This is a hard one to begin. Part of me wants to lay it on the table for context. And the other part of me wants to leave this version of my life untouched. It's like putting your feet in the ocean. The more you kick around, the murkier the water gets and the harder it seems to see every other aspect of your life clearly. And it stings.
The only thing I have in common with my father is the memories we share before being his daughter got hard. He could be reading this - I don't know. He could know I have a second child - I'm not sure. Did I tell him I graduated uni? I can't remember. I wonder if he'll notice my married name.
The essence and purpose of this piece is this: growing up to become estranged from my father has only benefited my children so greatly.
And it isn't because I think my children are better off without him. I don't. I do think my children are better off without awkwardness and weighted, disconnected interactions that feel so... heavy.
Where they benefit specifically is that I'm an aware parent. I've learnt so much but if we're going to get right down to it, and this feels awful to say, but I'm aware that my presence is optional. I could walk out at any time. I've had that happen in my life. I know all too well that it's 100% a possiblity. But I choose to stay. Every single day of my life is a choice. I want to be here more than anything and I want them to know that - through my words and my conscious actions.
In daily life, it has taught me to be present - both physically and mentally - with my children. Playing mindfully is not the same as being in the same room. Nor is keeping them in my thoughts but not being available in their life worth the cost a random text message would cost to send.
I am pushed every day by the thought of the absenteeism that I experienced as a child. My children need me to be here. They need me to see them - connecting on a soulful level. They need me to catch their tears and breathe in their sighs. But they also need me to join in the laughter and finish their smile.
It has taught me compassion. I've experienced deep lows as a parent. Maybe he had them too. Maybe on days when it felt hard, he simply acted on the thoughts he had of wanting to run away. That doesn't make it okay. And it doesn't make it my job to pick up the pieces he threw the rock at. I was a child and it was never my responsibility to be the bigger person.
This is why in my day to day life with my children, I do my best to remain open to their experience of a situation. I am empathetic, compassionate and supportive (most of the time). They are my children. They are learning. And therefore, my expectations of them must shift to make room for this.
So, my dear children, I am here. I will always be here. I will always see you and love you through any of your life experiences - even if it's giving you the green cup when you wanted the pink. I will cherish each moment with you because I never want them to simply become memories. I want them to be a part of me; a cog that keeps the rest of me going. I want to be changed by the way your cheek rests against mine when your world feels hard. I want to stand beside you when you need me most. And I want you to know, that you are wanted. You are brilliant. You are amazing. And I am here.