I’m doing something right. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.
Being abandoned by my father before I was born, and being abandoned by my mother at the age of 5, I know what it’s like to grow up without my father or mother. I know what that does to a child. I know the struggle of trying to bury that pain, to accept it, and to tolerate it.
Even if I had no desire to be a parent myself, even if I had no sense of commitment to anyone, I still wouldn’t have stooped as low as my parents. Of course, it helps that I have always wanted to be a father, and it helped growing up an immense sense of commitment to everyone I love, friends and family both. But, as I said, even if I never had those traits, I still could never have allowed myself to repeat my parents’ behavior toward my own child(ren). At the very least, I would have been committed to the daughter I now have out of sheer principle.
Still, the desire to do well isn’t enough. One has to actually do the job correctly. Am I doing it correctly? The answer to that is subjective. I know I want to do the best job I can; the rest is unfortunately open to interpretation …, except at least one thing…
This past weekend, there was something I had to do while my daughter was with me. (Her mother forgot something important she needs, so I had to drive all the way out to get it.) Since driving is one of the leading causes of death, I’ve always tried to minimize the number of times my daughter is even in a car, so I asked my mom (adoptive, of course) to watch my daughter for about an hour. This was the first time she’s ever been alone with my daughter. I make a point to let both my adoptive parents see my daughter at least once per weekend, because I do believe it’s important that she knows them. It seems my daughter was okay with my mom watching her for an hour, for the most part. When I came back, I realized I needed to do one more thing for a minute, and had to step out yet again, and right then my daughter started crying, if not borderline screaming. She calmed down when I picked her up and took her with me. But when I got back with her, for good that time, and when my mom was heading out, she picked up my daughter to say goodbye to her, and she started crying hysterically again. She calmed down when I held her again.
She knows my mom. She sees my mom all the time, and my mom is naturally a gentle person; couldn’t hurt a fly. Yet, despite these things, my daughter isn’t comfortable with her. I remember back when my daughter was only 8 months old, my ex-wife’s aunt (the one we used to live with) picked up my daughter for just a second, and my daughter started screaming bloody murder (still the loudest I’ve ever heard her scream). I’ve noticed that even when I’m just feet away, my daughter still shows nervousness being held by anyone besides me. Don’t forget, I’m a big guy, and I’m, you know, a guy.
My daughter has never been afraid to be held by me, and even more so, I’ve come to fully realize how soothing it is to her. I thought it was only soothing when I try to get her to go to sleep. It’s more than that. When I’m holding my daughter, she isn’t just ‘okay’ with it, she seems to actually feel like the world is right. It seems everything is right, and everything makes sense when I’m holding her. It’s more than feeling safe, it’s feeling completely at peace.
To further emphasize this point, I know I’m not warm and snuggly 100% of the time with her. Sometimes she frustrates me, sometimes I have to be firm if she’s, for example, trying to nibble on a shoe (considering all the filthy things shoes come in contact with). I have to tell her sometimes not to do this, or to stop doing that. Yet, she never shows any sign of being afraid of me, and even more so, as I’ve already explained, she feels a lot safer being held by me than someone as gentle and soft-spoken as my mom (whom she frequently sees, too).
That’s priceless. It’s something neither a parent, or especially a child, can fake. Infants, can’t fake anything. (When they cry to get their way, they are authentically upset they’re not getting their way.)
If I was faking my devotion to my daughter, I wouldn’t have the urge or the energy to do anything beyond just simply being in proximity to her. This is one of the many, many, many, MANY reasons I’m disgusted my ex-wife tried to rob me of my daughter, and our daughter of her father. If I was just simply … present … my daughter wouldn’t feel so attached to me. Seeing me step out for just a minute made her cry. Feeling more comfortable with me than anyone else (with the possible exception of her mother) isn’t value you can get just by showing face once in a while. This also further proves my past point that if I was only around once every other weekend, like my ex-wife tried so hard to force, my daughter’s bond with me wouldn’t be anything remotely close to what it is, and could be, and should be. It’s clearly, undeniably healthy for her to have daddy be, you know, daddy.
Am I a perfect parent? Am I the best parent I can be? That answer is in the eye of the beholder. Regardless of the evidence, people will only think what they want to think. I know many people want to see me fail. Some people are unthinkably despicable like that. Some people don’t have souls. But regardless of anyone’s view of me, or anyone’s opinion of me as a parent, one thing that is objectively true is that I am doing something right as a father; something extremely important that all parents need to do right. I am there for my baby, in every way a parent should be, as often as I am allowed to be. She knows I love her. She knows she is safe with me. And to anyone who wants these things taken from her … seriously … how do you live with yourself?