Whenever feasible, my ex-wife and I try to arrange it so that the kids can get some one on one time with each of us. Saturdays are usually time for my oldest and I since she has horseback riding lessons and that’s kind of become our thing. We then grab lunch afterward and sometimes, as was the case this past Saturday, go shopping.
On the agenda this particular Target trip was a new pair of jeans. Now, I’d been shopping with my wife as well as ex-girlfriends before. As is the case for many husbands and boyfriends, shopping isn’t necessarily at the top of our bucket list. But as we were going back and forth between the floor and the dressing rooms something hit me like a bolt of lightening. It dawned on me that one day, it will be HER boyfriend shopping with her. I was immediately flooded by an overwhelming flurry of thoughts and revelations about my previous relationships including my marriage.
Before I continue, I would like to point out that I am indeed a guy. And as a guy, there are many things that completely pass over my head. In many cases it may be years before what may appear obvious to others, becomes a lightbulb in my own brain. Please keep that in mind as you read on.
It dawned on me while I was shopping with my daughter that I had an opportunity to set an example. By that I simply mean, make it a great experience for her and make it all about her and be as patient as possible. That way, when some young lad is a jerk to her perhaps she’ll look back and realize that’s not acceptable. Maybe on some level, as her first true male relationship, I have a chance to set a precedent and a way for her to gauge how boys treat her later in life. It may seem like a “duh” moment, especially to women, but I don’t think it ever really hit me just how grand an opportunity I have as her dad to be what I feel she deserves to have later in life.
But it didn’t stop there. The pain from the first demolition ball hadn’t quite dissipated before, ugh, I was stopped dead in my tracks and was almost knocked unconcience by a second revelation that seriously rocked me to the core. As I considered my daughter’s future boyfriends waltzing around Target with her, I began to look back at the number of times I neglected to treat my own wife the way I would want a young man to treat my little girl. On just how many occasions had I been an ass and made a simple experience like shopping for jeans a miserable experience. I realize it’s apples and oranges on some levels, but in many ways it’s more like comparing Granny Smith and Macintosh. What a smack to the gut it was to recognize that there had been so many circumstances in our relationship when I acted in a manner that, if I were watching a boy act the same way to my daughter, I’d be none too pleased.
Now, I’m not talking about anything physical or extreme. And maybe on some level a father’s expectation is unrealistic. But I think as a husband, and then ultimately as a father, we don’t even realize when we may be condescending or less than chivalrous. As the father of little girls, perhaps the greatest thing we can do as dads is to consider that how we’re acting toward them today will likely affect the way they look at young suiters tomorrow. Will we be a gauge for what they feel they deserve in terms of respect and consideration. How much will the way we approach a simple action like shopping for clothes dictate how they expect their boyfriend or husband to handle the same situation or even something on a deeper emotional level? My wife tried to point this out to me on some level more than once and it just didn’t register for one reason or another. I mean, it did to a point, but not to the extent that the revelations hit me during this latest trip to the circle and the dot.
So the way I see it, I have a choice and an opportunity to be something to my daughters that perhaps I wasn’t always a good example of as a husband. I want them to see what they should expect their partner to be later on in life. It’s a chance for me to take another good hard look in the mirror and become a better father and at the same time, perhaps a better partner for someone in the future.
And it doesn’t stop there. I can only imagine how the way I react to my daughters will affect the way my son reacts to women as HE gets older as well. All three of them are sponges which begs the question, what sort of spills are we leaving for them to soak up?
So, after trying on eight or ten pair she found two that were a perfect fit. And I, in turn, walked away with some invaluable insights that hopefully will stop me when I start to turn into someone I don’t want my daughter going out with 10 (or 20) years from now. Honestly, it was one of my favorite shopping experiences of all time. If I have any regret, it’s that I hadn’t utilized more of those opportunities to bond with my ex-wife as much as I did my daughter. Not that it necessarily would have saved my marriage. But maybe it would have been a step in the right direction. A direction I hope to maintain as my relationship with my daughters continues to grow.