Babies Fly While Daddy Hopes To Stay Connected
By Scott Beller
Daddying Blog Editor
My oldest daughter, Morgan, turned 15 this week on Wednesday. Another way to say that is: I’ve been a dad now for 15 years. As if I needed any help, my Facebook Memories remind me of sentiments and photos I've shared every birthday prior. Five years ago, I commemorated her first double-digit birthday with this:
Need someone to make you laugh? Or maybe you just need the sound of laughter - to fill your heart, give you hope, clear the fog of your daily grind. That's my daughter Morgan.
Do you need a friend? Maybe you're new to the neighborhood, are feeling left out, and need the courage to meet someone new. That's my Morgan.
Do you need a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork – a clay figurine, perhaps – to brighten up your cluttered desk, a well-designed fruit salad for your guests, a new dance move (may or may not contain Tae Kwon Do techniques), someone to take care of your pet while you're away, a glittery ball of slime for fidgety hands, an engaging story, or details about a newly invented game everyone can play together? Yep, that's my Morgan.
Could you use a song or kind word to cheer you up? Maybe you need a reassuring hug to know someone cares about you deeply. To know you're not alone. Or maybe you'd like an idea how you can raise money for a family in need?...even if it's one you never met. That's my Morgan too.
For 10 years, she has given me more than I could ever hope to give her. She is one of the best reasons I wake up each morning. Because of Morgan, I became a dad. And because of who she is – because of the young lady she's grown into no matter how hard I've tried to freeze time with each and every photo I take – I'm a dad who can't help but stay involved, loves her exuberantly and unconditionally, and supports her in everything she does. Oh, and I also brag on her a LOT.
Ten years ago today, this girl with the big laugh and boundless heart, made me a dad. I've been celebrating that moment ever since. If you see her, please wish her a happy birthday. She just might give you a hug (or a ball of slime).
The girl who made me a dad has already managed to pack so much life into her 15 years. She's accomplished more than I could have dreamed of at her age. From an early starring role as “Gingy” in her kindergarten class play The Gingerbread Man, to earning a Tae Kwon Do black belt at 12, to working her way onto an elite U17 crew team as a powerful 14-year-old, her mom and I have marveled at the way she challenges herself, overcomes self doubt, and remains so dedicated to everything she takes on.
But as is often the case, my daughter has become a victim of her own success and desire to take on so many activities. Now that she’s added a year-round, six-days-a-week sport (crew) to an already packed schedule, she’s realizing she has hard choices to make. Something – or things – must come off her daily agenda, which, depending on the day, might include all of the above: school/homework, crew practice, gym workout/exercise, travel soccer practice, treble choir, and Tae Kwon Do. Note what that list doesn’t mention: sleep, hang-out time with friends, dinner, family time. She is starting to learn the important lesson of prioritizing and time management. My wife and I have been trying to be measured in our approach to helping her out determining the appropriate hierarchy (with school work always coming first).
The process might be as difficult for us as it has been for her. Since she was an infant, one of my daily tasks as a work-at-home dad has been finding things for her (and later, her sister) to do – to fill her time and feed her brain with entertaining and enriching activities. As any parent who’s spent 24-7 at home with a toddler can tell you, that ain’t easy.
Museums, playgrounds (indoors and outdoors), coordinated play dates, board games, ball games, movies, hikes through the park, hikes through the neighborhood, arts and crafts, dance ‘n’ sing parties, hide ‘n’ seek, dress-up time, make-believe time, story time, music time, naptime… And that’s just Monday.
It’s ironic how hard it is now for me to get my high-schooler to want to do even one of those things with me anymore since, 1) her schedule is already booked, and 2) she now has dozens of friends with whom she’d prefer to hang.
So, what’s a dad (or mom) who is used to being with their kids every day supposed to do to stay involved with a uber-busy teen? I’ve written before about this challenge now that my days of coaching both my kids’ soccer teams are over. In this new phase, my strategy has been to just stay visible and approachable. This, typically, is not that hard for me to do since I’m always here to greet them after school, I’m still able to go watch them play, and with three different sports carpools going, there’s no shortage of available pickup or drop-off legs to claim.
But recently, I’ve been dealing with a health issue that has kept me from participating in several things, including going to my daughters’ soccer games and a few family outings. I’ve made a point to explain to them the reason for my absence, that this situation is just temporary, and reassure them that I’m being well cared for by my doctors so they don’t worry and can stay focused on having fun in their activities. With emoji-filled texts before and after their games or other events I’ve missed, I've tried to let them know I’m still with them, rooting them on even if I can't be there in-person.
Beyond that, I check in daily with both my girls to see if they have everything they need for school, practice, snack…whatever. Without being intrusive, I want my message to be “I’m still dad and I’m still here for you if you need me.” But mostly I try to disguise my longing to be with them, to talk to them, impart precious dad wisdom, and guide them around potential pitfalls lurking in their teen years so they don't make the same mistakes I did – don't have the same insecurities and hang-ups I had.
One thought that helps ease my worry is that my kids have something I didn't have growing up: a supportive dad.
“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them are covered by moments of their own accomplishments.
It is not until much later, that children understand; their stories and all their accomplishments, sit atop the stories of their mothers and fathers, stones upon stones, beneath the water of their lives.”