by Jon Covington
My wife and I have four kids, which means I’ve been through the child birthing process four times. I’ve never once had so much as an aspirin, even though one child was delivered via C-section–although the anesthesiologist did ask if I was okay at one point. I remember each child in that first moment. Everyone says how beautiful babies are, and how precious. Maybe I’m the oddball here, but I remember their being wrinkled and shriveled things that did nothing but scream for the first months and that were anything but adorable. I did often wonder when they would be able to “do something.” And then I would find myself wondering what they might be when they grew up.
With four kids, there are four totally different personalities and four different skill sets and interests. I would like to focus for a moment on my oldest daughter. She turned 11 last week, and as we were enjoying her birthday morning, I found myself wondering again what she might be when she grows up.
We have tried to foster her interests along the way. She’s extremely creative in all things artistic. She also loves horses and all things having to do with animals. She would rather run around barefoot than put on shoes. She’s the social butterfly who always has a smile on her face. Basically, she’s the anti-me. Figuring out how to relate to her is hard sometimes. Not only do I not understand girls (at all!) but our interests are pretty far apart.
So, as dads, how can we relate? We have to learn to like new things. (Just like that squealing bundle of…joy.) We must learn to find out what makes them tick and we must learn to step out of our realms of “expertise.”
Let’s talk about hair expertise. I wash mine. Dry it. I might comb it. Then I’m done. Girls with long hair are a little more complicated. There’s conditioner, braids of all types, brushes, clips, barrettes–who knew? There was a time when, if my wife was out of commission for a few days and the girls needed their hair done, a good friend of ours would braid it for them, and it would stay that way for days and days. Several weeks ago I attempted a braid. I worked quickly, weaving the strands in and out. It was fantastic until I let go. My daughter and I both laughed at my ineptness. It really was pitiful, but I think she appreciated my effort. I was willing to learn and I showed an interest.
I’ve also learned to appreciate the beauty of her art. She truly is fantastic and I stare in awe at some of her creations. I can watch her draw–in her Bob Ross style–with amazement. When I think she’s going to totally ruin her work of art with a squiggle or a drop of paint, it turns out to be perfect–just like she saw it in her mind. I’ve had to learn all about horses. I never knew that there were so many different kinds, colors, breeds, heights, riding styles, saddle configurations, etc. Did you know that some riders even braid their horses’ tails? I’ve sat through home-grown plays, skits, and musicals, with all three girls singing songs from their favorite movies…over and over and over again.
The older my daughter gets, the more she hones in on her primary interests. I honestly don’t care if she’s a mother, a housewife, a veterinarian, an artist, or the president. As long as she enjoys what she does (and she lets me watch the masterpiece develop, help saddle the horse, or practice my braiding skills) I’ll be happy. That squealing bundle of “joy” is turning into a fantastic young lady, and I’ll be there to learn to appreciate her for who she becomes.
Jonathan Covington is a homeschooling father of four–meaning that his fantastic wife, Jennifer, does all the hard work. He owns an architectural firm in Virginia Beach. He’s also an endurance athlete (who doesn’t finish last). Follow him on Twitter (@viper4454) or on Facebook to see that anyone can train for an endurance event.