Day 22: A Father's Gift

Welcome to Father's Day.
The Sines Family - from left: Victoria, Alexandra, Elizabeth, Shawn, Connor & Eva Sines. circa December 2010.

I could rant about the point of this holiday (or the lack of one), its commercial nature and the declining seeming socially supported importance of fathers in a modern American society, but I'll try to end all that negative Nancy stuff here.

Instead on this day when American society chooses to reflect on the contribution of the male parent, I wanted to talk a little about what I've experienced as a father. I was fortunate, apparently, to have a father in my life -- for my entire life. He's not a candidate for world's greatest dad (most of us aren't), but through his example I learned a lot of things - positive and negative.

I learned that our children, no matter how hard we fight it will still expect us to be dad as they grow up. They change and advance rapidly as we begin to stabilize and possibly slow down. They won't like us for doing our jobs as parents now or maybe ever, but no matter how good or bad our choices as a father, well they will remember them. Should they start families, I think they are likely to take us as guiding example.

Victoria "Tori" Sines
I've been a father for almost seventeen year now.

I still remember the day I first found out I was on the short list for parenthood - in the middle of a dusty California desert as I was slaving away slinging slop in a mess hall while my new squadron mates were gaining "useful" field experience.

The mess sergeant walked over to me and handed me a slip of paper. On it was a simple request that I visit my unit, specifically my Chief Warrant Officer after the evening meal and tear down. So, like many things in my life, I was worried about what this whole meeting entailed and I worried over it. This is apparently the way I handled unknowns at that time in my life. (Some would laugh and suggest I have not changed!)

Eventually, the work was done and I walked across the camp to the hanger area and found my Gunner. He, being a man with a sense of humor - especially when it concerned green Lance Corporals who had just checked into his shop, did his best to leave me stressed out. In the end he walked up, asked me if I knew why I'd been called and gave me a flat, almost stern look.

Alexandra "Alex" Sines
When I balked, did a bit of "Lance Corporal" in the headlights muttering and stuttering, he laughed and walked over and threw his arm over my should and congratulated me on my impending fatherhood. Then he welcomed me to the fatherhood club, told me he pitied me and walked me to the camp beer tent for a round or four and sent me back to mess duty.

When that child actually did arrive months later, I was in Japan and Eva was in Ohio. Another obscure message, another uneasy initial talk and I was on my way back to the States to witness the birth of my first child.

Birth is usually the easiest thing for a father. We show up, give support and out pops a bundle of responsibility! Okay, so it's not quite like that, but the birth of our first two children were stressful events more so than I expect is usual. Tori was early and Eva suffered minor distress, Alex was not breathing and blue. Luckily Libby and Connor had less stressful arrivals.

Here I sit so many years later, sometimes wondering why we chose to have children, not because I dislike fatherhood, or even my children (though right now with three teenage girls at home that can sometimes be a momentary issue). At the end of every one of those moments of doubt or frustration I realize we chose this route because it's something I was probably always going to do.

 I like being someone's Dad. My kids motivate me to be a better person.  They challenge me and they teach me things I thought I already knew. Someday (NOT VERY SOON!) I will sit back and watch them struggle with this same issue as parents. I hear that is the best reward for parenting - getting to watch your children attempt to improve on your formula.

Elizabeth "Libby" Sines
Right now though I have a long road ahead before we get there, and I spent some time today thinking about these wonderful people my children are becoming.

Victoria is so emotional and capable of greatness if she will only just take time out from the personal drama and realize that. I dream of a time when Tori learns to use these gifts to help someone other than herself, when she breaks the destructive cycle of dependence upon others for her self-worth. She was my second true love, and right now I have to be here to help her when I can, but not always when she wants.

Alexandra is smart and driven, witty and charming and stubborn. Traits that should help her reach any goal she sets. She challenges me and listens, but doesn't ever take my word on pure faith when she doubts me. This approach to life will serve her well I think.

Elizabeth is considerate, reserved and gentle but her ferocity is like a magma chamber awaiting one seismic shift before erupting.
Connor Sines

I hope she will one day learn that her adversities temper the stone around that caldera and that she must become her most ardent supporter and recognize those around her with similar challenges.

Connor is my bright son. He bubbles with creativity and energy. He is often quick to read the emotions of those around him and offer his kindness to soothe them. I pray this trait will help him identify potential friends and build strong bonds.

Father's Day is a hard day to care about right now, likely more reserved for those with older progeny who are past the"me me me" teen stage. I  don't know if my kids will ever really realize the things I've done for them, the mistakes I've made, or the victories they've achieved despite my interference. I just hope one of these years I get the pleasure of telling them some of the story of their lives from my perspective.

My own father is no great communicator, and he's really not that deep a thinker, but as I've grown I've made peace with some of the choices he's made with regards to his role in my life. I'm too involved in my own fatherhood to look on his good and bad decisions with anything like animosity most of the time, and he won't actively be a part of my life forever so the lesson was taught and the torch was passed to me. Now it's my turn.

Happy Father's Day.

Some of the Sines-Harrison-Meadows Family - From left: T.J., Scott Harrison, Dad, David Harrison, Me, Kevin Meadows.

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