When Michael first joined our family, he wasn't quite sure what his role would be. While he often thought about becoming a parent, it usually involved a cuddly little baby. What he stepped into was a household with an 8 year old, and two teenagers. This of course made the transition a bit more challenging. At first the kids loved the idea that Dad had finally met someone, and they were falling in love. It was all such a fun and exciting time. After he moved in, they realized that this meant having to share more of Dad's time and attention than they had bargained for.
I suppose this is the classic scenario. Kids need to know where they fit in. They need to know that they can trust you, that they can count on you. During this time, the kids would often come to me with questions about how Michael felt about them. Michael would ask me what the kids felt about him. And I began feeling like I was constantly directing traffic. Eventually I began stepping away from their process. I would direct the kids to approach Michael with their concerns, and I would ask Michael to reach out to the kids. By doing this, they were all able to begin building their own relationships to each other.
As their relationships began to grow, I also needed to sort out my own feelings about this. At times I loved the idea of now having a second parent figure in the home. Michael learned to step right in when a need would arise. The kids began to realize that Michael was quite a softy, and he could be a great buffer between them and me, especially when they had done something wrong. With this dynamic building, I sometimes felt resentment, and wasn't always too happy to give up the reins of control. With the kids now having two dads, they quickly realized that they could play us off of each other. Michael was the good cop, and I was the bad cop. Initially I was not happy with this. I didn't like having to always be the one to hand out the consequences, and absorb the angry feelings of the kids.
As with any type of change, there was definitely some fine tuning that needed to be done. Michael and I began talking alone about this dynamic. I told him that I needed him to stand next to me when I was having to be the heavy. He told me he needed me to allow him to create a relationship with the kids that met their needs. In the end, I realized that we could have both. It benefited the kids to have Michael to go to when they knew I was upset or angry. They also knew that Michael would listen to them from his own perspective, and that he had so much to offer them. I like to think of our differences as more of being in harmony. Both of us had our own gifts to share with the kids, and together we were able to model how two people who loved each other can work out their differences.
Soon the kids began referring to us as their two dads. I was Dad, he was Daddy Mike. I came to really appreciate joy of being part of a two parent household. Being a single parent is very challenging, and at times lacks in rewards. One of the things I shared with Michael was that when you are a single parent there isn't that other parent around to help the kids think about things like Dad's birthday, Christmas gifts, or Father's Day presents. One of the unfortunate aspects of Father's Day is that it arrives when the kids are no longer in school. Every year my kids' class would be working on Mother's day gifts in May. My kids would usually share these gifts with one of the women in their lives. The problem was, the teachers never really considered the fact that Father's Day comes around, and there are no school projects or gifts for the kids to make. I caught on the this quite early, when my daughter was in grade school. I approached her teachers about this, and they were always shocked that they hadn't ever considered this. I took it upon myself to organize an art project toward the end of the year, so each child would begin their summer break with something for their dad.
Michael took this job on at our house when I shared this with him. He would make sure the kids had the opportunity, and guidance, to plan something for the holidays. Of course in time he became the recipient of our shared Father's Day gifts. My daughter has always been very good about this holiday, and has already made plans to make dinner for me tomorrow. My youngest son has always created something from the mound of things he has collected throughout the year. He usually arrives at my bedroom door with a note, or picture, and some of his little treasures wrapped in paper. Now my 16 year old is another story. He never thinks of anyone but himself. He's a good kid, and quite loving, but lacks in the being thoughtful department. He is often the one who is later apologizing for not doing something. Tonight I sat him down and had a small talk with him. I explained that he was old enough to begin changing this about himself. I reminded him that tomorrow was Father's Day. I reminded him that he thanked me earlier for folding his laundry, driving him to his Jiu Jitsu class, for buying him some Hummus from the store, and for handing him his weekly allowance. I told him that he needs to begin nurturing his relationships better. I told him that on days like tomorrow, he needs to find a way to let the person know how much he loves and appreciates them. I asked him to give some thought to this, and consider what he could do to show his appreciation for what I do for him. I gave him some ideas about what he could make, and things he could do to help me around the house. My biggest hint was that my car could really use a wash, but I'm not holding my breath.
As the evening has gone on I have been feeling kind of sad. I'm realizing that I am back to being the single father. Tomorrow is no longer a day for Michael and I to lay in bed while my youngest son creates a big mess in the kitchen, then arrive at our door with breakfast. All evening the kids have been asking me if I am alright. They see that my mind is somewhere else. I don't want this to be a sad occasion, but how can it not. It's another significant day in my year of firsts.
First Father's Day that I don't share with Daddy Mike.