I believe the saying goes, "Anyone can be a father, but it takes a real man to be a Dad."
I'm beginning to think being a military dad takes an even more rare breed.
To the outside world, Squid cannot win. Truly he can't. On my side of the fence, there are those looking over and feeling that he left me and the kids to fend for ourselves, off doing his own thing while we cope with him being gone, checking out of this full-time job of parenting. On his side, there are those that cannot understand why he doesn't just leave me to it, why he stretches himself across the miles and dedicates so much of his so little down time to making sure our children know he's here even when he's not here. I mean, your wife stays home, right? Can't you just let her take care of it?
But this is where I have to use my soap box as a step, get on top of this fence and say to those looking on in either direction: to quote the great philosopher Taylor Swift, "You don't know what you don't know."
You don't know about this man who refused to leave his son even at the cost of getting in trouble until Bug had calmed down over "See you soon." You don't know that despite his busy and erratic schedule of classes, firefighting, watch, and duty he does bedtime- listens to their days, long stories, and occasionally when Sug' is *extra* sleepy, the incoherent rambling, prays with them, and tells them how much he loves them. Every single night, and the two times he misses it is completely disappointed. You don't know about this man who used his time that I imagine could have been spent getting well-deserved sleep in boot camp to make his children RTC-style birthday cards. You don't know that he took his first weekend away from that place and did training he didn't have to start till Monday to get to be with us that much faster. You don't know that he juggles enough for a single, unattached sailor to get overwhelmed, and then dives head-first into being there for his family, and never complains. And for those who say he doesn't have to do all this...you don't know the unbridled adoration that radiates off of our kiddos when they so much as hear his voice.
You may be reading this thinking, "Well no, I didn't know all of that, but how would I?"- and that's fair enough. I guess my suggestion to you is not to make assumptions one way or another...at least not until you've talked to Bug or Sugarplum Fairy, who will tell you without hesitation, as they do to both Squid and myself daily, that they have the most amazing dad on the planet. Bug had eight whole years of him being home "full time" and yet his opinion hasn't changed- do you wonder how that can be? I suppose the answer lies in that, maybe by God's provision and grace in knowing we'd face this, no one in this family seems to focus on how much he is away, but rather how much he does with the time he has, and he does more in that time with our beautiful kiddos than a lot of dads who sleep 50 ft from their kids seven days a week, twelve months a year. He is teaching them that he will take time out from ANYTHING he possibly can to listen to them, talk to them, make them laugh; and when they're face to face, wrestle and tickle and just play. They know they are invaluable to him, he makes sure they do, and that is just one of many things that makes him so amazing, and one of the things that let me know we could do this militrary life. I hope Bug and Sug' not only grow up knowing what they mean to him, but also that they learn something of being a parent from his devotion, and Bug something of being a man.
Any guy can be a father, tell his kids what they should do, how they should love, how hard they should work.
It takes a real man to lead by example.