My mom told me awhile back the older I get, the more she catches me thinking like my dad. I took it as a compliment, which might shock even Dad to know.
Lord knows, Dad and I didn't always have a great relationship. I think most kids, when they hit their teens, choose a parent to dislike, to mock and to fight. Dad was my pick. But then I went to college. You have to know here that my dad chose to be a father to me and my sister. He wasn't and isn't perfect, but he chose us. The importance of that fact hit me hard my freshman year when I looked around at all the 19-year-old boys, little boys, running around my dorm and hitting on me at parties and skipping classes. I had to teach dozens of them how to do laundry, yet at their age, Dad was helping care for us. The realization that Dad chose to take on us girls -- to feed us ketchup pizza and to bully me into learning to spell -- changed our relationship for me.
I still don't think Dad's a saint. But he is hard-working and steadfast, practical and reasonable. He is loyal. If you are his family or his friend, there's not much he won't do for you. He is calm. He can talk me through most home repairs and freak-outs. He is proud of us girls and he loves his grandsons.
I've thought a lot about the nature vs. nurture debate. What matters more? The genes we're born with or the examples we have growing up? I used to think genes won out, and that might be true when it comes to the shape of my hands or the build of my bones or even the way my temper flares. But I think the people who raise us carry great weight and show in the way we carry ourselves and solve problems and treat others. I'm lucky Dad chose to nurture us.
I'm lucky, too, to have found an equally wonderful father to nurture my children.
Mike and I were friends in college, colleagues and good drinking buddies. He is a nice guy, an Eagle Scout and actually, a lot like Dad. I spent most of college chasing after smarmy guys, guys who couldn't be trusted and who, in truth, had a great deal in common with my biological father. But Mike was so funny and smart and charming, in a clueless sort of way, he won me over -- and then I spent weeks convincing him to ask me out. Mom, after meeting Mike for the first time for just a an hour or two, informed Dad they'd just met their son-in-law. We were just comfortable together, just belonged together, she said. She was right. Mike and I fit.
But lots of marriages make sense when there's just the two of you. Throw in a third, throw in a child, and sometimes things fracture. Ours has only gotten stronger, even through sleepless, colicky nights and the daily juggle of work and family.
I'm not going to lie: There have been times when I have felt like I get the short end of the stick and am unloved and unappreciated, and I'm sure he's felt the same. We are human. We miscommunicate and get frustrated and sometimes nasty. But Mike is the first one out of bed nearly every morning to get The Boy his breakfast and to make my coffee, stuff he never drinks. He is endlessly patient with The Boy's babbling and picks out words when I just hear a jumble of noises. He started a list of The Boy's vocabulary and is the reason I can tell you our kiddo can say upwards of 60 clear words. He hugs and kisses and tickles and giggles with The Boy so the kid's entire being lights up when you tell him Daddyman's home. The Boy's feet cannot carry him fast enough to his father. And now we're expecting a second child, he pats my belly and tells me, when I moan about being bloated, that I am beautiful.
Yep. I'm lucky.