You’ve probably seen that awful picture frame at Kohl’s around Mother’s Day, the one that says “When a baby is born, so is a grandmother.” Whenever I see that, my inner 90s girl rolls her eyes and says “duh.” Because so is a grandfather. And a mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, whatever. Isn’t that the point? While we’ve all had to step into new roles since Little Darcy was born, some of us adjusted a little more seamlessly. Of course it was probably easier for The Engineer’s side of the family, being that Little Darcy is pretty much The Engineer reborn. My Mom experienced love at first kick, but it took a little longer for my Dad to “fall in love” with the new baby (I believe that exact moment happened around Thanksgiving. Ask Dry Mama, she’ll tell you about it). In that, my Dad and I are alike: we both take a little longer to take to new people and new roles. We also hate to watch someone we love struggle. My Dad has always been there for me, but watching me struggle with motherhood challenged our closeness. The following was written by my Dad, sharing his perspective of the last year and a half. Love you, Dad!
The “Be There” Dad
My eighty-three year old mother still refers to my eight siblings and I as “you kids.” I’m sure in her eyes, that’s the only way she’s ever seen us. With such a large family, it was hard for my mom as a single parent to always “be there” for us. Keeping food on the table and the lights on sometimes means missing your son’s football game.
My role as a married father with two girls was simpler, but often seemed much more intense, more demanding. We attended every event we could, supporting the girls at over a decade of piano recitals, hundreds of sporting events, and weekends filled with a special kind of parental torture called Mock Trial . The girls were and are my wife’s first priority; while attendance at these functions was nonnegotiable for her, I sometimes resisted (particularly the band concerts). The payoff, however, has been immeasurable, the relationships built are irreplaceable. I wouldn’t trade the closeness of our family for anything.
I’m extremely competitive, and when I first learned of Emily’s challenges with depression, I felt personal failure as her father. She has always been so solid, so confident–even arrogant at times about how to manage her life. Emily knows what she wants and can usually find a way to get it. She planned her wedding the way I imagine the half-time show for Super Bowl Sunday is planned, with every minute accounted for and multiple contingency actions in place. So what had gone wrong? How did we not prepare her for this new phase of life? How could she be depressed? How could we not have seen it?
While I noticed a minor change in her disposition during the first few months of motherhood, nothing seemed that out of alignment. She obviously loved Little Darcy and the Engineer. She was very protective of Little Darcy, but that didn’t seem so unusual. After all, she was our super-daughter; we had assumed she would take parenthood seriously and raise her son as best she could. Emily was obviously tired, a little on edge sometimes–but when my wife told me Emily had made an appointment at the behavioral health clinic I was shocked.
Our communication has always been strong; when Emily got her first period, she couldn’t wait to tell me when I got home from work that day. I took that as a major sign in our relationship: she knew could tell me anything. So how could she not tell me about this? How would we manage it as a family?
Frankly, I’m still trying to answer that last question. We have a strong, close family and I have no doubt we will work through this. Emily is very fortunate to have chosen a great mate in The Engineer, someone who will also always “be there” for her and their son. It took a lot of courage for Emily to admit this problem and that alone will help us to help her. I applaud her for her openness and willingness, not just with us but with everyone, in hopes that by sharing her story she can help someone else. She should be very proud of herself.
Meanwhile, I plan to be there. It’s a little different than it used to be, showing up in orange and black for volleyball games. Now, it’s telling Emily to go back to bed and watching Disney Junior at 3 AM with Little Darcy, or making her favorite breakfast so she has a good start to the day. At the end of the day, she’ll always be my little girl and I’ll always be there.
Love you Peanut.