I’ve been spending some time with my dad while Judy and Bubba visited her parents in Florida. This has probably been the longest stretch of time I have spent with my dad – alone – in years. I told him that if he wanted to make plans with friends my feelings wouldn’t be hurt; plus, I like their friends. As he pointed out, though, his friends all have kids which is great fun, but also means dealing with, well, Kid Stuff. Naps, meltdowns, Dora, whatever. He was excited to spend some time with his “favorite daughter” – the child who DOESN’T pee on the bathroom floor. What can I say? I’m a big deal.
Anyway, my relationship with my dad can be trying at times. In so many ways I am absolutely his daughter and yet not five minutes after we’ve had a good laugh together I will be ready to walk out the door and never come back. I have probably financed a lovely summer home or yacht for a very lucky therapist.
We’ve been having a lot of fun, thank goodness, and not because I have stuck to the Customary Safe Topics: Bubba, Baseball, Sports, Betty White and/or Jessica Simpson*. In fact, we have discussed politics, religion, my wedding, family dynamics and other Things We Usually Avoid Unless There is a Specific Situation Which Needs Addressing. Lame, probably, but it keeps the peace and saves my energy for more important things. Like… lusting over some Star Wars cookie cutters.
This time with my dad has been a great bonding experience and in a lot of ways has shown what a long way we have come in terms of being able to relate. Or at least express differing opinions in a respectful manner (a skill neither of us has quite perfected, especially with each other). It’s also nice to be able to look at him and say, “Yeah, I am very much my mother’s daughter but I got more from this guy than pasty skin and a disdain for the DH.”
But it has also brought into sharp focus the very different natures of the two people responsible for my presence, my DNA, my long toes** and curly hair. And also how for my mom, being married to my dad – even though it was a relatively short time in her life – played a huge role in who she is now.
My mom is known for her perfectionist, control-freak (for lack of a better term) ways. She is responsible to the point of stressing out on behalf of other people. She takes on everything she can – regardless of whether it is “her job” – and will push herself to the point of exhaustion.
My dad is also at times a control-freak perfectionist, but as I often put it, “Over shit that doesn’t matter.” He cares about how his clothes are hung up, but often has a “It’s not my problem” attitude toward certain situations. Some minor, some not. I know that a good deal of my mom’s attitudes and hyper-awareness of her responsibilities are a direct reaction/compensation for my dad’s nonchalance.
So here I sit, seeing parts of myself in each of my parents and trying to be a product of the best in each of them. I want to be reliable like my mom, but also be able to let go like my dad. A strong partner (and hopefully parent, one day), but also not take everything so damn seriously. Not an unusual balancing act, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
* Don’t ask. Seriously. It will just give you a headache.
** They are like fingers on my feet. For reals.