Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Post-Father's Day Thoughts

Father's Day is one of those bittersweet days around our house. C. lost his dad two years ago, so of course Father's Day is a reminder of that loss. C. also doesn't get to see his kids as often as he would like, so that's a bit bittersweet as well. I am guessing here, but I think it's also hard for him to feel good about being a good parent -- one who sets boundaries and disciplines his kids -- because he doesn't want that to be the only thing his kids know and remember about him.

Because his kids are not my kids, I have a unique perspective on his parenting, though. I think I see things that he doesn't even realize. I think C. is a wonderful father -- especially because he does offer them boundaries and consequences. I think they are learning some excellent life skills from him because of that. I think there are far too many parents out there these days who are not willing to say "no" to their children for fear of being the bad guy. Really, it's just good parenting that helps shape children into self-sufficient, functioning adults.

I told C. this weekend that I don't remember all of my childhood, but there are some very specific and strong memories that I have about each parent. Since we're talking about dads, I'll focus on my memories about my dad from my childhood:

He was/is the king of road trips -- he could drive straight through for 21 hours. Some of my best memories from childhood are of those road trips. He organized all the family bike rides. He made really thick hamburgers and pots of spaghetti sauce with nine cloves of garlic. He loved to cook for us. He loved/loves to read and I think my love of reading came from his example. When I got a little older - 10 or 11 - he would talk to me about philosophy and religion, and he listened to my opinion and my persepctive.

As for C., I think his kids will remember his blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes. Annie* will remember him teaching her to ride her bike. They will remember long hours swimming and diving and playing with Daddy at the pool. His funny faces and voices. His bedtime reminders to them that they are "smart, strong, handsome/beautiful and funny."

Dads have amazing gifts to give their children that are different from moms' gifts. I hope all you dads out there realize that you have a unique role in the lives of your children. You matter -- a lot.

I also just want to stop to remember the people who have lost their fathers, as well as those men who would like to be fathers but can't be for whatever reason (infertility doesn't just affect women physically and emotionally - the men feel it, too). Father's Day is hard for them, so be gentle.
* Names have been changed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Family Tree

On Sunday, C. and I took the kids out to C.'s grandmother's property on the state line (a two-hour drive). She passed away a little more than a month ago and we missed the funeral because we were out of the country. She was 91 and lived a long, eventful life.

We planted some flowers under a tree on her property and then visited her grave and placed flowers there. She is buried next to her husband who passed away in 1971. Her parents are buried next to them - they passed away in the mid 60s. After we left the grave, we talked to C.'s aunt and uncle for awhile - and his uncle was telling stories about his dad (C.'s grandpa) from WWII and after. It was pretty amazing stuff.

C. has been doing some research on his dad's side of the family -- this grandmother was his dad's mom. He has managed to trace one branch back to before the Revolution in Virginia.

I love that C. is so interested in family history. It has always been an interest and passion of mine - to know where I came from and what makes our family tick. Both my mom's and dad's families are traced back to at least the mid 1700s, if not earlier. I like being able to look back at those colonial Americans, those Germans and those Swedes and feel a sense of our personal history.

However, C.'s family tree research is leaving me feeling a touch melancholy. You see, we are married, but we don't yet have children together. We have a small little branch on the family tree - just the two of us. Yet, his kids' mother will always be on his family tree (with a dotted line for the divorce, I suppose) because of my stepchildren. That branch will go on, assuming my stepkids have children of their own, no matter what.

Because we never know what the future will hold, I can't be certain that our little branch will go on. I am happy that, for now, it's just us two -- but I do think I'd like to see what a combination of his family and my family creates. 

Related to that, my dad is the last in our family with our family name. My parents had all girls. I think there are some distant cousins carrying on the family name, but it's the end of it on our branch of the tree. I kept my maiden name as a second middle name for that reason. I don't want my parents' family histories to disappear just because I got married and took my husband's name. Not only am I part of C.'s family tree, but he is part of mine. 

Just musing. I guess it is a lot more important to me than I ever knew before.