A lot of times, I hear it expressed that when a soldier is deployed, his spouse must serve as both mom and dad during the deployment. I always hated that phraseology. Do I have to pick up some extra slack when Daddy's not home? Um, heck yes. Will I be working overtime trying to adjust parenting strategies that we normally tackled together? Absolutely. Will I have to do everything by myself that I was used to splitting two ways? You betcha. But am I ever going to be "both mom and dad?" No, I'm not. I can never replace my husband's role in our childrens' lives. And while I try my darndest to make sure I am doing everything I can as their mother to show them extra love and support during this difficult separation, that's all I can ever do--give them an extra dose of mom. Try as I may, I can't be daddy too.
This got me wondering, what is it that makes dads so special? What is behind this irreplacable and significant person in a person's childhood--upbringing--family--life?
I don't think I know exactly what that special something is...and even if I did, I don't think I would have the words to go into an eloquent description about it in this post. But what I do know is what kind of father my dad was for me and what kind of father my husband is for our children.
Growing up, my dad was my hero. There was nothing that I thought that man couldn't do. I remember being younger and watching my dad lift himself up on a light pole and hold his body out parallel from the ground. I thought he had super strength.
I can tell that my daughter already thinks the same of her dad. Being an Army Brat, she hears people talk all the time about how her father is a hero. One afternoon, she asked me if her dad was actually a "superhero," and when he would get to stop fighting off bad guys. I told her that her daddy would stop fighting bad guys one day, but that he would always be a hero. Of course, I had to try to clarify the difference between a "hero" and a "superhero" and I'm not too sure I made my point. Afterall, the man has been known to blast through walls :)
I've said it before and I will say it again--my daddy was (and is) my biggest fan. He supported me in everything I did, silly as it was. And he showcased his support in equally silly ways (like totally rocking a toe touch for a peewee drillteam peprally.) He didn't even disown me when he, a Lubbock native and former Red Raider, sent his daughter to Aggieland (Though I could have lived without him dressing in his red and black Texas Tech shirt during my freshman orientation...) He celebrates every victory with me.
As does my husband for his children. Even though his children are young, he is still so involved and supportive. My daughter is showered with applause and flowers during her dance recitals and my son has proudly danced the "Tooty Ta" for his dad in a KinderJam class. Even now when he can't physically be here, he patiently listens to them talk about their days and lauds them as they sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or count to 100. And though our children might be too young to actually understand what the terms "support" and "fanfare" mean, they definitely understand that they get those from their daddy.
Aside from being my cheerleader, my dad was also my coach. My father had a pretty busy work schedule, but he still volunteered to coach on my softball teams, basketball leagues, and he even did some peewee football coaching for the city team that I cheered for. (As did my mom--I really do have the most amazing parents.) He was my teacher. He not only supported my activities, but he also helped me perfect them. Though I might not have always appreciated it at the time, (and certainly not when my dad was zinging line drives at me to first base) now I look back on those days and just feel sheer gratitude. Being a parent now myself, I understand what it means to volunteer extra time to be with a child. I know what it means to be tired after a long day and just want to do nothing else but kick off your shoes and sit on your couch at home. But there he was, straight from the office in his work clothes, zinging line drives at my shins.
That's exactly how I look at my husband with our children now. Lord knows, all that man wants to do after a 15+ hour work day (or month-long field assignment) is take off his boots and sit quietly. But instead, he sits at the table and actively participates in a day with his children. He teaches them to correctly write the letter K. He reads them their bedtime stories. Even now, overseas and dealing with who knows what on a regular basis, he chooses to call and talk to his children instead of going straight to sleep. He sends them recordable books and videos. He is a physical, active part of their everyday. And I am ALWAYS so in awe at how he is able to do that from the other side of the world.
My dad was my favorite playmate. Dads are the ones who shoot you out of the pool into the air. They are the ones who race you down the street and teach you how to throw a football. And as I grew older, my dad still met me in the backyard to play HORSE or a little one-on-one (so long as I wasn't acting too cool for it.) Dads are just big kids with responsibilities.
That is no exception for my soldier. Warrior by day--horsie by night. He is the tickler and the tackler. The snuggler and the rough-houser. He taught my children to do the very things that I now have to scream at them not to do in the house. He is their favorite friend, and they desperately want him back home.
My dad was also my example. For better or for worse, I was watching my father. I've seen the sacrifices he made for his family. I watched him work himself like a dog, picking up nightshifts and pizza delivery jobs to provide for us. I bore his punishments for doing things I knew I shouldn't have, and have clung tightly to conversations where he told me he loved me, he was proud of me, he expected a lot from me, and he always would. I've taken a lot of good qualities into adulthood because of my dad. And I've even learned from a few of his past mistakes and have been able to avoid them myself.
Though they are too young to realize it now, my babies have an excellent role model in their father as well. I just know that he is going to be able to guide them with wisdom, to give them the confidence to make bold decisions, and to exemplify the drive necessary to do big things. I am so very glad that my babies have a man like that to look up to--he is someone I look up to, too. I am so grateful for the loving fathers that are a part of my life.
So here's to you on your day, dads. Take it from this Army Wife: there can never be anyone else to take your place.