The nurse made a prediction.
She said, with confidence, that the baby would weigh 8lbs, 8ozs. I have a picture of that nurse holding that baby with a huge, satisfied smile on her face. It turned out that she was exactly right. But I think she was smiling because she was just as much in awe of this beautiful and noisy little miracle as I was.
I witnessed the births of all three of my children. Dumbstruck and crying. Feeling useless and so completey and universally priveledged to witness such things. Words will never be nearly adequate to express the three most precious events of my life. I don’t remember words. I remember feelings. I remember touch. I remember sounds, and I seek out eyes. I seek connections of the soul through those eyes. I have been so deeply in love with each of them since I first heard of each one’s existence. And I’m still in love with them.
I want to tell you more about little Miss 8lbs, 8ozs……
My second child, and my first daughter is Sarah. When she came into the world, the doctor placed her in my hands as they lay on her mother’s stomach. A perfect unison of three connected beings, I thought. A little later, after that nurse so lovingly and gently tended to her and wrapped her up in warm little blankets, I got to hold her again. Alone in the corner of the room, just she…and me. It was then that she first really opened her eyes and looked at me. I believe that our bond began at that moment. And she likes to believe it too. Those of you who have more than one child know that each one is unique, and your relationship with each is unique too. There are shared moments and experiences that are solely belonging to you and that child. If I were to tell you of all of Sarah’s and my experiences and treasured moments, it would make a novel. But there are a few that stand out in my memory.
I’ve had to be a single parent twice in my children’s lives. For reasons that aren’t important here, and that some of you already know of or have an idea about. Needless to say, despite how difficult it is raising kids alone, I can honestly say that those days together built the foundation of our relationships and our trust of one another. One Easter, when Sarah was four, me and the kids were invited to an Easter Egg hunt at a friends farm. My friends did this for me and the kids because they knew we needed it badly. We needed to feel included, because we had recently been through a lot of turmoil and heartbreak. Not to mention how uncertain the world must have felt to them. It didn’t seem right to have Easter at home this first year because home had just changed radically for them. Little Sarah was beside herself with anticipation of getting dressed up in one of her fancy dresses and presenting herself to the Easter Bunny and gathering as many eggs as she could :o) She has always loved pretty things. Frilly dresses with ribbons and bows in her hair. She had lots of dresses, for lots of occasions. For church. For holidays. For school. Even for gathering frogs and beetles :o) When the egg hunt began, most of the other kids there got off to a good start while Sarah ran around, always a second or two too late. After a few minutes she came running over to me looking like the saddest kid on Earth. You’ve seen those heart tugging Boo Boo lips. Daddy, I can’t find any, she said. She was certain that there were none left. So I cheated a little ;O) Psst…Sarah? See that tree? Wink wink ;O) What tree Daddy! Shhh, shhh :o) That tree, right there :o) Uh huh. I think I see something blue behind it :o) Really?!! Shhh :o) Yep. Go take a look and see what you might find :o). OK Daddy……Zooooooom!!! Lol! Those little legs got to truckin man! :o) When she got to peeking around the back of the tree, she stopped and her mouth flew wide open. Daddy, I found one! Yeahhhh!! After that, she flew around the farm with her hair and her dress trying to keep up :o) She was finding eggs like they had radio beacons on them :o) The pictures that I took of her that day, with her smile…..well, you know, don’t you? :o) I’m smiling so much here now, just thinking of it :o)
When she was in 2nd grade, her class had an end of the year Pirate party. She told me that all the parents were dressing up as Pirates and that I should make sure to do it too. Ooookay :o) I can do that Sarah :o) Now I’m a little shy you know. And I wasn’t too eager to to hang out with a bunch of parents dressed up like Pirates, but it was important to her. I got my bandana wrapped on my head. I got the big hhop earring in my ear. I have a patch over one eye. And one of those horizontal striped t-shirts on. I’m thinking that Sarah is gonna freak when I show up at her class :o). Well, she did. But she wan’t the only one who freaked ;o) Do you see the setup? The one that I didn’t? :o) So I was the best looking Pirate out of all the parents…because…I was the only Pirate out of all the parents! Ha Ha!! Cute, very cute…Sarah :o) I come walking in, all decked out and people start looking at me kinda funny :o) I would’ve too I think! Maybe they thought that I was a hired Pirate or something. I don’t know. But Sarah was giggling and hanging onto my arm, completely satisfied with herself…and happy with me :o) I told a woman there that I was a little embarrassed about it and she told me not to worry because I was the coolest Dad in the room :o) I think I should’ve thanked Sarah for making me cool :o)
I told you about these couple of things because I wanted somehow to convey how close she and I have always been. How playful we are with each other. Because it’s all about trust. About her knowing that I would always be there and always do my best for her and her sister and brother, no matter what. That even when she wasn’t happy with me when I needed to slow her down and let her know that something she’d done wasn’t right, she could count on it being fair and always with her best interests at heart. That’s not such a hard thing to do when your kids are little. They take you at face value because they depend on you so much. That’s not always true when they get older though. And Sarah is much older now.
