A couple months ago, Subtlekate had a great post on non-conventional parenting, which had me thinking about what sort of parent I am. Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and it is totally transformational– once you put on the parent hat, it’s something you wear forever. Most of us want to be the best possible parent we can be. So reading Kate’s post had me thinking about the choices I made as a parent, and if I could figure out how to describe my parental “style.” This is what I wrote in reply:
I dunno what sort of label I have as a parent, I haven’t really checked in on that sort of thing. My ex and I didn’t get a book on parenting, we just let instinct, common sense and tips from family and friends guide us. I do know the one thing I made a conscious effort on was to make sure that I showered them with affection from the get-go. Lots of hugs and kisses, snuggling, holding hands, running fingers through hair. Even now at their ages of 11 and 9. Pretty easy since I’m very affectionate by nature, but I’m aware that there is cultural pressure for men to not necessarily be that way and I just didn’t want my kids to imprint on that. I want my son to grow up being a very affectionate man, and I want my daughter to grow up expecting the men in her life to be affectionate.
I’ve thought a lot about those last two sentences over the months since I wrote it, and on this Father’s Day I thought it was good to reflect on it a bit and put up a blog post about it. I spent a lot of time with the kids this weekend, and just really basked in fatherhood, listening to what my kids wanted to talk about, asking them lots of questions on what they were up to, what they thought about stuff. But what touched me the most as we walked to and from various places throughout the weekend, how each of them would periodically reach out and put their hand in mine, even if it was just for a minute or two. My daughter, six months to 12 and my son, just a month shy of being 10, holding their old man’s hand. Giving that affection right back to me in spades.
Affection is so affirming, it fills you with love, warmth, happiness, security. My ex was so non-affectionate to me for much of our marriage that I was terrified the kids would somehow become imprinted with the idea that that was what they would expect in their adult relationships. Thankfully, their mom is very affectionate with them so between the both of us being very affectionate parents it’s my hope that they will grow up and find affectionate people to pair up with. Love, looks, sexual chemistry– all that stuff is great when it comes along, but it can also ebb and flow or be fleeting. Affection though… affection is the bedrock of happiness in a healthy relationship. If you can reach out and hold hands with your partner, no matter how old you are or who’s around, then you know you’re home.