If you’ve read any of my posts for Jacksonville Moms Blog over the past couple of years, then you probably know I’m a card-carrying Navy Wife- and that at any given time, my husband is probably somewhere far from home. Our first child, Mac, was born about two weeks before Father’s Day during my husband’s last deployment. Our daughter, Josie, was born eight weeks ago during another, with Father’s Day once again looming on the horizon.
It’s a Bummer.
I know Father’s Day is more of a Hallmark Holiday than say, Christmas or Thanksgiving- but it’s important to us. We worked hard to have these babies and all those doctors visits, pills, and shots are celebrated and validated every June. So whether my husband is in the desert, the Pacific, or right here in Murray Hill, I want to be sure both he and our little ones know that, like Ron Burgundy, fatherhood is kind of a big deal. But how do you celebrate Dad when Dad isn’t there?
We talk about him ALL the time. Eat that chicken, because your Daddy LOVES chicken. You want to color? Ok! Let’s draw a picture for Daddy. That is one awesome block tower, kid. Do you think Daddy would use green blocks or red ones? I make sure they know that their Dad is a great person who loves them, misses them, and wishes he could be there for every second of every day. (And I try my very best not to use him as a threat. I’m not perfect, but very few “Ooooh! You’d better stop that right now- OR I’LL HAVE TO TELL DADDY.”-s escape my lips while he’s away. That’s about 24,500 less than I use when he’ll be home in two hours. Like I said, NOT perfect.)
We “see” him when we can. Never underestimate the power of FaceTime or Skype. My kids are too young to fully understand phone calls, but video? Hells yeah, hand ’em the phone- and good luck getting it back! Seeing him smile at their latest party trick (“Mac, show Daddy how you can whistle!”) or being able to blow him a kiss really reenergizes their relationship and keeps him fresh in their minds, no matter how many months it’s been. Once the connection inevitably fails and the screen freezes for the 6th time, Mac will talk about his dad for hours to anyone within earshot.
We send him anything and everything. We mail pictures drawn at school, photos taken at home, $5 t-shirts from Target. The thing is, it doesn’t matter what’s in the box. It just matters that it’s a little piece of home–a little bit of love and time and appreciation tucked into some cardboard and packing tape. The kids know that we go to the post office because we love Daddy- and Daddy thinks the same thing when the box arrives, dented and torn, a month later.
Granted, that’s all from a Military Mama perspective. There are lots of children- kid and adult- who don’t see their Dad every day, month, or even year- let alone on Father’s Day. I’m 33 (Did I say 33? I totally meant 29!) and am lucky to say that my Dad is still alive, kicking, and married to my Mom. I get to call him whenever I want, see him whenever I can, and mail him a little something every June to remind him how glad I am of those facts. When I mentioned this post to my Mom, she told me that, growing up, Father’s Day in their house meant setting a place at breakfast for their father- then laughing while Nana told stories about him and they made cards for her; he’d died when my Mom was not even two. A friend of mine here in Jax told me about her experiences, too, growing up with wonderful relationships with both her father and stepfather. In her house, Dad came first but there was always another, separate, plan for Stepdad once Dad had been sufficiently loved on.
And by now, of course, many of my friends have children of their own- some as single Moms, some now living life with a partner other than their children’s biological father. And you know what? The vast majority of them- no matter how rotten and scum sucking or one-night-stand-ish Dad may have been- encourage and help their little ones to do something appreciative on Father’s Day. Because, if nothing else, they can appreciate the fact that, without this other person, their family wouldn’t exist- no matter how layered, fractured, or unconventional.
So thank you, Dads, wherever you may be. And happy Father’s Day, Derek Warren; We love you, miss you, can’t wait to celebrate with you- and might just have a To-Do list a mile long for when you come home. Which we’ll celebrate you finishing in person.