Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

A Birthday Blunder

I recently celebrated the birthdays of both of my daughters. And as I am prone to do, now that they are older, I look for cards that will express my feelings for them.

I came across this card, and I was immediately drawn to it. Its message was simple, watching your daughter have opportunities, growing up with her many talents, and of course supporting the daughter every step of the way. Perfect! A homerun card. This card hit every point that I tell my daughters in person every opportunity that I get.

But… as I am prone to do, in my excitement, I may miss something, such as the further inside of the card. Sure, I saw the words “Happy Birthday.” That was all I saw.

As you can see from the photo, I had to make an edit to the card. Originally, the card did say “mom”, but obviously the card was coming from me, and I really liked the message on the card. And when I went shopping for the card, looking at all the slots, there was no tab saying “from mom” or “from Dad.” But this card was specifically written for a mom to give it.

I have a problem with this. Why could the card not have been given from a Dad? As I said, I say these things to my daughters frequently. And in all honesty, the words can apply from either parent.

This took me back to an incident all the way back to the beginning, when I adopted both of my daughters, in fact, each time.

I changed the diapers of both of my daughters. I fed both daughters. I held and rocked both daughters. I played with and comforted both daughters. I had done all that I not only knew I would do as a Dad, but wanted to do. And I was good at it.

Being adopted, unlike a biological child adapting to its parents right away, there are potential developmental concerns with attachment. I was aware of this as it was explained to me during adoption classes. Fortunately, my employer had offered a type of “maternity” leave, that would allow either parent to remain home, in effort to help acclimate the baby to its new family. It was six months, though unpaid. Because of the unique situation that my then wife and I had, working for the same company, we were told that we could not both take the six months, but, we could split the time, even taking it simultaneously.

So we agreed, that I would take one month, their mother would take the other five months. Besides being severely jetlagged, we felt that even that month, would provide the necessary bonding opportunities between all of us.

Some in the family did not agree with this. I was called selfish, that the mother should have had the full six months to bond with the baby. That it was more important for the mother to bond with a daughter.

Now, I know darn well, if I had made any kind of sexist comment like that, I would hear a chorus of “oinks” for being a male chauvinist pig if I had made a reference to a parenting task only a father was capable of. And it did not sit well with me. Anyone making comments about our adoption process, had no idea the trauma that our daughters had experienced already at such a young age. To make matters worse, to say that one parent was more important than the other, had more value than the other, that just irritated me.

As my daughters have grown, they will both say how important it has been to have both of their parents in their lives, even with them being divorced. Their mother and I are their role models, their examples, their influences.

As happy as I was to have seemingly found the perfect birthday card, once I got home and prepared to sign the card, I had seen what the card maker had done. And it took me back to seventeen years ago when I heard that it was more important, not as important, that the mother bond with the daughters more than the father.

After all of these years, I would strongly disagree, and so would my daughters.

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