Our bond is being tested sorely right now. It’s not because I’ve changed. It’s because she’s growing up and becoming a woman. A supremely talented young woman. And it’s because she’s fallen in love with someone that I can only generously call a little creep. I thought that I had myself at least a little prepared for the possibility that this might happen. The only thing I’m certain of is my opinion of him. I have no desire, or designs to be too deeply involved in her personal life beyond that of giving advice when asked and listening as closely and as openly as I can. She will be 17 next May and has been with this boy for almost a year now. Now, I might be a little guilty of being too much of a “traditional” father when it comes to my daughters. It doesn’t seem fair to treat them differently than my son. But I honestly believe that my daughters are at a greater risk to unhealthy people and unhealthy relationships than my son is. For lots of different reasons. American, or western society is full of extra burdens and expectations for girls and women. That’s just a fact. They’re more vulnerable to being manipulated by those expectations no matter how strong they’re upbringing. I know, and those of you who know me know, that my marrige is partly at fault for them being vulnerable. I haven’t taught them through example of the best way to handle a bad relationship. But I’ve always been honest about it with them, sharing that part of me as best I could, and as they grew older and better able to understand it. I don’t want to go into descriptions of this kid other thanthat he frightens me. I still trust my instincts about the kids and what’s best for them, as long as I’m responsible for they’re welfare. And I can see this kid dragging Sarah down daily. It’s a typical manipulative relationship that they have. She doesn’t hang out with her friends anymore. She’s losing weight. She cries on the phone nearly every night. She’s had to answer to him for things as innocent as talking to boys from school that she’s friends with. He frightens me because I see the signs of someone who won’t be able to let go when they inevitably go their seperate ways. I continually disobeys our requests to let her have some time for herself. to let her finish her homework. To let her call him when it suits her to call. Or even to allow her to hang up the phone when it’s bedtime here. Whenever he has any crisis in his life, large or small, he leans on her like she’s his therapist. And it’s wearing her down, physically and emotionally. And yet, she professes her love for him. We’ve tried reasoning with her, curfews, limiting phone time, grounding her when she resisits attempts to put the brakes on, compassion for her feelings, and appealing to her sense of trust in us. But especially her sense of trust in me, that I’ll always do what’s best for her. Nothing is working.
My first diary here, over a year ago, was seeking advice about my daughters. I recognized the wealth of experience of all you women here. I’m asking again. I am genuinly afraid for her. I see a bad ending coming. I don’t know how it will present itself, but it won’t be pretty. And at this point I’m willing to risk our relationship temporarily if it means ending this in the short term. I’m ready to just forbid her to see him. I know how that sounds. Believe me, I do. But I don’t know what else to do anymore. There are many, many unpleasant things going on in our lives right now, but none are nearly as important as the emotional and physical health of our kids. I really don’t think she’ll run away. And I don’t think I can keep her from seeing him altogether. I wish she could see it for herself because, like I said, I don’t want to interfere in her personal life too much. I know that I don’t need to know everything. She’s entitled to her life and her privacy. But this is going to end, one way or another. It has to. I’m confident that one day she’ll understand this better. It’s today that Im not confident about.
Do any of you have similar experiences that you could share? And how you dealt with it? What the outcome was, and the risks? I really need your advice.