People are remarkable. The shuffle back and forth of logic and emotion that runs in all of us is astonishing. Like you, I sustain a capacity for emotion that can roll in and out like a tide. You would have seen it in my sloshing rush of tears when a work colleague asked me about a gruelling stint at Family Court.
Recently, joyful emotion gushed when my previously timid basketball-playing daughter jumped through a crowded huddle of defenders to shoot at the goal. And post-game, the fading of my emotive excitement of my daughter’s courage made room for some logic. My daughter is growing up. Fast! Sixty-five percent too fast!
Here’s the maths lesson. Mums and dads who live together experience their children growing up in normal time. I share time with my two daughters for five nights in 14 nights. Rounded off, that is 35%. The calculations probably only work in my head, but that means I see my daughters grow up 65% faster. The numbers might only make sense to me. This means that my dad-and-daughter time is very precious, and I am ridiculously careful about how I share it. And often, there are push-pull conflicts between the emotional and logical elements of parenting.
Ahead of becoming a dad, I dug hard into my logic bank to write my dad mission statement: “I want to parent to build up my daughter to be able to go into the world with confidence, ready to gift generosity and kindness, and who will return home to visit, not because she feels she has to, but because she wants to.” Logically, I was able to process that every moment of being a dad was for shoring up my daughter to be able to grow into a sense of her own great worth.
Even now, as my Miss 13 is actively clawing at the independence door, the logic of my mission statement is giving over to an emotional unease. Her youthful hero-worship of dad is being traded for sleepovers and shopping trips with friends. I was always aware that writing my parenting mission statement might be easier than living it if my parenting logic were to be hijacked by a heart-tug.
Parenting pragmatism tells me that I still have heaps of ‘you’re growing up’ conversations to initiate. Yet, in the fleeting time I get to be a face-to-face dad, is the emotive challenge of cutting that time between holding my daughter close enough to hug, while delicately making space for my daughter to be drawn more and more to her circle of friends.
It Takes a Village
As my daughter flexes her need for independence, the voice of her friends is sometimes stronger than that of dad. Prominent parenting expert Steve Biddulph suggests that parental wisdom can be spoken to daughters by aunties. A niece often holds a close connection with her aunt, who can also be an advocate for the parent’s value system.
As a glitch in my parenting potential, my mum and dad only produced boys. Not to be undone, I am in the process of recruiting some fill-in aunties. An affectionate matriarch at church seems to have the right credentials. So does a younger lady who arrived in Australia from Sudan, making her way through university, starting a career and forming a close circle of friends. My planning will hopefully set up some hot chocolate chatter with ‘aunties’ and my daughter.
Now, I am back to the tough challenge of heart versus head. Logic tells me that 35% is not much time with my daughters. So, an emotive rend stirs in me when that time is cut into. But, reason argues in my head that my daughters will do well with dad and a circle of wholehearted companions.
My heart lifts when I see my daughters cradled in healthy conversations with my parenting helpers. I reflect that my dad mission statement was crafted ahead of the rush of joy when I held my daughter for the first time. While I still parent to that original goal, I am so much more aware of the need to flow harmoniously with the swelling tides of logic and emotion.
Photo by Arindam Chowdhury.