“She’s warming up to me,” said my husband, V., to me the other night, speaking of our nearly three-year-old daughter. Is this a strange thing for a father to say about his own little girl, for whose life he has been present since she entered the world? Strange, but I totally understood what he meant. Both L. and A. took a long time to give the same uninhibited, generous adoration they saved for Mommy, to their Daddy.
I suppose it’s a quirky pitfall of being a stay-at-home mom with a tremendously busy husband. Of course I’m going to be the one who changes the diapers, reads the stories, goes on outings, and tucks them into bed. This doesn’t mean that V. wouldn’t love to do those things, though! When L. was a baby and toddler, V. was working an absurd number of hours each week as a resident in his specialty. There were so many days when he wouldn’t even get to see L. awake. He would tiptoe into his son’s room, and look at him while he slept, knowing work couldn’t or wouldn’t change as long as this was the path, but wishing there was more time to watch his little baby grow into a boy. Because of this imbalance between Mommy time and Daddy time, L. clung to me. A. has done the same, even though V. is home so much more than he was as a resident, praise God. It hurts so much as a wife and a mommy, to know what enormous sacrifices V. has made and continues to make, for the sake of our family, and to know the great love he has for us, to have seen our children snub him or even run from him when he came home in the evening.
What could we do except keep trying? So many times I told him that I knew that they both loved him, that he needed not to give up, and he knew these things were true. At the end of the day, with the kinds of days he’s had, how much it would have meant to have enthusiastic bear hugs from his own little ones! L. finally “came around” when he was about 3, and A. is following suit. There is still some hesitation from her if she’s particularly tired or hungry or otherwise needy, but it literally brings tears of joy to my eyes to hear her squeal, “Daddyyyyyyy!!!” when we hear our door squeak open. As a side note, I purposely choose not to apply any WD-40 to that door between the laundry room and the garage, because that squeak is like a trumpet announcing the homecoming of Daddy. I love seeing the kids’ faces light up, and knowing that my face is lighting up too, whenever we hear that creak around dinner time.
Lately, A. has reached some milestones worth noting in her closeness to her daddy:
–a few Saturdays ago, she specifically requested multiple times to stay home with her daddy and brother while I went out somewhere. I’ve done that twice, and they’ve had a great time!
–she has asked to do things just with Daddy, like build a sofa cushion fort, or do “bird bath” (giving some ceramic salt and pepper shakers shaped like sparrows a pretend bath; this is something V. and A. came up with a few months ago), or play catch with a ball. I thoroughly enjoy seeing the things that both L. and A. now enjoy doing alone with their daddy, forging this ever-important and special bond.
–this morning, one of my favorites: A. and I came downstairs from her room so I could get ready for the day. V. was just getting up as well, and when she saw him, she hugged him and asked him to snuggle and read a book. It got better, as she picked a book called “I Love My Daddy”, with each page showing a painted daddy bear and child bear doing fun things together, like splashing in the water, or playing tag, or sitting quietly together.
I still wish that V. hadn’t had to work so hard to win the kids over, but I know for sure that the love they show him now is genuine and ever-growing. I thank God for my husband’s patient persistence that allowed him to keep giving hugs when they were met with folded arms, to keep playing till the frowns turned to smiles, and to keep loving when the response was less than warm. I count it a great privilege to remind L. and A. of how much their Daddy loves them, more than they could know, how he would do anything for them, how he is joyful when he is with them and enjoys hearing every detail of their days. I see in V. an example of how much our Father God loves each of us and wants us to draw close to Him, and how He never gives up, even as we might turn away. I feel humbled and honored to have this family, and even more so having sat down to write about it!