As parents, we want to give our children everything. Both the things we had as children and the things we lacked. We want to take away the positive experiences that made us who we are and pass them down to our own family: the traditions, the values, the culture. For me, this means teaching my children the importance of family and community, giving them a spiritual foundation, and showing them the importance of living a life of simplicity that is centered on love. These are the things that my parents gave me, the lessons that helped shape me into the person I am today.
But as rich as my childhood was in love, there were cracks in the branches that have left my inner core weak at times. Little heartbreaks and traumas that occurred along the way that affected me and scarred me, experiences that I think about and hope my children never have to face. Divorce is an ugly monster, my friends. The separation of parents and children and homes causing a sense of lose that spans a lifetime. And it's no one's fault and you learn to move on and be grateful but there are days when you can't help but wonder WHY? HOW?
Shawn and I both grew up without our biological fathers playing permanent, reliable roles in our lives. We've always shared that common bond: the rolling stone, gypsy dads. The men who came in and out of our days at spontaneous moments throughout our memories. No shows at birthdays, weekend visit cancellations. Words like "custody battle" and "late child support" being thrown around our single mother run homes more often that they should have. We made promises to each other that our children would never experience that kind of heartache, not if we could help it. Because that kind of heartache sticks with you, it becomes a part of who you are no matter how lucky you know you are to have a stepfather who loves you as his own, grandparents and uncles who take over when your own father can't. It's just a thread that makes up our fabric and we've learned to accept it and own it: our dads left us when we were too little to beg them to stay. And that still hurts. And that's okay.
And so it means a lot to me to see my husband continually evolve into the kind of father we have both always yearned for. It could have gone either way, really: he could have followed in his father's footsteps and been the kind of guy who leaves when things get hard. But he's not that guy. He made the decision to be the kind of guy who stays, the guy who leads by example and takes pride in the fact that these little kids are looking up to us. That's what this whole parenting gig is really all about for us: being good people so that our children will want to be good people. Not just telling them what to do but showing them. Encouraging them, making them feel safe and secure and uninhibited in love.
I've seen him love even more since River was born: filling that missing father hole in his heart with the love of his own son, diving in head first into his journey as a role model. He's giving these kids everything he didn't have, all of the things he wanted. And he's healing me simultaneously as I watch my children receive the love of a father who will always be there for them. I am constantly inspired and encouraged as I watch this journey unfold.
To those brave enough to stay, to be selfless, to love. To those kind enough to adopt, to pick up the abandoned, to stepparent the waiting children. And to those who change their course even 3 decades later, humble enough to try again, to make up for lost time: I say thank you. Keep going. Keep loving. Let's give our children everything, teach them forgiveness, show them love. Let's give it our all.