Sunday, June 15, 2008

Paternity testing

We were all in L's room this morning and I asked E to talk about her Daddy, an early-hour gift to him. I was hoping for something heartwarming for him to hear from his elder daughter even as he wiped the butt of his younger one. So I asked E, Tell me why you like Daddy. And she said, Um, cuz I like him! So I tried again, What makes Daddy fun? What makes him yummy? And she answered, An apple! I said, an apple makes Daddy fun? What do you like about Daddy? Apples! What do you like to do with Daddy? Um, apples! Ok, maybe talking points will work when she's three.

She gets a particular joy out of teasing him, and he gets a particular joy out of being teased by her. She's why he's here: at fatherhood. He's defined her by her body, her brain, her sense of humor. But she's also defined him. Since we had E, and also L, this father has grown by universes of tenderness, by an expanded compassion, and by a reservoir of patience not even tested by a full puzzle cabinet.

We went to Target together today, E and I. We went past the greeting card section. E always wants to buy a card. Not for any occasion, just to hold them - she sees them as lots of brightly colored books, and always asks, Can I have this book? Can I just hold this book and this one? I considered going through the exercise of selecting a Father's Day card for M with her. In the end, I kept rolling us by. Not because I wanted to go through the patience-testing regime of convincing her she didn't actually NEED a picture of a groundhog pushing a lawnmower, but because these cards made by cardmakers are inadequate to honoring M. He is not a macho backyard warrior; nor is he a cartoonish comic folly. And he's far too droll for any sentimental verse. He's strong and patient and funny and conscientious and so hard-working. He's flawed and often stressed and often overtired and sometimes too consumed with the child-rearing trees to see the forest. Through his best and his worst he shows his daughters his love and his humanity. As a father to daughters, he has no "little man" following him around and mimicking him, but though his girls may not ever emulate him with his tools or how he drinks a beer, they alight in his love. Where is the greeting card that thanks a man for all of that?

So we left Target with no card, but instead with two bags of M's favorite candy. E was supposed to walk into the house and hand them to M while saying "Happy Father's Day!" Instead, she walked into the house and handed them to M while saying I want a red one and a lellow one!

June 15, 2008

Portrait of devotion

I brought the girls to M's softball game today and he had even more fun with them there than they had being there. When his team was batting he had both his girls with him in the dugout.

E teases M now, but one day, perhaps soon, her challenges will be more direct, more adversarial. It's too early to tell too much about L's personality, but E will definitely test her parents, each of us differently, I think. The measure of M's patience with his daughters is that he never loses his temper with her. And, of course, that he can play puzzles in the basement for whole afternoons.

To M, and to Gramps and Grandpa, and to all the daddies we know and love, Happy Father's Day!

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