Summer is here and with it a celebration of fathers. Father’s Day is a time to show gratitude to the Dads in our life and acknowledge their importance to our families.
The latest edition of Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine has a great article by Jeff Sabo, “Fears and the Fathering Paradigm: The choices we make, the fears we have”. In it he discusses tipping points in his parenting where he had to shed his old thinking and embrace a new parenting paradigm. As a tribute to Father’s Day – and a shout out to all the incredible dads out there – I wanted to share my own tipping point which allowed me to shift to understand the immense importance of Dad.
I approached parenting with incredible aspirations and a phenomenal husband to “support” me in my parenting journey. Early on I eagerly mastered every parenting task and allowed my husband to give me a blue ribbon for a job well done. Super Mom was an understatement, and as my husband toiled the day away at his job, I stayed home caring for the children, cooking the meals, doing the laundry, tending to the house, choosing the doctors, childcare, education and all the other jobs we mothers have.
I was always quick to snap at my husband for offering the boys a food I deemed unfit or buying a brand of diapers that leaked. I ruled the parenting arena, and when my husband stepped outside of my box, I was quick to let him know that the entire world would fall apart because of it.
To be fair, I only wanted what was best for my children and in those early years I didn’t realize that having an involved father gave them more than I alone could ever do.
While my boys were still toddlers, I had an eye-opening experience visiting some friends. The father continuously asked the mother for permission to do one thing or another with the children. He was often scolded by his wife for handling a situation differently than she would have and several times mom had to step in and take over. Sometimes when we get front row seats to our own show it can be a lot to take. It wasn’t, however, the stressed out Mom or anxious Dad that I was noting…it was how distant the children were from Dad and how impersonal his relationship with them seemed, despite the fact that he spent hours every evening with his children.
It was a huge “Aha” moment for me. I felt that I was depriving my husband of the true and incredible joy of parenting, which includes messing up sometimes and learning better ways. More importantly, though, I wondered if I was taking something away from my children.
When my children needed something, they came to me. When they got hurt, they came to me. When they were excited, they came to me. When they were sad, they came to me. I didn’t go places without them, but on the rare occasion that I had to, they cried…for me! They had two parents who loved them with every fiber of their being but only one of those parents was being given the full opportunity to express it. If my husband picked up one of the boys after a fall, I swooped in with the comfort I believed he needed. I was trying to run a one man show and feeling overwhelmed, defeated and exhausted but such is the burden of a Super Mom.
It was a very real decision for me to get out of my husband’s way, and I had to fight it on an internal level because similar to the Pathways article, “Fears and the Fathering Paradigm,” I had my own parenting paradigm, and it didn’t include co-parenting. My parenting paradigm was that I would raise the children, and my husband would support my efforts.
I didn’t even realize this, until I saw it in another family and immediately I felt a conviction. When I asked my husband if he felt I was interfering with his relationship with the boys, he told me the truth.
I don’t know that either of us could have known then that we were embarking on a parenting shift that would provide our boys with so much more from both of us.
As a co-sleeping family, I can tell you that my heart sunk to my toes the first time my son pulled away from me to be held in the arms of his father instead or the first time one of them fell and Daddy was able to make it better. Although I will admit that getting to say “not it” for dirty diapers was a nice change of pace. As my husband stepped in, we not only shared more of the beautiful moments, but the difficult ones too.
When I stopped blocking my husband, he stepped in and built stronger relationships with our boys. Over the next few years my husband came into own his role as a father with such clarity and dominance that I couldn’t shake it if I wanted to. I wouldn’t want to though, because it has given him and my children more than I ever could on my own. There are a lot of things I am not that my husband is, and there are many things he can’t be that I am. I no longer see him as my parenting supporter, but as my teammate. Here is a man prepared to love, protect, and care for our children with every cell in his body, and I was concerned that he might get them too riled up before bed, or give them a gummy bear before dinner, or answer a question ‘wrong’.
My youngest son is 4.5, preverbal, still in diapers and daily overcomes his challenges as a child diagnosed with regressive autism. I often share about his incredible improvements under chiropractic care and how it has eased his severe sensory sensitivities allowing him to live more comfortably in his own skin and enjoy his world. What I don’t often talk about is the daily challenges our family faces to support his needs, regulate our own emotions in handling these daily challenges, and live our lives to the fullest despite the restrictions and demands that have become a part of our daily living.
I can say with complete certainty that had I not acknowledged my husband’s role as a father with the increased respect and understanding of its importance, our family would not have pulled through my son’s initial diagnosis with the resilience, growth and love that we have.
There were days that I needed to tap out, and I just didn’t know how to be all that was needed. I don’t know what I would have done if there wasn’t someone there who knew exactly what to do.
My experience with co-parenting is that you should not wait until you need a co-parent to welcome one. Allow me to thank my husband who’s rocking this “Dad” thing and all the fathers out there who are aligning their desires with their children’s needs.