Communication. I’m a firm believer that a good relationship needs good communication. Not just an adequate amount of communication, but it needs to be comfortable to communicate with the other person in the relationship.
If you are uncomfortable and hesitant about having a conversation with that person about a topic — any topic — they will pick-up on the vibe you’re putting out and they’ll be more hesitant to communicate with you in the future. It may start out that they won’t want to communicate with you about that particular topic, because they know, albeit subconsciously, that it makes you uncomfortable. But if they stop talking to you about this topic, then there will be another that they won’t approach you with because they suspect you won’t like it…then another…and another… Now you’re no longer communicating with that person in the relationship.
You do realize you’re in a relationship with your kids don’t you?
He Wouldn’t Understand
Several years ago the egg donor was moving out of state with her new victim husband and decided that she wanted to have the kids move with her. We had 50/50 custody at the time, and there were no tangibles that would indicate that one of us was a better parent than the other; no history of violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, etc. (The “better” parent has emerged in the kids’ eyes over the years though, so it’s all good.) She believed that she had a solid argument that the court couldn’t overlook.
Our daughter, Karen (age 10), is beginning to go through the stages of puberty. She needs to be with me for the 80% of the year, so I can, as her mother, guide her and teach her about growing into a woman and taking care of herself.
I found this rather insulting. Not only to myself, but also to any other fathers out there who find themselves raising a daughter with no female parent in the picture. The one thing it did make me think more about was the conversations I would have to engage in with my daughter at some point.
When the time came, the conversations weren’t easy. Mainly because the egg donor has spent the summer — the kids spent 90% of the summer with her, then returned home to me for the school year — repeatedly telling Karen that she “could not”, “should not”, “must not” discuss feminine issues with me. I was able to have the conversations, but Karen wasn’t.
It took some time to gently perform the deprogramming necessary to allow my own daughter to trust the things I would say. The turning point was Karen’s 4th period.
Karen’s periods were irregular. Something very typical for a young girl. At least that’s what I told her. The egg donor on the other had told Karen that she HAD to go to the doctor. Not just any doctor. “Your father doesn’t know what he’s talking about!! You have to go see an OB/GYN right away.”
12 1/2 years old. You’re being told there’s something wrong with you. By the person who has convinced you that they are the one person that has correct information for you.
I told Karen, very directly and frankly, that her mother was wrong. That she probably won’t need to see an OB/GYN for many years. “But… don’t take my word for it. Lets go to your regular doctor and see what she says. She is a professional and knows about kids growing up better than I do, and better than your mother does.”
Turns out I was right. Karen started talking to me about everything after that. Very openly. Very candidly.
For years I’ve told my kids that we have two very basic rules in this house when it comes to questions they may ask me:
- I will always tell you the truth
- If I don’t think it’s appropriate for you to hear the truth, I will tell you that I don’t think it’s appropriate.
Bottom line: I will not lie to you.
This soon turned into the rule for any conversation we would have.
There were never conversations about the stork bringing babies, nor about what a bitch their mother is; see rule #2. (Yes, they were told Santa came down the chimney and that the tooth fairly would come…but they already knew.)
I’m not going to lie. The first time my daughter came to me to ask about using tampons, discuss volume, or ask what kind of bra to get wasn’t easy. But I couldn’t show that, and didn’t. It pays off.
Having these conversations with her over the years, not holding back, and not hesitating in having those conversations has helped us both to become more and more comfortable, and conversations just happen now.
Being The PARENT
I’ve heard it said that as a single parent you have to wear two hats; mother and father. I disagree. I believe that you have one hat to wear; PARENT.
I told Karen many times that it’s okay to talk to me about these things because I’m her “PARENT”. Not because I’m her dad, but because I’m raising her to be the best young woman she can become. That I have nothing but her best interests in mind. That, is my sole motivation. See rule #1.