I have three beautiful,creative, generous, smart and caring daughters. I feel really blessed to have them in my life. And yes, there have been times when I grumbled about how self-centered they were or how stubborn or over bearing they seemed in a given moment, but when the chips are down, they have always been there to encourage, support and inspire me. So, how did that happen?
Looking back as a parent, it's impossible for me to see the moments in the early life of my kids where my teaching or method of parenting could possibly have made a positive impression on their lives. Instead, I can recall any number of times I felt frustrated, confused, doubtful and convinced of my failure as a parent. Still, looking at them now as grownups, I must have done something right. (Either that, or their mom is completely responsible for their good character). The time when I felt the most clueless about parenting was the five year period they lived with me at Big Gray. Now, please don't misunderstand. I always loved the three of them intensely, and tried to show them my love on a daily basis unlike my own dad who loved me, I know, but was not demonstrative at all. I'm talking more about the qualities of constancy and good character which the ideal dad should exude. I'm afraid my kids saw all my weaknesses and lapses of character while they were with me at Big Gray. I was really immature and ill prepared to be a husband and father when I married, and had to "learn on the job". I guess we all do, but there were times I just wanted to close the door, put a pillow over my head, go to sleep and wake in another life. My parental difficulties were apparent in every phase of our lives together at Big Gray, whether it was getting them up in time for school, having their clothes, breakfast and lunches ready, seeing that their homework was complete, cooking a good supper or getting them into bed on time. I sucked at all of that. I was also pretty bad at refereeing their fights which came often. I even lost one of them in Central Park for 3 scary hours! Still, here they are, college graduates, amazing aunts and parents, great friends and loving daughters. I guess I could write a whole blog on the three of them. I'm really proud of them and all their accomplishments. Just, as I tell the history of their tenure at Big Gray and you, the reader of this sordid tale considers having me tried for parental abuse, know that the story comes out well. They aren't without their scars from growing up (are any of us?), but by and large, they have reached a level of, well, greatness. Yeah, yeah I'm prejudiced, but believe me, to know them is to love them. Happy Father's Day to me!
Here's their part of the story.
When my wife asked me to take them for the summer, I was relieved they would be with me. Over the year they lived in Berkeley, I only saw them once, and while they lived in Connecticut, we saw each other weekly when they visited the house or when I took the train to Norwalk. Still, I missed them. So, it was great to have them with me at Big Gray, but as August came close and my wife still hadn't found a new place to live (she wasn't getting along with the Connecticut guy), I had to consider putting them in school in Bayridge. I went to the house too, and asked for permission to extend their stay. I received a somewhat reluctant ok, and registered them in the local elementary school. My oldest was ready for the fifth grade. She was a great reader, but had somewhat mediocre math skills. They placed her in the middle or second track. My middle kid was a good math student. She went into third grade. And my youngest was starting the first grade. As September grew near, I met with my wife to discuss their staying with me and starting school in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, I handled the meeting poorly and we got into a horrible brawl. It was really unfortunate, because it changed from what might have been a good remedy for the situation into something my poor wife saw as me stealing the kids and abandoning her. That feeling colored our relationship and changed the separation from being relatively peaceful to bitter. It also was unfair to the kids and to the rest of my Big Gray family who had to listen to our fights as we made the weekly exchange. (I would bring them to her on Friday night and she would return them on Sunday night). Things got so bad between us that the house voted to restrict my wife from coming into the house or visiting. Of course, that seemed terribly unfair to the kids, and my oldest actually addressed a house meeting asking for permission for her mother to visit. When she finally got an apartment near the house, things cooled down a bit, but that five year span was marred with our bad handling of the separation. In spite of that, it gave me an opportunity to learn how to parent, and it changed Big Gray for the better too. Big Gray wasn't new to change, and even bigger changes were about to happen as we attempted to find a replacement for Jaime.