When I was little, my Mom gave me lots of love, and surrounded me with a doting extended family, but one thing I didn’t have was my father.
This isn’t a sob story. Life is complicated. My mother got remarried so I have a step-father; eventually I formed a long distance relationship with my own father – a good one that I cherish. But the word ‘Dad’ still gets stuck in my throat.
I made a vow a long time ago: if I ever had kids, they would have a father to say that word to unself-consciously; a Dad living in the same house with them as they grew. There’s just no way around it: Daddies are a big deal.
Seeing my daughters (ages six and four) with their father brings this into sharp relief. For my burning wish came true: my husband is a great father.
Studies have shown that the presence or absence of the biological father in a child’s life strongly influences diverse factors, from academic performance to self-esteem, from the level of aggressiveness in boys to the timing of puberty and choice of future romantic partners in girls.
Mothers and fathers also nurture differently. If one of the girls falls or gets a cut, it’s me they come crying to; nothing heals like a Mommy’s cuddle. I’m the one who gets up in the middle of the night when they’re sick, who makes sure their outfits match.
But Tom is better at encouraging independence. He tells them to get their coats on themselves, brush their own teeth, and for Mary, put her own homework in her bag before leaving for school. When Adelaide was smaller, he had her walking to the park with him and Mary when I would have popped her in the stroller.
I am more likely to play a board game with the girls, dance, draw or read with them.
He is more likely to be tossing them up in the air, and generally roughhousing with them, producing gales of giggles. Tom has taken Mary canoeing and camping, he and Adelaide go for hikes and she recently went to the auto show with him. (Who says girls can’t go to the auto show with their Dads? LOL!)
When I hear the little voices of my children calling “Daddy, Daddy!” or when I listen to his deep voice singing a lullaby at bedtime, my heart breaks. Fortunately, it also heals.
Tracy Cooper is a stay-at-home mother of Mary, 6, and Adelaide, 3.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2012.