What I reflected on in re-reading these responses is how little space their seems to be in the public sphere for men who where their hearts on their sleeves in a good way. I often say that the mission of this Project is to foster a conversation about being a good father and husband—a topic with obvious benefit to the moms and wives of the planet. Yet with all the negative ink out there talking about the disappearance of good men, of slackers and bad boys and outright criminals, you wonder if there are any good guys left?
Just read the entries below and tell me that there aren’t lots of good dads, good husbands, and good men out there.
Replies to Physical Contact
My girls are now budding teenagers. I remember fondly how I would hold them as babies. To be honest, to this day I love nothing more than snuggling up with them on the couch, or just hugging them and hearing about their day after we all get home.
My 7-year-old daughter is the only one whose diapers I changed and connected with as an infant. Her mom was sick with eclampsia so I was the first person to feed her, change her, get her to sleep, bathe her, etc. Those first three months of bonding made my daughter and me connected for life. I would add four more things.
1) Sing to your child. My daughter still asks about those Beatles songs she heard as an infant. Whenever Abbey Road gets played in the car her face lights up and she makes me sing “Octopus’ Garden” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” at my out-of-tune loudest.
2) Let them watch you work, make breakfast, and be Daddy. Between six months old and two years they soak in every move you make.
3) Have them watch a ballgame with you in your lap or by your side. They will react with your emotional responses to the game and remember it for a long time.
4) Take them outside, dig up something, make a garden, get really dirty with them. They will appreciate the outdoors adventure and live getting filthy with Daddy. My girls still talk about the times we did this. Taking them fishing is right along with this.
When I was a new father, one of my colleagues—Australian born—advised me, “Don’t let them get you changing those nappies!” I was kinda stunned, for by that time I’d probably already changed my daughter’s Pampers 400 times. And I knew that the experience was creating a bond between us. Over the weeks and months ahead I would see, firsthand, how she gathered strength and size and pondered what kind of relationship I would have had I’d taken my colleague’s suggestion. He was perhaps an unwitting spokesperson for age-old and fast-crumbling male role-playing, which I know has gone even further out of favor in the years since my daughter’s infancy. Incidentally, we are still very close, she and I, though obviously not in the same way.
Reminds me of a quote I heard not long ago that definitely resonates—“Your kids never tell you it’s going to be the last time they sit on your lap to read a story with you.” Take none of those times for granted.
My toddler daughter and I played one of our favorite wrestling and ticking games today, “Don’t Tackle Me Dad!” and we both laughed and smiled throughout.
Your story reminds me of the days when my son Connor was also on the bottle. I worked nights at a local hockey rink so I would not be home until late at night. Once I walked into the house it was my shift. I LOVED rocking Connor as he drank his bottle and yes, I too would stay in his room after he finished and then would fall asleep. When my ex-wife asked for a divorce she said I could have any of the furniture. All I wanted was the chair that I rocked Connor in. Today he is the reason why I live and breathe.
I have two more for you:
1. Baby massage. Our first daughter went through a hellish time for about three months where she would cry unceasingly between 1 and 3 every night. We could not settle her. Indeed, it was hard not to get frustrated with her and with the powerlessness of not being able to console her. But I made up for that hell with the heaven of massaging her chub-baby-ness. She loved it and loves that touch to this day. I loved the connection.
2. I braided my girls’ hair and always found it relaxing and connecting. I was an object of some “matronizing” comments (or deserved criticism for my lack of braiding skill), but I didn’t care. My girls are 21 and 19, and occasionally I still get to brush out their hair. A treat.
I have been and continue to be a full-contact father to my now 16-year-old son. We still hold hands on a regular basis. I am so glad to hear that there are others out there who are the same.
One bit of advice I’d like to add is really simple: Offer physical contact. Be available for touch. Get down at children’s height. Sit close. Allow kids to climb on your lap during dinner or over coffee. Sit next to them in the sofa. Allow them into the bed in the morning. And more that anything—be comfortable with touching them and them touching you. Let them know you like it, that it’s OK to seek your touch if they like.
My daughter is 9. She still hugs and snuggles a lot. Sometimes if I need downtime after work or dinner or whatever, I will lie down on the sofa or the floor, and she will turn up with a book, and just snuggle up against and read. Nothing said, nothing needs to be said—just the contact and the being there, close. Love that.
Sometimes I worry I kiss my daughter too much. She’s 18 months old and it’s been like this since the day she was born. It’s like her cheeks call out to me and I know the time she’ll actually let me do it is fleeting. I used to nap with her on my chest every single afternoon when she was a few months old and only wish we still could. Now that she’s busy and moving around, I cherish the times she’ll actually sit still long enough to be read to or have quick cuddle. In fact, I selfishly put in a DVD nearly every day so she’ll sit quietly with me. I just love that quiet closeness.
8BitDad also wrote a response, Chillax Your Kids With At-Home Massage, in which they pointed out “It seems undeniable – the more you touch your children (in a positive way – no hitting, jerk-ass), the better they turn out.”
