I grew up in a high-rise apartment building in downtown Chicago. One of my fondest childhood memories is falling asleep at night in the car on the way home from dinner or a weekend trip. The bright lights of our parking garage would usually wake me up as we pulled in, but I’d pretend to still be sleeping so my dad would carry me through the lobby, up the elevator, and into my bed.
He was a big guy– almost 6-foot-3 and broad– who always made me feel cozy and safe in his arms. Affectionate and loving, I imagine he enjoyed carrying me as much as I loved being his cargo. I wish I could ask him if he knew I was faking sleep to get those free rides, but he died of cancer in 1993.
We want to give our kids everything– maybe what we had, maybe more– but what’s most important is making your child feel safe and loved. Kids who feel that unconditionally can navigate the world better.
I was lucky to get that from my dad. Wilson loves our kids that way too.
I took a day off from work recently to attend a play at 10-year-old Aden’s school and a musical performance at 7-year-old Eli’s school. I made it to the play but the outdoor concert was postponed due to rain.
Traditionally, I attend the school parties and shows– mostly because I like going– but also so Wilson doesn’t have to miss work. But I couldn’t justify another day off for a 1st grade drum circle. When I gently mentioned the rescheduled event to Wilson, he said he would see how busy he was and decide that morning.
The concert started at 9am. I left for work assuming Wilson would skip it. (We had a friend who promised to take pictures and video.) Then I got a text at 1034am: This is a nightmare. E still hasn’t gone and it’s 400 degrees in here.
That good daddy not only went late to work but sat for 2 hours in terrarium-like conditions waiting for Eli’s 2-minutes on stage.
That’s just one little snippet of the ways he puts himself out for our three boys. He coaches sports teams and attends teacher conferences. While my temper tends to flare when the kids get out of control, he’s the resident punching bag who absorbs their emotions and somehow remains calm in the face of hysteria.
He’s more concerned with maintaining boundaries than staying on their good side. In our house, he’s known for hating late nights and sleepovers because they lead to tired, cranky kids. He follows through on punishments when he thinks they’re warranted.
Every single night– no matter how tired he is– he tucks them in to make sure they’re still breathing and the room is the right temperature. He knows when to offer advice and when to shut up and listen.
When I was looking for love in my 20’s, I wanted someone who would make family a priority. As Wilson and I started planning a life together, I had a good feeling about his parenting potential. But you never know until you’re in it.
I love the way Wilson loves our kids. His role as father brings out his best self.
I dreaded Father’s Day in the years after my dad died. But now I’m grateful that instead of mourning my loss, I can celebrate Wilson.
Happy Father’s Day to Wilson and the other daddies out there. Thanks for making all of us feel safe and loved.