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The Father Effect: Have I expressed my appreciation?

Posted by Team Ahimsa on
The Father Effect blog by Ahimsa, the world's first and only colorful stainless dinnerware for kids

As Father’s Day approaches, it got me thinking about the dads in my life. From my grandfathers, my dad and brother to my baby daddy ;). All of them have played such an important role in my life for so many reasons. My maternal grandfather (Grandaddy) was quick to laugh and hug and taught me to drive stick-shift on a winding, country road. My paternal grandfather (Papaw) was bookish and kind. He connected me to writing through his own authorship of civil war biographies and to my history through tracing our family back to our immigrant ancestors. My dad, goofy and serious at the same time, always treated my brother and I as equals, teaching us the same skills rather than assigning gender to hobbies, interests or aspirations. He has been complimentary of my bravery, strength and cleverness through life which helped me realized my true self worth. My brother has stepped in and been a guiding force - watching him be a father has been one of my greatest joys. 

Now, I’m blessed to have the man I chose to be my husband and the father of our two, beautiful boys. I’ll be the first to say that I have not done a good job of expressing my appreciation for him lately.

I think I am in good company when I say I do a lot for our family. I work full-time, do our taxes, enroll in schools, plan meals, pay bills, sign up for soccer, schedule our nanny, etc. It’s a lot. And lately with all this quarantine chaos I’ve found myself drowning in the sorrows of my responsibilities. I typically see myself as a care-free, fun and happy person, but that is NOT how I would describe myself these days.

All I want in life is to be a full-time-career-woman-stay-at-home-mom who has her act together is in shape, healthy, well-rested, on top of current events with a devilishly handsome husband who whisks me off to romantic vacations, books massages and feeds me grapes. Is that too much to ask?!? I mean c’mon!!! 

I had an entirely different angle to this father’s day blog until I was stopped in my tracks this week. I’d been all “woe is me” then I was standing there watching and listening as my husband tended the kids, made their lunch, joked with them and made them so happy. He had them out in the yard helping build a garden bed and plant vegetables … even finding some worms along the way. In that moment of clarity I realized that my ambitions are making it hard on everyone. I have gotten so bogged down with the responsibilities in life that I have done exactly what I’ve always told myself I wouldn’t do – I have been missing little joys because I’m so focused on what needs to be done.

Instead of being grateful that we were able to take advantage of the low mortgage rates right now with a refinance, I focused on how much paperwork I just added to my life. Instead of being grateful that my husband and I both still have a job, I’ve focused on how stressful work has become. Instead of focusing on the opportunity to find my son a new preschool, I focused on the frustration that his current school made the difficult decision to shut down permanently and abruptly. Instead of seeing all the things my husband has been doing for me and our kids, I’ve focused on everything he hasn’t done.  

Well, there is no better time to make a change than the present. “Hello, my name is Genevieve and I am struggling with my own happiness. I am so fortunate in many, many ways and I am embarrassed by my lack of appreciation right now - please send help.”

Ahimsa, stainless steel dinnerware for kids - Father and daughter on Father's Day

What is clear to me is that children thrive in emotionally healthy environments. They don’t understand that the multiple deadlines I’m under have me stressed - they just see that something is wrong and it doesn’t feel good. And I’ve let that mood rub off on their father. Another larger-than-life figure who they rely on on a daily basis for hugs, comfort, musical influence, ice cream, snacks and so much more. He’s the dad that when I leave for work, he’s good to go - he doesn’t need an instruction manual or need to be filled in on the boys’ schedule, etc. He just knows. From day one of fatherhood he has changed diapers, done laundry, cooked meals, been emotionally supportive and stepped in wherever he could. Sure, there were things he just couldn’t do (although it would be pretty amazing if men could pinch-hit for breastfeeding), but regardless he’s remained steadfast, dedicated and a super trooper. It's what I've read as dubbed "The Father Effect." It's a term that encompasses the big and small ways dads have long-lasting impacts on children's wellbeing. 

In fact, the science of fatherhood has been widely studied in the past decade. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a clinical report highlighting the positive effects fathers have on their children. Premature birth and infant mortality is less likely when fathers are involved during pregnancy. In childhood, dads' involvement contributes to language development, improved mental health and decreased behavioral problems. Paternal involvement during adolescence is associated with decreased high-risk behaviors, lower rates of teen pregnancy, protection from depression and improved cognitive development. In addition to the positive effects, the even better news is that paternal involvement in raising children has increased dramatically since 2011. 

But I don’t need research to tell me how important fathers are … I see it in front of my eyes on a daily basis. My husband counts the minutes until he can come home from work to tuck our children into bed. He sings them songs, makes them laugh, speaks their secret language, explores with them and cares for their scrapes and bruises. He not only loves them, but he makes sure they know it. I see the positive effects of an involved father every day - two happy children. I am lucky. And I’m ashamed that I have let my own wants and needs seem of more importance than his.  

father daughter on father's day

So, this Father’s Day I want to give a huge shout out to ALL the dads out there who are sharing their unique gifts with their children. Whether in a more traditional marriage, as a stepfather or with shared custody - whatever the setting, we recognize your importance. You are amazing and worth celebrating. I know this mom needs to express that way more often. 

"She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father." - Harper Lee

 

Today's "Dish" was written by Genevieve Olivares – a proud member of Team Ahimsa!


 

REFERENCES / RELATED:

Using meals to teach and connect

Becoming a mom changed me as a pediatrician: Here's how

The Human Spirit, the importance of human connection

Racism harms children’s health and we cannot ignore it

The Science of Dad and the Father Effect

Fathers’ Roles in the Care and Development of Their Children: The Role of Pediatricians


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