One of the central concepts behind the Dad Revolution website is doing the right thing as a father. Let me tell you about a fairly common scenario that helps demonstrate what this means to me.
On my desk at work, I have an electronic picture frame that continuously cycles through family photos. Every snapshot features my wife, daughter, son, or some combination of the three. I normally eat my lunch at my desk, and I’ll spend that time watching the pictures slide by.
A lot of the pictures have specific memories attached to them. There’s a picture where I’m running through a sprinkler in our back yard with our daughter when we lived in Monterey. In the picture, it looks like we’re having a great time, but my memory says, “Wow, she really hated that.” There’s another where my son had fallen asleep in my lap while I was working on my thesis one day. The picture shows a perfect example of a father working while holding his son. In reality, I had to pee so bad that I was in physical pain.
There are even more pictures, however, where there are no memories whatsoever attached to them. These are all a few years old, involve our daughter, and took place at my wife’s parents’ house. They were taken during my third deployment. I’ve deployed twice since my daughter was born, but there weren’t many pictures from the first one. My wife stayed in Virginia, worked full time, and took care of her at night. There just wasn’t much time for photography. That was tough enough that during the next deployment (they were only separated by a couple months), she decided to quit her job and move back to Kansas City with her parents in order to have more support around her. It was a terrific decision, and it allowed her to concentrate more on one of her true loves: photography.
As a result, there are a ton of pictures from that time, and they feature pretty heavily on my electronic frame’s rotation. Every time I see one of the pictures, it’s bitter sweet. My thoughts usually go along the same lines. “My daughter is so beautiful…I wish I would have been there.” Then I immediately start looking at the clock to see how long it is until I can go home. I start imagining all the things that I’m going to do with the kids because I need to enjoy my time with them now. “I’ll walk through the door, change out of my uniform, and then read them a book. After that, I’ll just lie on the floor for awhile and let them crawl on me. Maybe after dinner, we’ll snuggle down on the couch and watch The Emperor’s New Groove. I build up the ideal evening in my head and hurry through the rest of my day. I’ll fight the famous San Diego traffic on the way home anticipating those awesome hugs when I walk through the door. I’ll pull into the driveway, unlock
the door, and…
I can hear our son crying from his bedroom, our daughter is sound asleep, and my wife is sitting on the couch with a cup of tea. As soon as I walk through the door, I get the “Your children…” look. Both kids are terrific by themselves, but they haven’t quite figured out how to play together yet. These sessions almost always end in screams and tears. When that happens, naps, timeouts, and early bedtimes are the normal prescription. I’ll get the story of events, and it will become pretty obvious that the evening I had envisioned is in definite jeopardy.
What’s the right thing to do here? I know what I want to do. I want to go to their bedrooms, pick them both up, give them both hugs, and then play the night away. Maybe I could convince my wife that the punishment is excessive, and get her to relent. I could tell her, “Come on, it’ll be ok, let’s just watch a movie with them.” There are a number of things I could do that would preserve the evening that I had been envisioning all day.
The problem is that absolutely none of those things are fair to my wife or to the kids in the long run. If I go in and start playing with the kids, I’m immediately undermining my wife. I’m teaching the kids that they can do whatever they want during the day because everything will be fine once daddy gets home. That’s immensely unfair to my wife not good for the kids’ future development.
Therefore, I do the right thing. I swallow my disappointment, help my wife enforce the punishment, and sit down beside her on the couch to let her know that I support her. It’s not the easy thing to do, and it’s not what I want to do, but the right thing rarely is. This family is bigger than just me, and my desires have to be prioritized against everything else. When the scales tip away from me, it’s time to make sacrifices. There will be other days to do what I want. The books aren’t going anywhere and our DVD collection will stay put. I might be able to lie on the floor with the kids tomorrow, but tonight calls for me to sit on the couch with the wife instead. To me, that’s what doing the right thing means.
Bio: Military Dad is the proud parent of 2 and husband of 1. He’s spent the last 13 years in the Navy where they keep promoting him despite his best efforts. He is currently enjoying a terrific shore duty with his family. In his free time, he likes tormenting his wife and kids. He loves sharing his experiences as a father and a sailor on his blog: http://militarydadblog.com. Feel free to stop by and take a look.
**We are proud to welcome Military Dad as a new contributor to DadRevolution as the site seeks to grow once again. Please take a moment to welcome him to the revolution!**