Tuesday, May 22, 2007

An Opinion

I am searching for inspirational stories and anecdotes about father-daughter relationships, stories that share wisdom, teach moral and important life lessons, and give others insight into how to nurture and maintain a healthy, loving and fulfilling father-daughter relationship.

If you are a father or a daughter, I want to hear about your parent-child relationship experiences. For more information about submitting your story, please visit my website, www.gregoryelang.com, and click the red corner on the home page, just beneath the “Projects” tab.

For those who would like to submit a story but don’t want to write one, I am happy to conduct telephone interviews.

I’m also collecting photos of dads and daughters, artwork from daughters to dad, or nice shots of smiling daughters of all ages to display on this blog. If you’d like to submit one, please email it to greg.lang@mindspring.com.

Now on to today’s diary entry…

Today’s photo is of friends of Meagan, one I took for the book Brothers and Sisters.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Friendship improves happiness and abates misery by doubling our joy and dividing our grief.

Rather than my usual post, I’ve elected to share with you an article I recently wrote for the National Stepfamily Day website:

As an author of a book series about family relationships, I receive fan email from time to time, many like these:

“I just wanted to comment on how wonderful I think your book is (Why a Daughter Needs a Dad). My husband recently bought a copy for his daughter, my stepdaughter. My husband is not her biological father, but he has raised her from birth and is her Dad in every sense of the word.”

Did you get that? A wife who admires her husband for loving a child that is not his nor hers, yet the three of them make a loving family. That’s a picture worth ten-thousand words. And then this one:

“It isn't very often that I find something that reaches those dark corners of my heart. Your books do just that. ‘Why a Daughter Needs a Mom’ so accurately portrays feelings I can relate to. It was given to me by my soon to be ex-husband. His mother gave him ‘Why a Daughter Needs a Dad,’ and it made a lasting impression on him. We share in the raising our children and are trying to stay focused on what is important for them. I love these books and with them will be reminded that being a parent is an awesome responsibility and a wonderful opportunity, to love and be loved unconditionally in return.”

What should you derive from reading that? I think the point is really quite simple, that is, you can choose to make your kids feel torn between two families, or give them a life enriched by two families.

My wife and I each share a joint custody arrangement with our ex-spouses. It’s always hard to see them go to their other homes, but it is the right thing to do, to let them have their other family lives free of guilt, fear of reprisal, or feelings of divided loyalty. Jill and I are not saints, we probably could’ve handled a few things better than we did, but all in all I think we are doing a good job as step-parents for each others’ child. We certainly try to stay focused on providing love and nurture to our blended family.

There is no test per-se to determine if your kid is going to turn out unharmed by divorce, so instead you look for signs of normalcy and hope that it means all is well. In our house I think all is well – it is full of normal. The girls have the same tormented banter all siblings have, and the same good and fun times. Each of us has a bad day once in a while. All of us fall into a pile and hug once in a while. We argue over who gets to pick the movie or restaurant and we plan together for our next vacation. And of great importance, in our house the girls have the freedom and are encouraged to have fun with their other parents.

My daughter went to a formal dance recently and I was the appointed photographer at the before-party. There were five young couples there, all decked out and eagerly awaiting the limo. Meagan acted a little embarrassed as I posed and snapped photos, but pleased with me at the same time, happy everyone wanted their picture made. I took a hundred photos and eventually we parents sent our kids off for the big night.

Once at home I downloaded the images and scanned them quickly, looking to make sure I had a few good ones. My attention went to one in particular; one I forgot had been taken. Meagan’s mom took it with my camera – it was of my child with her arms wrapped around my wife and I, all three of us grinning wide.

It made me smile to see the three of us looking so happy together, and it made me even happier to recall that my ex-wife took the picture, that she, Jill and I could be together enjoying an event in Meagan’s life, and that Meagan could relax and enjoy herself without being stressed out in that situation. It is a gift we all give her, one I know she appreciates.

Later, Jill, her daughter and I went shopping for Mother’s Day cards. We planned to buy three, one each for our mothers, but left with a dozen instead. I decided to get one for my mother-in-law, Jill decided to get one for my mom, Linley acted on her own and Meagan’s behalf and selected several for their grandmothers, and the list went on and on.

The bill was enough to have taken us all to dinner at a decent restaurant, but I didn’t mind. The exercise assured me that all four of us had inherited an extended family. I have in-laws who embrace me, my parents have another grandchild, and each child has another set of grandparents as well as new aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Sure, we can all agree it is most desirable for first marriages to last, but the reality is many do not. The second best thing we can hope for is in the case of a blended family, that it “blends” really well. In our home we are succeeding in that objective because we are determined to give our children the freedom to love all their parents and relatives, of birth and remarriage.

What about in your home? Are your children told to choose – respect the father or the mother, but not both? If you aren’t giving them the freedom to love at will, you do not love your children as much as you should.

Just my opinion.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now go out and hug somebody!

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