Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fathers and their Truths and their Love and their Realities

Recently, I had a discussion with a good friend of mine about some of the recent blog posts written by fathers to their daughters about today’s ridiculous standards of beauty and about the importance of being a strong partner in a relationship, a woman who holds her partner to a high standard of respect and love.  My two favorites are by Dr. Kelly Flanagan:

If you have a chance, I strongly recommend reading these posts. I don’t care if you’re male or female, young or old, have daughters or not. They’re exceptional. They speak volumes not only about the pain and worries and insecurities so many of us women have felt at one time or another in our lives but also about the character of the man who wrote the posts.  My heart swells when I think about him and other men who can so deeply grasp and sympathize with these issues and who go to such directed efforts to help their daughters see beyond these influences, to reinforce to girls that they are intrinsically and unambiguously worthy of love.

My dad teaching me the importance of a classy chapeau.

I’m not going to go into the details of these and other posts.  You can read them for yourselves.  The question my friend and I pondered – my friend is the father of two daughters – is whether this and other male authors of such posts live and internalize the “male side” of these articulated beliefs.  I’m curious if they are representative of the men they would want their daughters to love and value.

It’s not for me to judge, even if they aren’t. But it’s just something I wonder about.

For instance, in the first post above, Dr. Flanagan encourages his daughter not to focus on her external beauty but rather to seek her value in her internal beauty and sense of self. He tells his daughter, The world wants you to take your clothes off. Please keep them on. I love what he and other dad-authors say about being strong and choosing your dream and not being worried about the exterior over the interior. 

But I did wonder, in the back of my mind, if the authors themselves are influenced by and attracted to a woman’s exterior, by flawless skin and youthful appearance, as much as any other men. I wonder if, beneath the higher thinking they demonstrate, they also see a stunningly attractive female “as a pretty face and a body to enjoy.” Do they actively seek out images of “hot” women, naked or otherwise? Do they find some small disappointment in how the faces and bodies of the women in their lives compare to the world’s standards of perfection?

The second post delivers an equally powerful message about what Dr. Flanagan will and will not consider important in the man his daughter chooses to be with.  I love, love, love, adore, value, worship (add your own verbs here) this message:  Little One, it is not, has never been, and never will be your job to ‘keep him interested.’” I reread that statement a number of times, tears welling up in my eyes. This one hit home. It hit home hard.

Do you know how many men make it seem like it’s our job to keep them interested?  Not all men, most assuredly, but so very many.  Sorry… about to go on a rant… but I’ll reign myself in.  Suffice it to say that I fell a little in love with Dr. Flanagan with that one statement.

Again, Dr. Flanagan isn’t alone in posting these sentiments; he just happens to have articulated them in a way that was powerful for me. But other fathers are stating the same thing out in the webiverse, urging their daughters to stand strong as equal partners, to accept nothing less than complete respect and true adoration from the men they choose.

Which makes me curious about their relationships with women in their lives. Do they take responsibility for helping sustain the interest between themselves and their partners? Do they work hard to keep their love and desire alive? Or do they sometimes get complacent?  Do a few of them move beyond complacency toward allowing themselves to be open to emotional influence from another woman rather than deal with the challenge of facing an issue with their partner?

As I stated above, it’s not for me to judge. I’m not curious about these things with a focus on learning negative things or pointing fingers. I absolutely would not denigrate what these men say or downplay the importance and validity of their messages if they themselves were imperfect. They fact is, we’re all imperfect. Also, the relationships between these men and their wives or girlfriends is none of my business… for all I know, they might in fact be the role models we all want for the boys who someday will woo and win the hearts of our little girls.

I love what these men have to say (especially Dr. Flanagan... I think I'll start a fan club... or a Flan club... but no, that sounds like a foodie thing... nevermind). I value it more than I can express. It sings to me and reinforces my faith in people. Their words give me confidence in the world in which my children are growing up.

I’m just curious, that’s all.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Go Play In The Dirt

In order to keep things as normal as possible – both for the tinies and for myself – during my travel days away from home, I try to mirror a couple of our evening routines when I speak with them each night on the phone. One of these routines involves asking each of my children this question: “What was your favorite thing that happened today?”

My husband and I have asked the kids this question almost every night since they were old enough to speak. In the early days, answers included “playing outside” or “lunch” or “going potty on the potty.” As they’ve gotten older and using the bathroom has become more commonplace in their lives, their answers have become more nuanced and varied, such as “getting to spend time with my new friends” or “learning about kinetic energy” (in Kindergarten… what???) or “when you came to have lunch with me, Mommy” (everybody say awwww).

The other night, I asked my Kindergartner this question, and after about twenty ums, she suddenly said, “I know! I had to bring a bag of dirt to school, from our yard. And then in science class, I got to play with it!”

I replied, “What did you learn about the dirt?” to which she cheerily responded, “I don’t remember.”

“So,” I said, “you’re just happy you got to play with dirt. Yes?”

With very clear glee, she emphatically replied, “Yes!”

Her excitement wasn’t all that surprising. My daughter has loved to play in the dirt since the first time she was placed on the ground. She loves to run her fingers through the soil. She is physically incapable of passing a patch of sand or dirt on the ground without bending down to let her fingertips at least graze it, but usually she prefers to at least pick up a handful, to feel the grains against her palm. It’s her passion. It calls to her and brings her joy. She can spend hours – literally hours – sitting on the ground, moving her hands through the earth.

Check out those fabulously dirty fingernails.
We each have our own version of playing in the dirt. Each of us has that one passion, that thing we do that brings us pure, unspoiled happiness and that lets us feel deeply connected to a special part of our souls. For some of us it’s writing stories and poems. For others, it’s creating artwork or getting out into nature. For yet others of us, it’s knitting or hunting or gardening or surfing. It might be bird watching, or it might be rebuilding automobiles.

In rare instances, people make a living with their version of playing in the dirt. But usually these are the things we do away from work, away from the normal day-to-day, when we need to get back in touch with that part of us that hasn’t been beaten down or abbreviated by life, that part of our hearts that isn’t burdened by the need to be productive or responsible. We do these things just… because. Because not doing them makes us feel just that little bit less alive.

If you’re reading this, my wish for you is that you never forget to play in the dirt. I hope you never let the daily grind or the judgment of others or the odd diversions of the world prevent you from getting those hands dirty and soaking up every ounce of pure happiness.

As for me, I realized – while speaking with my little girl the other night – that for a while now I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by things that seemed more important at the time but that, on retrospect, are rather ephemeral. I forgot to play in the dirt for several months. Shame shame. But I’m back. And I’m re-energized. So look out, world… it’s time to play.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...