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Focus on Fathers

An Everyday Father

Heidi Kelly
Nanaimo BC Canada
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 2, March-April 2003, p. 63

I have long read this column and wanted to write in about my husband, John. I have wanted to honor him for all he does by telling the world how highly I think of him. The stumbling block came when I tried to think specifically of what to write. Within our family there has thankfully been no occasion for him to do something outstanding or heroic. And yet, on a deeper level, he is a good father and a good husband, and this encompasses these things and more on a daily basis.

Where do I see outstanding and heroic? In the excitement and wonder on his face when he learned he was going to be a father. In the strength of his hand in mine as our children were born. In the nights when I couldn't handle yet another waking with a child, and John quietly and calmly stepped in to help. In the middle of the night when John paced with me as I carried a crying, teething baby. In the all-too-frequent times he listens with acceptance to my sleep-deprived ranting. In his joy at a new word from a toddler. In the phone calls in the middle of day when he listens to me cry with the racket of our sick children in the background. In his sigh as he digs deep to find the patience for one more repetition of our son's favorite game. In the tenderness shown by this huge, strong man as he lifts our precious, tiny daughter, Kathleen. In these things I see a great man. This is how I see my husband every day.

I have always admired my husband's ability to follow his parenting instincts. He looks to his children to see what they need, even when the results are unexpected or inexplicable. We assumed breastfeeding would last for about six months. When our first child, Jeremy, approached this age, he was still breastfeeding for many hours of the day and night. In order for me to be comfortable with continued nursing, I had to read books and articles, talk with mothers and La Leche League Leaders, and continually wrestle with the decision to continue. For John it was simple-he just watched Jeremy breastfeed and saw that it was something our son needed and enjoyed, and therefore should continue. He showed such wisdom and confidence.

John handles outside pressure well. In the early years of being a mother, I was often defensive and wanted to convert everyone to my way of thinking. It has always been more straightforward for John. If he sees or hears an idea that is different from our beliefs or expectations, he is able to consider it in light of our philosophy. If it does not suit our family, he just lets it go. After thoughtful consideration, if he decides this new idea has some merit in our situation, he is willing to give it a try.

As a toddler, our son was still breastfeeding, needing his mother, and sleeping with us. Many people criticized our parenting and warned us of dire consequences. Again, I often responded with hurt and anger followed by the need to prove our way was good. John could just let this criticism slide off him. He felt confident our son was telling us what he needed. He showed such strength.

La Leche League has had an amazingly positive influence on our family. This could not have happened if John was not so helpful and supportive. He encouraged me to go to my first LLL meeting. He plays with the children during LLL meetings so mothers can talk with each other. He paces in the back of the room holding our baby so I can listen to a speaker at Conferences. He goes out of his way to parent his children well and to support me as I try to do the same.

There are times for us, as for all couples, when I do not feel particularly close to my husband. There are other times when I feel closer to him than to any other person on this earth. Most of the time over these last few years, though, I have seen him as my partner in the sometimes overwhelming occupation of raising young children. I couldn't ask for a more wonderful person to share my life. It is not that John did some amazing thing one day that deserves recognition, but that he does so many amazing things every day. Thank you, John, for touching my life and the lives of our children. We love you.

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