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Editor's column: F.A.T.H.E.R.

June 15, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

Every Father's Day my daughter makes me breakfast in bed, consisting of two pieces of peanut butter toast. With sprinkles on them.

Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it? It is and it isn't. But she's of the belief that everything tastes better with sprinkles on it - even peanut butter.

I don't complain, because I know the days of PB & Sprinkles will soon come to an end. It's not what's on the plate that's important anyway.

I became a father almost 11 years ago. That means my daughter is less than two years from becoming a teenager. If I could stunt that process, believe me, I would, because as they say, kids really grow up too fast.

My daughter's no different. This walking freckle factory has transformed from a cute, little pony-tailed kid to a cute, tall, I'll-wear-a-pony-tail-when-I-feel-like-it kid. But since I have a few more good years until the terrible teens begin, I thought I'd try to illustrate fatherhood in my own words (or in this case, letters):

F is for freaking out.

I did when it dawned on me that I was going to be a single dad. This wasn't how it was supposed to work out, I thought. No one plans on being a single parent; we plan on being part of a nuclear family. And once it hits you that you're on your own it's hard not to get a little scared.

But if you're lucky enough like I am to have family around (a.k.a. a village), it can be done. Even if you don't you can pull it off. It takes time, it takes energy, and it takes a willingness to sacrifice. A little patience wouldn't hurt, either.

A is for arguing.

The cool thing about kids when they're really young is that they don't put up much of a fight. When they're young, you can dress them any way you want. Today, my daughter doesn't even seek my counsel on this subject. Actually, if I want her to wear a certain outfit, I'll tell her - as part of some reverse psychology tactic - she should wear something else, knowing that she'll probably do the opposite, which could end up with her wearing what I wanted her to wear in the first place.

T is for time.

I've watched my daughter go from "I want that Barbie" to "I want that car" in what seems like overnight, and from not really caring or noticing what she's wearing to, "You want me to wear those pants with this shirt, are you joking?"

You always hear people talk about how time goes by so quickly or how kids grow up too fast, and I used to think it was just a clich, but I know better now. Nearly 11 years after the birth of my daughter, I'm saying the same things.

This is why, because we are so busy in our lives, when it comes to our kids we need to do more than just stop and smell the roses, we need to dig them up and bring them home. We need to take every minute of time away from the cubicle and spend it with our kids, whether it's playing catch, going out to eat or just sitting on the front porch being obscenely lazy by doing absolutely nothing other than looking up at the sky and swatting a mosquito away every now and then.

Those moments won't be around forever.

H is for hair (hers not mine; mine's not much to brag about).

This is another example of my daughter growing into her own person. I used to brush her hair for her. Now the mere mention of the words "pony tail" is enough to spark a small war. I take part in the battle every week. I lose more than I win. Not even close. Hair is sacred ground apparently for girls. I don't trample on that ground anymore.

E is for elevated, as in my blood pressure. I suppose it makes sense that as a child gets older, parenting gets tougher. I was, however, hoping I could figure out ways to avoid becoming my daughter's No. 1 public enemy at any given moment without resorting to spoiling her. I've chosen a pick-my-battles defense, because it is nice to be the good guy sometimes. It's those times when I put the old foot down that crank up my stress level.

R is for race. Being a single parent, as many of you may know, is a rat race. It always seems like you're in a hurry and you never stop moving (I guess rats are known for this?) Anyway, I figure as long as I continue to remind myself that everything I do for her will pay off, I can justify all the miles put on my vehicle, the early mornings when sleep is sacrificed and the stress that comes with keeping her happy, healthy and involved.

That's what fathers are for, right?



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