First off, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there! I love holidays like this one. The emphasis isn’t on presents or hoopla but just on family. Today, my brother Chuck, his wife Amy, and their kids Charley (15), Maggie (13), and Annie (8), came over along with my other brother Tom, my parents and Amy’s parents. We all hung out and ate ourselves silly and chatted and really enjoyed each other. I am very fortunate to live so close to all of my siblings, my parents and my in-laws (who are away in Ireland this week). I grew up with my aunts and uncles and cousins all around me and believe me my family was far from ideal but I grew up knowing my roots, my heritage, and my family’s criminal record (just kidding!). I remember when I was my nephew Charley’s age and started hanging around the ‘adult table’ at all the family gatherings, listening to my family talk about the energy crisis and inflation and politics and errant relatives. I learned about real life in this way….it wasn’t perfect but it was much more real that anything I was learning at Holy Name! My relatives were all typically Irish when I was a kid and the liquor was flowing which even as a child I realized wasn’t always a good thing. My relatives never fought with each other or were mean when they drank, they just got a little less reasoned and a little bit louder and at times more emotional with weeping and laughing. Interestingly, my brothers and I rarely drink….Chuck never and Tom and I only occasionally and without excess. I think we were all affected by my family’s excesses and have responded in our own way. Today, on Father’s Day, I encourage all of us parents to examine those parts of our lives that may not be oppressive or damaging in any overt way to our children but that we know we do to excess. It needn’t be something unhealthy, indeed sometimes those things which are most honorable can be damaging in ways unexpected to our kids.
Looking at my life, I see many flaws and excesses. I love to work and it is easily justified because I am helping others but there are times when work overtakes what should be family time. I am ambivilent about these times…..of course I love my kids and never want them to ever feel that they are taking a back seat to my work life but in reality sometimes they do. Sometimes, I need to work when they would rather have me at home or on a field trip. Sometimes, I need to work when there is something important like a school conference or Declan’s IEP….and at these times I feel guilty and terrible that I am not there. But there are other times when I CHOOSE to work; not to avoid my family but just because I like it very much and it meets my needs. This sometimes happens with exercise for me too, and naps, and blogging! I know that these sorts of excesses are healthier than excessive drinking but I am not sure if the sense of being out of control that I felt as a kid as I watched my relatives lose control is any different than the sense of lack of control my kids have when I am engrossed in my work or running or blogging for that matter. Being with the kids meets needs for me too and that makes the balance a bit easier to achieve but it is still a high wire balancing act I am a novice at.
Luckily I have a net under me, Kevin. As many of you know, Kevin has been home with our kids since Mairen was born almost 12 years ago. He has loved his role as parent. Kevin is a fantastic parent. Being with the kids is incredibly fulfilling for him and he gains so much positive energy from his role as father. I am glad for that. I also know that this creates some friction at times between us. I don’t view things the same way he does. Although I live for the kids in many ways, I also have to work and this balance, going on for years now, has resulted in differences between us. He cannot imagine missing anything at school that is of import and although I would rather not miss anything, there are times that I do. This difference plays itself out in big and small ways. He is engaged with the kids all the time in ways I am not and as a result, he knows them differently and I dare say better in some areas. This was a hard reality to accept and yet I know that I bring an important and different element to our parenting. We balance each other and listen to each other and occasionally disagree and have to let one or the other of us make whatever decision needs to be made. On this Father’s Day, let me say that I am happy to have Kevin as my partner in raising the kids….I am lucky that I don’t have to do this on my own. And Kevin is lucky too.
Happy Father’s Day.
Eat, love and play and each day will be your best!
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center