Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Friend Or Parent?

Chances are likely, that a parent with at least one young child, has walked by, or tried to avoid walking by, a dreaded claw machine.  Children’s eyes light up with how simple it must be to win, because the prizes are all just sitting there, waiting to be plucked from the pile.  As parents, we know the game is usually rigged, those cute and cuddly toys packed tighter than a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe.

Only one of my daughters was fascinated by the game, then determined.  That is when I made the situation worse.  That is when I earned the nickname from her, “the ‘no’ Daddy.”

Neither of my daughters have been want for anything.  I also made sure that I never crossed the line to spoiling them.  I can honestly say, I never dealt with one temper tantrum, in public or at home.  And here is how I did it.

As I said, if my daughters needed something, they got it.  If they wanted it, and neither their birthdays or Christmas was around, there is a 95% chance that they were told “no,” hence the nickname.  And it really had nothing to do with being strict or preventing tantrums as much as it was about not wanting to disappoint them.

My philosophy was simple.  I would rather surprise them with a “yes,” than disappoint them with a “no.”  And there would come a time eventually, that this would become important.  Between the economic crash of 2008, as well as the crash of my health from late effects from my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma treatments, financially things got tight.

But my daughter was persistent with this claw game machine.  Every time we went grocery shopping, I knew that a request to play the game was coming.  If pushed, I would offer some excuses as to why “no” was my response.  I might not have had a dollar bill on me, or my favorite, I would just say the machine was broken.

On one fateful day, my daughter witnessed someone playing the claw machine.  So, I could not say the machine was broken.  And she avoided having to ask me for a dollar because she just so happened to have a dollar bill that was given to her previously by one of her grandparents.  Despite having the advantage, she still held herself respectfully and approached me for permission to give it a shot.  I was in no position for my patented “no.”

And then it happened.

A scream followed by a very proud expression by my daughter.  She was silent and cerebral in what could have possibly been her one and only attempt at victory.  And she not only came out with one prize, but had positioned the claw perfectly, and had grabbed two at the same time.  The claw smoothly slid over to the chute, and then dropped the two toys in, and with a prize held in each hand, she turned to me with the biggest smile a child could ever have.  “You see Daddy!  The machine’s not broken.  And I not only won one prize!  I WON TWO!”

Her victory did not change her behavior when it came to asking for anything, well, except for a kitten, but that is another story.

Like I said, I am so happy I did not have to deal with tantrums.  I know before I got married, heck, even dating, I knew that tantrums were one thing I wanted to avoid.  Toy stores, shopping, the candy aisles, even amusement parks, neither daughter ever threw a tantrum with me.

It was not just the “fun” times or things either.  From the moment both were placed in my arms, every day was about teaching them, setting an example for them.  Just as with “things,” neither gave me a difficult time when it came to schoolwork.  I took advantage of the earlier grades of being not only being able to help with schoolwork, but understand it.  Homework and studying was always a priority, whether we were at home, or on a vacation.  If there was an assignment that did not get done before we left, it came with us.

Even today, my daughters in high school, during my custodial periods, which vary in length, if there is homework to be done, or a test to be studied, I make sure that they have the time to do so.  At this point in their education, and their subjects, they are well beyond any help I can offer with the exception of some proofreading opportunities.

Our current family arrangement has been in place now for several years.  We live quite a distance from each other.  And as is often the case of a non-custodial parent, and I want to be clear (for my trolls), I have never been called the following, “a Disney parent”, a reference to a parent who’s custodial time is only about having good times, while it is assumed the parent with the primary custody “does all the hard stuff.”

I have dreaded the first time I would have ever heard that reference directed at me.  As a divorced father, I have made sure to stay involved with my daughters lives, as much as teenagers will allow.  Circumstances are much different than they were many years ago when we were a whole family.  But my daughters know that my marital status has not changed who I am, and what they mean to me.

And as they head around the final turn of their childhood, things still have not changed for us, just the issues.  Course selection in school has become important.  Extra curricular activities are now a part of building who they are.  And gasp… boys are being mentioned in the singular tense when it comes to activities.

My daughters have often heard me say, “I am your father before I am your friend.”  I have told them I want to make sure they are as prepared as I can make them for their adult lives.  And once they have taken over their adult lives, then we can add friendship to our relationships.

They know times like today are difficult.  They understand when I have to make hard decisions.  And honestly, they are both blessed with good health, so that theory has never really been tested.  I have no problems handling the small stuff.

In the beginning of the Covid19 crisis, I had some difficult decisions to make, to protect my daughters, and to protect me.  The reality that their childhood is winding down, time I can never get back if I am to have to miss something, hits me hard in the stomach.  But with no idea how to handle the virus, what to expect, and the risks people would take, we did miss time with each other.

As time has gone on, and we learn to go through day after day, with Covid19 all around us, we all have adjusted, including school, which has continued on.  Sadly, for the graduation class of 2020, they lost a lot.  And I am hoping that by 2022, Covid19 will be just a horrible chapter in our history books.

But even as we have learned to take precautions to protect ourselves, whether it be individually or as a business, we still must be smart and follow the recommendations.  I would love to carry on with activities as we have with all of our other times together, but right now, that is just not possible.  And that is the hard part of being a parent now.  It is no longer about tantrums, it is about safety for them, and safety for others.

These are just some of the things that have been a priority for me as a parent.  There will come a time, just as I did with my father, that we will sit down, and share stories and memories, have some laughs.  Right now, I still have more work to do.  College is right around the corner.

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