Replies to She is the One
We were less than a year into our relationship when we had our first fight. We were both upset and very angry, and a little afraid about what it might mean. What amazed me so much about her was this: Upon looking up at me through her tears and recognizing how upset and unhappy I was, she instantly dropped her own angry feelings and forgot all about the fight and tenderly came over to comfort me so I would feel better. It never occurred to me that someone could love so unselfishly. I was awestruck. I still am.
My dad always told me that when I find “the one” I would just know it. I was in relationships constantly, always looking, never realizing I couldn’t find it—that love would find me. The night after my first date with my now-wife I had one of the most vivid dreams where I saw us together with a child and playing in the front yard. I woke up feeling like I was married and I knew she was “the one.”
I knew she was the one when I noticed how I felt when I realized we could have an impromptu conversation, at any given moment, as if we’d known each other for years. This all started thirteen years ago. I don’t want it to end. Ever.
When I was young, I believed in the existence of an idealized partner that I could one day discover somewhere out there in the world. As I get older, I believe that being “the one” is something we evolve into, not a something we start out as in relationships.
I knew she was the one while I was standing outside the women’s bathroom calm, relaxed, and happy. We had just spent 11 hours in the Mall of America. It hit me like a ton of bricks. Ten years later, here we are.
We had known each other since the 6th grade and went to college together. Yet we never dated or even hooked up. Mainly because we were friends and she watched me man-whore my way through college. Then, three years after graduation we got drunk at a party and she told me she always liked me. I told her she was full of shit. Then we engaged in drunken kissing behind a woodshed.
Two weeks later I told her I was going to marry her. She told me I was crazy. Eight months later she had a ring on her finger.
I had a spell cast upon me by the matriarch of a family of Roman witches and psychics on her 51st birthday, February 17, 1968. That was the day I was struck by the thunderbolt as I watched that matriarch’s daughter emerge from Shakespeare’s Books on Telegraph and Durant Avenues in Berkeley and sashay across the intersection into Cody’s Books dressed in a Black Silk Top Hat, long black velvet cape and dress three weeks before my 14th birthday. That girl became the template for every other girl I would be attracted to.
I didn’t actually meet her until 21 years later, after I had sailed the globe as a tin-can sailor and had settled into the ninth year of a loveless marriage. I was living in Vallejo and riding the ferry into San Francisco for my job there when one morning in July, I came topside aft on the boat to discover this woman sitting in my seat. One of the first things I told her was, “Well, YOU’RE an opinionated little bitch, now aren’t you?”
Since we discovered we were both writers, we began collaborating on a spy novel project over the next three months as our mutual respect and affection for each other grew. Meanwhile, both of our soon-to-be-ex-spouses were accusing us of having an affair, which we weren’t. What it DID make us both realize was that the only portion of our day we looked forward to was the time we spent with each other. So I finally kissed her and she told me how her husband was physically abusive to her. I wouldn’t let her go back, so we left with each other the next day.
It wasn’t until AFTER all the aforementioned had gone down and we were catching each other up on our lives before we met that she told me how she used to hang out in Berkeley between Shakespeare’s and Cody’s Bookstores in early 1968 dressed in a black silk top hat, long black velvet cape and dress. When I heard THAT, I told her, “I wish you would have told me that in the beginning. It would have saved us BOTH a lot of time.”
That was 21 years ago and I have never left her side since.
A week after meeting her by chance (fate) in a city park, she had canceled a date with me to go sit by a dying man as part of a Hospice vigil team. I left my front door open and told her to come over when she was done. She woke me up at 12:30 a.m. and we just talked for hours. Eventually we came to the topic of love songs, and I told her there was one song that epitomized the way that I loved, but no one had ever “gotten” it. She asked me to sing it, so I started:
I want to take the bullet, the one aimed straight for your heart
I want to meet the wolves halfway and let them tear me apart
But that’s not the way they do it here
I want to lay on the tracks and feel hot steel screaming at me
Expose the bones on my back, let me show you what I mean
Yeah it’s a different kind of love
I want to climb barbed wire fences and warm our hands in blood…
At that point, I forgot the next line and became very frustrated. It had been one of my favorite songs for years, after all. She waited patiently for a minute or so before I made some excuse about it being late and sleepiness clouding my mind before she took my hands in hers, looked me in the eye and said, “You can climb those fences, Chris, as long as you come back to me so I can mend your hands.”
Something clicked and I said to her, “That’s it. The next line of the song. I love you.” The next line is actually, “And this is my gift, asking you to fix my ruined hands.” But the point is that she got it. She understood that desire to have so much passion for another human being, and so much trust, that whatever the circumstances you would feel like you could come back. That there was only one place you would feel safe to be lain open with every defense lowered. She understood me and the way that I wanted to feel love, and shared that desire with me.
Everyday since I have known that she is the one for me, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with her.