Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Daughters need Moms, too...

I enjoy a close relationship with my daughter, Meagan Katherine, albeit one that has changed remarkably as she has matured into a young teenager. Once my constant companion, my playful partner in crime, my most adoring audience, my child has become less enchanted with me as she has entered the initial phases of becoming a woman. Gone are the days of holding hands in public, kissing on the lips, and waking up to find that she had slipped beneath my bedcovers sometime during the night. These treasured gestures of affection are now replaced with brief and discrete touches, perhaps just our checks being pressed together for only a moment, small talk, her need for privacy, and the occasional impatient admonishment, “Dad, I am not your little girl anymore.”

Sometimes I struggle with feelings of loss, and sometimes I cannot resist the impulse to implore that my daughter confide in me, to tell me what thoughts occupy her mind and what feelings beat in her heart. Sometimes I hang my head and worry that something has happened to us, that we will never again be as close to one another as we once were. Sometimes I fret that I cannot understand what my child needs, why she acts as she does, and I cannot figure out what it is I should do for her. These thoughts occur to me when I am alone and my judgment is clouded by my sorrow. Thank God for moments of clarity, when I realize and then tell myself that these changes that perplex me are what should be expected, and what should be supported, if indeed I intend for my child to become the strong, independent woman I hope for. It is then that I accept without reluctance the fact that a dad cannot be everything to his daughter. It is then that I remember so clearly that she needs her mother, too.

Becky, my ex-wife, and I have been divorced nearly ten years, and we share joint custody of our daughter. Meagan lives for a time with me, and then her mom, and back to me. Becky and I live only a few miles apart. We have keys to each other’s home, we talk on the telephone often, share meals together now and then, negotiate agreements about enforcing household rules or extending new privileges, resolve disputes about what we might do differently in our relationship with our only child, and help each other in the care of our beloved daughter. Long ago we agreed that while we did become ex-spouses, we will never become ex-parents. It is as parents that our partnership lives on, and it is as parents that we overcome our own issues with one another to find a way to do what is best for Meagan. It is in that role, as my partner in parenting, that Becky has been most valuable to me, especially as I learn to accept that my daughter is, most certainly, not a little girl anymore.

As my relationship with Meagan has changed, so too has her relationship with her mother. Now her most trusted confidant, Meagan enjoys lengthy and enthusiastic telephone conversations with her mother discussing boys, girlfriend spats, celebrity news, or the latest reality television show. Now her fashion consultant, Meagan and her mom shop for hours, get their hair and nails done, and agree that when a girl packs her bags, she must include an abundant selection of shoes. Now her preferred safe harbor, Meagan turns to her mother for consolation, protection and understanding. As a woman, it is Becky who can comprehend what I cannot. As a mom, it is Becky who can give what I cannot. I admit that I look upon their relationship with an occasional twinge of jealousy, but also always with deep joy and satisfaction that it is what it has become. Their relationship is not only good for them, but for me as well. It is after a late night telephone call from Becky to explain to me what I could not yet see, or to comfort me about my parental insecurity that stings like a bee in my throat, that I am thankful that she is the mother of my child.

A daughter needs a mom for many reasons, and by the very nature of the differences between men and women, some of these reasons may never be clear to me, but that does not negate their vital importance in a girl’s life. Daughters need moms to help them to understand what is happening to their bodies, how to make sound decisions regarding boys, how to care for herself, how to care for her children, and how to care for her marriage. Daughters need moms because they understand that sometimes tears come for no reason, that bad moods may mean simply nothing at all, that chocolate is a necessity, that being silly is fun, and that everything does not have to be practical or in accordance with a schedule. Daughters need moms because dads cannot be everything for them. Daughters need moms to help them grow into the wonderful women they have the potential of becoming. Daughters need moms because without them, daughters will have less in their lives than they deserve.

I am not a mother, nor am I a daughter, and therefore in the minds of some perhaps ill equipped to write this book. However, I am an astute observer, and I am a member of a family. My family, comprised of a dad, a mom, and a child, is not unlike many, if not most other families. It includes laughter and tears, hugs and arguments, surprises and disappointments, giving and taking, and sacrifices and rewards. Although she lives in two houses, Meagan still has one family because her mother and I parent her together, love her together, and compromise with one another on her behalf. It is in gratitude to Becky for helping me to give Meagan a sense of family that I wrote this book.

It is with this book that I hope to give other daughters and moms cause for celebrating what is unique and special about their relationship. With this book I hope that the story of Becky and I will stir other ex-spouses to rally around their children and embrace the role they share as parents, and in doing so, to give their children a family experience, even if in two homes. With this book I reassure Meagan that I understand, accept and encourage her as she grows into a woman and reaches beyond me for that which she needs. And with this book, I say to Becky, thank you. Thank you for giving me such a wonderful gift, our child. Thank you for being such a great mom, giving to Meagan what I cannot. And thank you for continuing as my partner, giving me friendship when I need it most.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Daughters need Dad's too! I think you have the right outlook and have your daughter's best interest at heart, both you and your ex. Maybe it is also time to share with your fans how kids need Step Parents - or in my house we call them "Bonus Parents", step parenting is sometimes harder than being a parent, the love is not always unconditional - and sometime the ex makes everything difficult, but if the common ground can be found - the love of the child(ren) then all has not been lost. Keep up the good work and the great message about blended families.