As a child I was tender hearted. As a young adult however I became brazen, always coming home with crazy ideas and plans. My mother was often exasperated while my father always believed.
Its taken some time to understand why. I think that my mother was worried about the woman I was becoming. She could see things as a woman herself that my father couldn’t. She saw an uphill climb, glass ceilings, double standards, unattainable expectations. Physical and bodily danger. She knew that regardless of my choices my path would be harder. She wanted me strong and she wanted me ready.
My father, on the other hand, saw the person I was becoming. I was limitless, genderless, pure potential to him. When I look back, he wasn’t even bent out of shape when I started dating. He trusted me and knew I was smart. And whenever I came home as a young adult with the kind of news that would send just about any parent of a young woman into a frenzy – “I’m changing my major from biology to theology! I’m going to live in India for a year! I’m going to art school! I’m going to move in with a guy I’ve only known for four months!” – my father would always be the one talking my mother off the ledge.
In the world of start up businesses, my dad is what is called an early adopter. It means he likes the idea so much that he’s willing to take a chance on it, even if the product or service isn’t perfect from the get go. Anyone starting a business is looking for their early adopters. My dad has been an early adopter of all things Mel ever since I can remember, ever since I started up.
Now that I’m full grown, I talk more with my mom than my dad. I wonder, sometimes, if the reason we’re no longer thick as thieves, my dad and I, is because he couldn’t protect me from the hard decisions life threw at me. I was limitless back then, I clearly have limits now. He is proud of me, he is always so proud of me, its not disappointment between us. When you grow up as a little girl’s Superman, you want to break down every wall in her way.
I’ve heard it said that women marry men like their fathers. A day came when a man who had known me only six months asked for my hand in marriage and, as it was described to me, both my parents were equally calm during the request. No one went into a frenzy, there was no early adopter on this one. Perhaps it was the last of my crazy decisions or maybe they just knew it too: I was going to marry a man like my dad.
I find myself worrying about the man my son will become. He’s always been bigger than other babies and children, will he remain gentle when he towers over me and his peers? If he chooses a woman to be his partner in life, what will he expect of her as a wife and mother given the traditional roles his parents play but never intended for themselves? Will he understand the advantages he has and continue to prioritize kindness and justice in his life?
Sam, however, sees the person in our son. The limitless, pure potential. He’s the one cheering the loudest, “You can do it!” He takes videos and the pictures at dive meets, never missing a basketball game, drives him to practice. He takes him camping and hiking to show him the beauty of our natural world, hoping he will feel wonder and responsibility for it. Sam always talks about sailing with our son so that he knows what freedom feels like, to go where there are no roads, no things, no stuff: just wind and water, your mind and your heart. He worries less about the man, more about the human. Who will be, like his father, someone wonderful.
Just wanted to share a handful of pictures I’ve had the privilege to capture of men being fathers. Playing, loving, helping and most of all… believing. Believing in everything these kids are and who they will be.
And… my all time favorite picture of my son’s dad from an early morning back in the day. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads. Especially the two who have made my life truly remarkable.