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Checking in with dad

Parenting perspectives from the only man in the house

Let’s talk about dads. With Father’s Day approaching and our house in a constant state of princess dress-up, meltdowns, sippy cups and dance parties, I’ve realized that while I delve pretty regularly into conversations with my sister and girlfriends about the challenges and tribulations of motherhood and how it’s transforming me in more ways than just turning my hair gray, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in with the only man in the house.

So last night as my husband was laying in bed with our three-year-old, patiently waiting for her to get through “reading” him a book about a snoring bear, I popped in to request that he try not to fall asleep in there tonight.

“I’ve got some questions to ask you,” I said.

“Well that sounds ominous,” he replied.

I did a similar Q&A session with him after we had a year and a half of parenthood under our belts, but now we’re over three years in with two young daughters and I don’t think either one of us realized how much these two little souls were going to change the dynamics of our life. Most days I don’t even know how I’m doing, let alone what’s up with the man I married. So I wanted to know…

How are you doing?
Fine. Tired.

I want to get your take on fatherhood these days. Did you ever think you would be a dad to two girls?
Before Edie or after Edie? Because before Edie? No. After Edie? Yes.

I just always pictured having two boys and a girl because that’s the family I grew up in and that’s kind of how you see it. And then after Edie I just knew I was going to have another girl. I just couldn’t picture what having a boy would be like, so it just changed my mind. And this is my family now.

What has been your favorite thing about being a dad to two girls?
They’re daddy’s girls. I don’t know how to explain that, but they see me as fun and I love that.

What’s your favorite thing to do with them?
Everything is my favorite thing to do with them. I like playing with them, joking around. Snuggling.

What’s the biggest challenge about parenthood that you didn’t see coming?
Personal time. It’s not that I didn’t see it coming, it’s just that you don’t know what that means until you don’t have any. Like you hear about it, but you don’t know what it really means until you can’t poop alone.

How do you think it’s changed our relationship?
We have a relationship?

Haha…ugghh…that’s depressing.
It’s not. I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s going to sound like it’s a bad thing, but in my mind it’s turned our relationship into a partnership. It makes you a lot closer in a lot of ways, but a lot farther away in a lot of ways. It makes you appreciate each other I think. At least me anyway.

I think parenthood has shown me what I’m capable of. Do you think it has changed you in any way?
It makes me want to be better. Every single thing I do I think about it because I don’t ever want to be that guy. I think especially with girls, but maybe with boys it’s the same way, but it’s very important to show your girls what a good man looks like, what a good dad looks like, what a good husband looks like. All of those things they don’t know they’re learning, but they are learning it.

Like, on a really small level, how I speak and the language that I use and how I talk about people and to people, all of those things I never really thought about and now I think, there’s a little person who is now going to be doing what I’m doing and saying what I’m saying.

What are you most looking forward to doing with the girls as they get older?
I think about it in two ways. I’m really excited to see which one of them is into what I’m into. It would be so awesome if I could get one or both of them into archery, but I don’t know if they will. And I’m also really excited to see what they can get me into. Like, I live my world, but I know that I would be into whatever they’re into. It’s pretty exciting to think about how they can influence me as much as I influence them. I try to imagine, are they going to be athletes or dancers? Or am I going to get super into physics or some scholastic thing? I like that stuff, but if the were into it then I would be super into it just so I could be at their level.

Plus as a dad you have to be one step ahead of everybody. So if they’re into math then I have to make sure I’m just a little bit better at math.

I don’t feel that pressure as a mom. Why do you feel that pressure as a dad?
I don’t know what moms feel like but dads are just supposed to be good at everything. Think about it, as a little kid, your dad was invincible. He could do everything. I’m not fully serious, but that’s what dads are to me.

How do you define a good dad?
That’s a good question. In it’s simplest form a good dad is somebody who cares and can be a role model. It doesn’t have to be in all things in every way, but being a good role model means showing them how you treat yourself, how you treat other people, how you interact, how you resolve conflict by not losing your temper, that it’s never ok to treat people poorly. It’s very important to teach respect.

That will be one of the hardest challenges that we’re going to face as parents, is how are we going to teach our kids to treat people with respect and dignity, to not be mean, not be a bully when they are going to be bullied and people are going to be mean to them and they are going to be disrespected? How do you teach your kid to live one thing while understanding that you’re playing by a set of rules that other people aren’t going to play by?

So what do you hope that they learn from you?  
I think more than anything, and maybe especially because they’re girls, but I want them to learn that they can do anything. I want them to be self-sufficient. If they’re talking about their dad I want them to say it was never ok for me to just let somebody else do it. I think that’s true even if I had boys. You know, there’s no reason that either of them can’t do anything that they want to do. And I want to somehow give them the confidence to do it, the opportunity to do it and the know-how. I want to teach my kids how to figure out how to do things, so that even if they don’t know how to do it, they know how to learn how to do it.

I’ve always said from forever, that if I ever had girls they’re not going to be the kind of girls who have their boyfriends back their pickup up for them. That’s a metaphor for everything I think.

And I want to teach my girls to be what and who they are regardless of what anyone says and have the confidence to own that, because having that confidence is what’s going to make and break it for them. How do you give your kids confidence? I know you can break it, but can you give it?

I think you can.
I look to your dad a lot because he raised girls and he raised them here (on the ranch) and he raised good girls. I think you just do stuff with them, and you just keep doing it. And you know, knowing him now, I know that he was terrified, but he did it anyway. Because mostly being a parent is finding a new thing to be afraid of every single day. You figure one thing out just in time to learn the next thing to be scared of. That’s what being a dad is.

Oh man…some day they’re gonna start driving. I don’t even want to think about that.

I don’t want to think about that either. Last question. What would be the best Father’s Day ever?
Going fishing and coming home to have a backyard campfire. Hopefully we would catch some fish because fishing isn’t very fun if you don’t catch fish.

You want to go fishing with Rosie?
Yeah.

She’s crazy.
I’ll give her a bucket of minnows and she’ll be so happy. She’ll probably eat a worm

Written by Jessie Veeder

Jessie Veeder

Jessie is a singer/songwriter/writer and statewide columnist living on her family’s ranch near Watford City with her husband and daughter. She blogs at veederranch.com . Reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com. (facebook.com/veederranch)

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