Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Family Matters:
Fathering for Luxury and Necessity

--Feature: "Fathering the Family w/Rich Givens"--

As fathers, it isn’t always our first thought to sublimate our desires or alter our way of life to suit our children. We are taught to provide and focus on success defined in ways that aren’t necessarily consistent with our children’s simple needs.

A powerful emotional moment changed my perspective.

My daughter stood at the open door, wailing. Her beautiful eyes were filled with tears, and she reached towards me frantic and hysterical. She was terrified at the thought of us leaving her behind with this stranger. Only one year old, she couldn’t understand our motivations. She just wanted her mommy and daddy. Still, we left our child at the daycare provider’s home and drove away, towards work and responsibility.

People are certainly busy. Fancy houses, twin cars, cable TV, and cell phones all cost money. We exchange our time and our labor for them. This is a lifestyle many of us feel compelled to seek, and I was not immune. My desire to meet my daughter’s needs led me to ask a few questions. What is the difference between a necessity and a luxury? How much is enough? Was the trade I was making a good one?

The answer for me was no. I made a vow to be an advocate for my child. I resolved that I would not be the cause of insecurity or a source of disappointment. Innocence deserves better. Little ones are helpless, subject to forces they can neither understand nor control. They seek security and protection, and we must give it to them. Children have instinctive fears. One of the most primal is a fear of separation from their parents.

As I listened to my daughter cry, my heart stretched and bent. I realized that parents also have instincts. I wanted to be with her as much as she wanted to be with me. I ached to protect her, to calm her fears and restore comfortable order to her world. I chose to spend more time at home, though it impacted us financially. I chose work that was more flexible and friendly to family life. We lived a bit simpler. We had fewer expensive things. We survived

My daughter and I spent countless days playing together. We walked the malls, climbed the jungle gyms, bounced the bouncy balls, and brushed the dolly’s hair. We raced the duckies around the bathtub, snuggled down for naps, read our stories, and danced with wild abandon to old songs. Our relationship bloomed.

Eventually I started my own business. It hasn’t always been easy, but the rewards of being there for my family are well worth it.

It’s been a decade since that teary toddler moment. Our family has changed and grown. My wife and I now work together from home so one of us is always there, available to our children. We deal with the inevitable ups and downs with an understanding that we do what we do for a reason. Our children will only be young for a short while, so we prioritize them. For their part, our kids seem secure and confident in themselves and in our family.

I am thrilled to be present. I have been there for all of the important developments and firsts in my children’s lives. I will be there for the ones that lie ahead. Each moment is priceless.

Rich Givens is Co-Founder of Primal Parenting Magazine, a revolutionary new publication seeking to educate and empower families. For more information on Primal Parenting Magazine go to www.primalparentingmagazine.com

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