Friday, June 14, 2013

He's never the squeaky wheel, but he deserves some grease. Happy Father's Day, Kevin.

Kevin and his kids, 2011
I didn't know my husband when he became a dad. But I'm grateful to watch him help raise his four kids and to benefit from the expertise he would never admit he possesses.

Kevin is a low-key individual; not only does he not toot his own horn, but he doesn't really share personal information in general. That's why I have to on his behalf; it's Father's Day weekend, and I'm obligated to give credit where credit is due.

And credit is certainly due.

When a couple divorces, it's hard to determine what a parent's "new" parental identity is going to be. The identity becomes a new one because a single parent functions differently from a married or partnered one; when you suddenly become both the mom and the dad in your home, you're forced to regroup.

As I came along after the transformation, I can't really speak to how it all worked out initially. But a few months into his new role, it was as if he was born to handle a houseful of kids on his own.

Even in those early days, Kevin had an almost uncanny ability to set aside his own hurt feelings and focus on his children. His degree of grace was one I certainly hadn't possessed in my own divorce, and I watched with a sense of wonder. Although he was sad, he drew strength from lasering in on his children and trying to ensure they were whole and happy.

Was the laundry always done? Not all of it, but the necessary clothing was clean and pressed, and the kids looked nice when they went out into the world.  Was the house clean, and was the refrigerator always stocked? No, but the necessities were taken care of.

To Kevin, household responsibilities were the incidental things. These things were not incidental: having time to play foursquare with his daughters, throw a ball with his younger son, or cuddle on the couch to watch movies with all of them.  And he didn't have to work at making time; he loved making time, and the laundry could pile up for days because he knew the other activities were the critical ones to the success of his family.

He was a fun dad, but not a Disneyland one; he policed the homework and never missed a conference; he modeled behaviors he knew the kids should emulate. He got up and went to work every morning, and he worked hard. He helped others whenever and wherever he was needed. He didn't gossip, and he didn't judge.

He stressed the old-fashioned but never-out-of-fashion things: respect. Family ties. Playing outdoors and eating balanced meals. He wasn't big on frills, but he turned mundane activities into memories.

As his kids grew, he remained consistent. Although it's never easy to incent teenagers to spend time with parents, he insisted on weekly trips to the miniature-golf course or bowling alley. Weekend activities he may have wanted to participate in took a back seat to watching TV while he waited for a daughter or son to call for a ride home, or as he chaperoned an impromptu party in the basement.

He never complained because he never minded. That holds true today; only one child is left at home, and that child's needs and activities come first.  Kevin's life is his kids, which is one of the many reasons I admire, love and respect him.

He often refers to himself as "boring," and when you're the boring parent, you don't get a lot of press. Accolades don't often come his way, but that's not what he's after.

His fulfillment comes in watching his older son travel the country as a filmmaker, earning money in a job he loves; it comes in watching his younger son excel on the ball field and in the classroom. It comes in the joy he feels when his younger daughter, who shares his knack for telling long and silly stories, shows up "just because," or when he gets to spend time with his older daughter and his granddaughter.

His fulfillment comes in the knowledge that consistently, he did the best he could. And to him, a private "I love you, Dad," is all the validation he needs of a job well done.

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