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I am a wife, mother, and step-mom. I am not perfect, but try my best to reduce damage control. I have incredible family and friends that encourage us on this adventure. My mom always told me that motherhood isnt for whimps... and I couldn't agree more!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Help Your Child Celebrate a Daddy-less Father's Day: A lesson in Resilience

A daughter was complaining to her mother about the drama of her life. As she whined, her mother was in the kitchen boiling water. When the daughter was finished, the mother said,  "See the three pots of water? All three have the same heat, the same harshness, the same intensity. In one pot I have placed carrots, in the second eggs, and in the third is coffee. The carrots have become weak, the eggs have hardened, but the coffee has remained relatively the same- with one exception. The coffee has also produced something useful after enduring the same element as the rest." The mother poured her daughter some coffee, and the daughter smiled understanding what the mother was trying to tell her.

This is a story I read in some email sent to me years ago, but it has stuck with me; I even coined the motto : Be the Bean. Resilience is an important quality to both demonstrate as parents and to teach our children. It is the plain truth of life that we will not get everything our way; Life isnt fair. This is a harsh reality written in the disappointed look of a child with one parent.

My daughter's father and I couldnt work things out. We both can play the blame game and point fingers at each other, neither one of us is innocent. We both carry responsibility for the failure of our marriage. The end result of this failure: our daughter not being raised with a dad in her life. She is completely innocent. This is completely unfair to her. She made no choices to bring this upon her, yet here she is.

Since the first Father's day after we left my ex-husband/her dad, I have struggled with helping her to celebrate "a day of dad". The first year, we made cards for Grampa... her dad, although still local, was busy and didn't arrange a visitation that weekend. The second father's day, we wrote poems for her grampa and all of her uncles- her dad had moved to Massachusetts by now and his calls were infrequent at best. We wanted to honor the men that choose to be in her life and willingly accepted part of the role as "dad" (aka: loving protective male role model) This helped to focus her mind on what she did have in her life, the amazing men that didnt have to- but willingly choose to step forward and take on more responsibility, and most of all, took on loving her!!

This year is a little more challenging. Her dad decided to start calling for a month (or so) on a regular basis just before June- because this lasted short term, her disappointment is still fresh. She is also enrolled in Preschool this year... which means they are going to do the dreaded Donuts with Dad  brunch. She already struggled so badly missing her dad since starting preschool, mainly because the rest of the kids had moms and dads. She wanted a man to hold that role in her life so bad. I cringed when her teacher asked what my plan was for Donuts with Dad. It wasnt fair to her... I wanted to protect her from the pain... but knew I couldn't protect her forever. So I needed to help her develop coping mechanisms and ways to gracefully accommodate the Hallmark Holidays she wouldnt classically be able to celebrate. I decided to call my dad and ask if he could arrange to go with her. This ended up to be the best thing ever, not only did my dad enjoy the morning with his granddaughter... but she felt sooo special to be the only one with a grampa! She actually felt like she was "cooler" than the rest of the kids that "only had their boring dads there"!

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.  I have heard people tell me that children are resilient, and the context in which it is said implies it is in a child's nature to be so. This is far from the truth. No one is resilient by nature, children are no exception. Although resilience will help you greatly through life, it is a learned characteristic. Children learn best from example- therefore teaching yourself resilience may in the end be also teaching your children. I try not to wonder why her dad choose to not to be a part of her life, but try to remember that I walked away with the best he had to offer; her dad is the one missing out- not her!! 

Try helping your child to look at what they have in their life, rather than spend a  hallmark holiday focusing on what they dont. Yes, there is a time and place to hold them as they grieve that missing role in their lives... but dont let them focus on that. Instead, help them to focus on what they do have, and find ways to show how thankful they are. Make a list, write a song, make some cards, cut out pictures of all the people in your and your child's life that you are thankful for. We like to play a game called, who loves me? We verbally name off everyone in our lives that love us and we are thankful for. A thankful heart is free from the bondage of anger and bitterness. A thankful heart is free from the depressive grief and sadness that can reduce us to tears. A thankful heart takes a not-so-great situation and turns it into a blessing. A thankful heart will find ways to honor the man (or men) in their lives that have willingly taken on all or partial role of the massive gift and responsibility of a male role model in their little lives and hearts.

As mothers all we can do is help to teach them to withstand the elements of life, take what they have been given, and make the best of it with a thankful heart. Teach them to Be the Bean.


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