Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Peaceful Father's Day

Yesterday, Ryan encouraged me to write a blog.  He listened as I told him how many stages there are to me writing a blog; conceptualizing, creating a writing space, narrowing down my topic, beginning a draft, (often) deleting my first attempt, committing to a more narrow topic, changing my angle, committing to the piece I'm writing, even after I've decided it's awful and not at all what I want to convey, finishing it and finally sharing. 

He listened to me talk about how I often choose laundry over writing a blog, then he encouraged me again.  So today's blog is all for him. 

My daughters are away at an Advanced Astronomy Camp at Kitt Peak, they're staying up late, looking through some of the largest telescopes in the US, one day they'll be going up to Mount Graham and looking through the largest telescope in the world.  They're with other high school kids, sleeping in dorms designed for full-time astronomers.  The astronomers they're with are incredibly passionate about when they do and the science they're learning is absolutely incredible.  It's an amazing opportunity.  We're so grateful that they were accepted

I do have to admit, however, that when we saw the dates of the camp, six months ago, our hearts sank a little.  We knew what was coming.  We knew my husband would be spending his first ever Father's Day away from his daughters. 

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law had to make an emergency trip to Michigan to be with his mom, so Ryan is also not seeing his own dad today either.  Don't worry, we'll celebrate once everyone comes home.

But I thought I'd celebrate him today by recording who he is as a dad today.  Or at least what I can manage to write down in a few hours, while he's out golfing (New Father's Day tradition).   

Ryan became a dad at age 18.  

By the time this photo was taken, Ryan had read at least 15-20 books relating to babies, birth, development, twins and raising children.   

He has changed as many diapers as I have and given just as many baths. 

We both fed our children and kept them safe.  We both read books to them.  He took them on more walks.  I taught them more songs.

We started building family traditions.  One of our most favorite is going to the Tucson Saint Patrick's Day Parade as a family and trying to get the people in the parade to flash "peace fingers" to us as we wave our peace fingers to them. 

"Peace fingers."  Ryan has taught and still teaches our daughters to believe in Peace.  This started at a young age, and continues anytime we talk about the things around us and the world.  

Although we've taken turns being the "primary caretaker" of our children.  Ryan has almost always been the one to take them to school.  Each day he gets out of the car, walks over to each daughter, hugs her and says, "Be peaceful" before sending her into the world. 

He's done this everyday that he's ever dropped them off anywhere, since kindergarten. 

As a dad, he had to make some sacrifices.  Much of that included him working in places he didn't want to work, in order to support our family.  Some of that meant breaks from school so he could help support me. 

We took turns.  He supported me.  I supported him.  We supported each other.  Sometimes it was literally financially, but most often, it was a plate of food wordlessly being handed to me as I frantically typed out a 30 page paper.  Or it would be the words, "You got this.  You can do this" on the phone as someone is crying on the other end or we're both crying together.  Sometimes it would be drinking up a cup of coffee at 2 in the morning as the other finished up a paper. 

It took him longer than he wanted to graduate from the UofA, but he did it.  His persistence was incredible.  Ryan was a first generation college graduate.  Part of his drive was to give his daughters a better chance at their own college-experience, when their times comes.    

For us, that time seems to be coming lightening fast.  It seemed that our daughters just turned 10, then 12, where did 11 go?! Now they're at a camp with upperclassmen?  They'll be going into their freshmen year of school. 

Four more years will be college.

We've had a lot of people tell us, "You'll be free." as if we've been in prison and we're coming up on parole.  But for both Ryan and myself, it's a feeling of confusion.  We feel fear and loss and excitement and worry.  

We're trying to give our daughters the freedom to be individuals with the skills they'll need as adults, but it's hard because we're parents, and they're our children and that's what parents do. 

It's just surprising that we're going through what others go through at such a young age.  We'll be 36 when our kids graduate from high school.  Many of our friends will be taking their kids to kindergarten or first grade when they're that age. 

Our family spends a lot of time together in different ways. 

We can be noisy.  We can laugh and yell and blare music or the TV.  We like to watch movies and eat popcorn and always, always, always, someone wants to play a videogame.

But we're also extremely comfortable in our family's silence.  We share a bubble of space while we're all in the different worlds of our books, yet still connected by the quiet sound of breathing and the occasional flip of a page. 

Usually, it starts with only one person reading.  Then, a second person joins, because they're trying to be quiet for the first person.  Then a third person joins with their book.  Then finally the fourth.  All of it is done without talking.  It just happens.  It's magic.  It's not exactly rare, but it's not exactly common either.   

Most days we're rushed and flustered and school projects are left half finished and we're scrambling to figure out what to have for dinner. 

But we always have dinner together.  The four of us at our dinner table.  Every day at dinner our children say "thank you" to whoever prepared or purchased the mean.  If they helped, they'll say, "Thank you for dinner, me." or "Thank you to everyone who helped make dinner." "I didn't help." "Then thank you for eating it." or "Thank you for putting the napkins on the table."

We like to eat out.  Ryan has taught my daughters to be adventurous eaters.  They like chilies and sushi and other things that I'm not a fan of.  They'll try anything.  Every time they try something that I don't like, I'm awed because I had absolutely nothing to do with it. 

All of that comes from Ryan. 

We don't have a super serious household.  We spend a lot of time being silly and goofy.  We don't take ourselves too seriously.  Yes, we can have really deep, important conversations, but we can also just laugh and have fun.  We try to think outside the box.  We try to surprise our kids by saying yes to things they think we'll say no to. 

Ryan has a really amazing connection with our daughters.  He often talks about how much he misses their "need" for him, now that they come to me with most of their questions and their problems.  But, I can't stop a teenage-meltdown from happening or cheer up a sulking teenager because I don't have the patience.  Although I constantly try and feel like I'm making progress, it's usually Ryan who can resolve the issue and get things back to our family's normal.

Ryan is a hilarious man, especially because he doesn't seem to really care about what others think of him.  He doesn't care if he comes off as a dork.  He doesn't think that there are "males only" or "female only" things. 

Ryan will go to a birthday party and wear a tiara.  Ryan will go to a babyshower and enthusiastically win prizes.  Ryan will buy pads and tampons at the grocery store without batting an eye.  Ryan supports his daughters and I as women and as human beings.  

He's an incredible father who is constantly, intentionally growing as a father and a husband.  Even now, after being together for 15 years and with our children about to go into high school, Ryan is thinking and talking about ways he can improve as a parent and a spouse. 

It's amazing to be around someone who isn't afraid to apologize to their children.  It's amazing to be around someone who takes the time explain things and to engage our children in important conversations, then five minutes later, make them laugh by quoting a cartoon they saw together on TV.   

She asked him a question about sports.  He was so happy he pretended to cry. 

Chess Dad

Here's a photo of Ryan showing off his old school Nintendo skills to a group of 13 year olds.  They were playing Mike Tyson's Punchout.

Proud Chess Dad and his Daughters right after they both qualified for the State Chess Championship. 

Peace Fingers from our family to yours.

The laundry that I've been putting off while writing this piece has been yelling louder and louder for me to get off my auth. 

I could gush about Ryan Kelly all day, everyday and it still wouldn't do him justice.  He's been an amazing partner and an amazing parent. 

I'd just like to wish him a peaceful Father's Day. 

I love you.