This past weekend, I sat by my brother’s pool and found myself being really proud of the father he has become. My reaction to feeling so proud? This blog! As I began to write this, I realized that I tend to write my blogs from the perspective of motherhood. I rarely stop and intentionally consider how a father might react to the blog I have written. So dads, this one is for you! (But mothers please keep reading – I think you will enjoy it, too!)
My brother is a father of a 19-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. Recently, he and his wife (the mother of his daughter) have separated. My brother has his daughter with him for half of the week, and she spends the other half of the week with her mom. As I sat by the edge of the pool, watching my brother and niece, I realized that he has done a tremendous job in helping her deal with this time of transition and loss. He has maintained a consistent schedule, he makes his daughter a priority when she is with him and he and his wife have made sure their daughter maintains her connections with friends, teachers and extended family. In addition, my brother has been present for his daughter in ways that ensure her emotional needs are met. He empathizes with her feelings, provides her reassurance and honest and age appropriate answers to her questions.
Some may read this and think he is supposed to be doing all of this anyway. And to that reaction, my response is that this kind of behavior may be rarer than you think! I am often shocked by parents who think children are naturally resilient, parents who believe that children’s feelings are not complex and therefore they will just “get over it.” In my experience it is quite the opposite. Children, because of their limited reasoning and expressive skills, struggle in processing events and figuring out ways to express or release their feelings. When a major life change happens, children needs consistency to feel safe and secure. Children may become fearful or anxious about how their needs will be met. As parents, it is our role to ensure that they have a sense of security, a sense that all will be well.
I remember when my niece was born my brother said he wasn’t sure “how to be a father to a girl.” As I watched him this past weekend and observed how much his daughter enjoyed being with him, it seemed to me that he’d figured it out. Sometimes I think mothers offer unconditional love and fathers provide security. Moms let you know that no matter what happens you are loved. Dads let you know that you can count on them no matter what. (At least this is what I hope parents do for their children.) So congrats brother, I think your daughter knows that she can count on you!