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On Fathers and Parents

My mother taught me much about motherhood. My father taught me about parenthood.

There is a difference.

My mother's lessons, passed down to her eldest daughter, were mostly along gender lines. She taught me how to cook, how to clean, and how to manage a household. She also taught me it was both positive and family-supported to reach beyond gender roles if that's where my ambitions were.

But my father's lessons were broader, deeper, and sharper.

I used to wonder if my father would have raised me differently if he'd also had a son. Y'see, I was the one who helped him work on the cars, mow the lawn, and break concrete with a sledgehammer. I was the one who rode on his lap to steer his '63 Triumph around the neighborhood (in the days before such action would get the father arrested). I went with him to the racetrack and the hardware store. I was one of the few high school girls who went to high school football games to watch what happened on the field rather than the stands. About six months before I left home at seventeen, Dad and I spent hours replacing the lifters in my Mustang.

At the same time, Dad got teary-eyed to see me in formal dresses, encouraged me to enter pageants when it was clear I thought them fun, shared my interest in the unexplained/paranormal, and helped me learn to dance. It was by watching my father that I learned to be a supportive life partner, to be soft-spoken despite anger, and to give subtle gifts that required thought rather than flashy ones that required money.

When I became my son's primary parent in 2006 due to the absence of Dev's father--then a single parent in 2008 when I officially separated from his father, then the only parent in 2011 when his father passed away--it was my father's lessons that guided me. It wasn't because I was trying to be Dev's replacement father, but because I needed to be a full and complete parent. Without mother/father, male/female delineations. I needed to act with firmness and compassion. I needed to follow my son's interests--from cooking to airsoft, from cuddling with the dogs to winning first-person shooter games--rather than show him only those things I was comfortable with. I had to be not father, not mother, but parent.

That came from my parent who happened to be my father. Who thought it was just fine that I helped him change the oil while wearing a huge pink bow in my hair. Who thought it was awesome that I wore jeans, a sweater, and fringed leather boots for the talent portion of a pageant. Who was proud beyond measure when I tried to cook him a spaghetti dinner at age twelve, but confused curry for oregano. (Yes, he ate an entire plateful of that horrid mess.) Who is treating my son the same way by teaching him to replace car brakes in the afternoon, then including him in the nightly reading of bedtime stories for the grandchildren at night.

And I see that coming up in my son now, and I know that no matter how hard I tried, I could never teach Dev to be so completely a person, full and whole, as my father.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
sartorias
Jun. 16th, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a lovely man.
blairmacg
Jun. 17th, 2013 01:46 am (UTC)
And he's turned into an awesome grandparent. :)
queenoftheskies
Jun. 16th, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful tribute to your father. Sounds like he was a wonderful parent. I know you are a wonderful parent. Seeing you with Dev is inspirational.
blairmacg
Jun. 17th, 2013 01:48 am (UTC)
*blush* Thank you.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I learned about parenting from the men in my life.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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