The other evening I was making my rounds at bed time. I make it a point to sit with each girl and give them a few minutes of one on one time to sign off the day. Often times there's a tickle or a loaded question or something else to make sure the moment is unique. On this night, as I sat on the side of Genevieve's bed and went over the days events with her, she did something that took me back; she subconsciously began to run her hands over my several days old beard. It shouldn't shock me, after all there are obvious reasons behind her action: texture, tired hands, the closeness and the unique feature of me being the only male in the house. But for me it got much more personal then that. ... as weird as that may sound. You see my father had a beard for the entirety of my life to date. And I would never have felt at ease stroking my father's beard.
My dad and I haven't talked in a decade. And I don't mean we haven't talked in depth, or often enough; I mean we haven't spoken at all in 10 years. Prior to that we haven't had much of a relationship in 15 or so years. I don't need to go into the details of that relationship as this blog is not set up to handle that much of a load, but I rarely let my beard grow more then a few days length because of how mismanaged our time together was and how troubling it is that I begin to resemble him physically.
My one goal in parenthood was to do things differently, and I have. I've chosen my own path and made deliberate choices in what I do, how I respond (even when my instinct is to follow his patterns) in order to ensure my kids never look at me the way I did at him. And in this moment, as her small hands lovingly caressed the prickly follicles on my face, I relished in the accomplishment that I had succeeded. I was not the man I grew up with. I was not the father I had known. I am not in jeopardy of driving them away and living in isolation, wondering what's become of them and what I could have done to salvage it. I've carved my own path by realizing what I did not want to become and heading in an opposite direction. And I found me in the process.