A Father No Different Than Any Other
Essay provided by Michael Irving
LPA Today, winter 2008, Vol 43, No. 3
Learning you will be a father might prompt you to believe that you cannot do it – that you simply are not ready. Fight or flight, it’s up to you. But, I believe what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
From the moment my daughter was born I was a father. I may lose my job, lose my home, or even lose my life (almost the scariest of all, you figure out the scariest), but I will always from here on out, be a father – her father.
The challenges may be hurdles that I can jump over with my pseudo-athleticism, but I’m not trying to win ay race against any other father or anyone else for that matter. I don’t need a “World’s Best Father” sweatshirt to prove I am someone to anyone else. If it is given as a gift, I’ll proudly wear it though. Anyway, I might not be able to jump over every hurdle of fatherhood, but I can always run around them or under them-it’s not as though they are chasing me and I have to run away from them. I suppose too that the biggest hurdle, my fear that I will not be able to provide for my daughter’s welfare, safety and happiness, will continue to pop up.
Within our categorical society, I am different to some degree – four feet seven inches to be precise. While this degree of difference has not stopped me in the achievement of my dreams (obviously not as my daughter is a dream come true), it has forced many personal reflections on my perspective of my own short stature.
As I now know that my daughter will be a little person like myself, I have had to ask myself, “Am I okay with being a little person?” And, my answer is, absolutely! The days of wishing I was as tall as the other boys or was not on the receiving end of prolonged gazes of curiosity (staring) or misguided beliefs (“Oh, he’s a little boy without his mother”) are over. I must now believe and believe and believe that my difference (however I am to define difference in my dreams of harmonious humanity) is an opportunity to appreciate the differences of others as well as nurture the most precious part of who I am, my interior. Believe me though; I have rendered the services of many “interior decorators” (mental health professionals) in my life. If you ever need to head off the stigma of having to explain where you were when spending time in a mental health professional’s office, just tell them you were visiting an interior decorator (and hope they leave it at that).
What I have learned in being a father of difference is that, if you want your children to be ok with their own self, then you have to be ok with yourself. Case in point, I was attending my nephew’s baseball game and his younger brother, with the social savvy of a politician and the heart of a saint (most of the time) introduced me to his friends. “This is my Uncle Mike,” he said. “Hi, I’m Mike. What’s your name?” I said introducing myself in an upturned gesture for a high five. Skipping the formalities, my nephew’s friend said, “You’re short!” I’ve learned to acknowledge how children are reticent to speak their minds. I knew right then and there that my nephew was ok with my difference when he emphatically said, “So!”
The more energy we give our differences, the more energy our children will give our differences (and their own as well). My parents did not teach me to have a positive attitude in spite of my short stature. They taught me to have a positive attitude in general.
So, I guess what it really comes down to it not that I am a short statured father who is different. Yes, I am short. Yes, I am different. My stature does not make me different. My attitude and perception of difference makes me different (I’m only different if I believe I am different). And, my short stature, i.e. difference, does not make me a better father. The role I play in my daughter’s life does.
Michael Irving, classified in the medical circle as a dwarf with Hypocondroplasia, is a financial processor by profession, but is currently living his dream of being a husband and a father. He aspires to be an elementary school teacher and a writer. Michael currently lives in Knoxville, Iowa, known as the sprint car capital of the world (though he has yet to witness one live race).
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