Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Parenting, And The Cycles of Affection

This was a pleasant Monday (Victoria Day, for you non-Canuckleheads) for most of us. My wife played two boardgames chosen by the daughters, then helped the younger finish her papier-mâché medieval castle. The weather was still nice, so my wife asked the girls if they'd care to help her plant a few flowers. “Sure!”

The girls' enthusiasm for this task was short-lived, however. Finally the older said, “I miss talking to Dad.” The younger did, too, so my wife stifled some impatience and reasonably said, “Well why don't you go up to his bed and talk to him, then? I'm sure he'd love the company.”

I had been walloped with food poisoning (damn that chicken salad). And so it was that I found myself bookended by my daughters, the older silently reading her Batman comics while the younger read to me from her latest Magic Kitten adventure.

Older parents will be very familiar with this little scenario, particularly with the fickle favoritism that young kids display without any self-consciousness whatsoever. But I post this little episode for younger fathers, especially fathers of daughters. For the first six or seven years of my daughters' lives, there was clearly ever only one favorite parent: mom. I could play, I could talk, I could listen — it didn't matter. “I wish Mommy was here instead.”

There are very valid biological and circumstantial reasons for this, of course. I'd remind myself of them every time I heard those words: she gave birth to them, she is a prescient nurturer, and, frankly, she is a lot of fun. And as soon as my wife returned home from work, her attention was devoted solely to the girls.

Hey, wait a sec: what about me? (pout, pout)

Since I now sit on the other side of this, shall we say, drought of affection, let me offer this word of exhortation to you young dads. I know — and you know — you love your kids, even when they're frustrating little bundles of unrestrained egoistical greed. But since it could be awhile before they demonstrate a deep and abiding affection for you (and you have finally caught enough sleep to take proper notice) make sure you keep paying attention to them. And be especially sure you pay attention to their mother.

Even when it's easy, parenting is work. You've got to draw deeply, and be incredibly patient. But good things do come to those who wait.


DarkoV said...

Dead on, Mr. WP.
There must be a way to logically explain that "cycle of affection" you speak of, but my talents are limited to explore such a task.

My daughter has taken to studying me (my eye's corner detects an intensity of glare that dissipates if I move my head a hair) as if I were a creature soon to be joining the polar bear in extinction (or not). It's a slippery ice floe I'm on with her. Do I exaggerate my "peculiarities" to keep her attention? Do I try to act the same, knowing she's trying to parse my personality? Doesn't a creature observed stray from the behaviour they're observed about?

All this attention she's discretely tilting in my direction is causing stress and hair loss...thus setting off more "peculiarities".

I think I'll take a nap.

Whisky Prajer said...

Ah, the nap: the great restorer of our fraying sanity (and probably the best way to endure such discomfiting observation periods).