Some of you may know that up until a few years ago, I'd always had a pretty rocky relationship with my father. We are both stubborn, strong-willed, always right in everything we do kind of people, which, obviously, leads to some clashing of wills. He struggled when I went through puberty and was no longer his little girl who wanted eskimo and butterfly kisses before bedtime. He had no clue what to do with a young woman, and I certainly had no idea what to do with a father who was pushing me away...so, as any 2 stubborn, strong-willed people would do, we fought it out with each other. We pushed each other to our limits and put our father-daughter relationship to the ultimate test. I'm sure my mother was at her wit's end playing referee for Daddy and me through my teenage years.
I went through a period of time when I was convinced my father didn't love me. Looking at it now, I know how ridiculous an idea this was, but at the time the pain was very real. I didn't understand that my father was expressing his love through his actions and over-protectiveness; I needed the words and he's never been comfortable with that. And that was the root of our problem.
Our break through came when I left for college. I'd spent the last 18 years of my life working to prove to my father that I was trustworthy, responsible, motivated and self-aware; that I wasn't a completely naive child who needed my hand held. I needed him to understand my intelligence, independence and ability to make a logical decision, but still remain aware of the fact that I was always going to need his (and Mom's) support to be as successful as possible. And slowly, over my freshman year, he got all of this. He finally gave me the credit I deserved, eased up a bit and we started getting along.
Somewhere in all of the shouting, door-slamming and crying we had started to figure each other out. I finally understood that, despite not always being able to say, "I love you" my father loves me with all of his heart. When he researches new digital cameras for me, makes extra chili so I can take some home with me or when he calls just to say hi in the middle of the day he is telling me he loves me. The words are hard for him, but the actions come naturally. And, he finally understood that sometimes I need him to loosen up, give me a hug and verbally tell me he loves me. We found a balance!
Today is my father's 58th birthday. He told me today that he isn't getting older, just better, and I have to agree. My mom is out of town so it'll just be Daddy and me celebrating tonight, which is what made me think so much on our relationship. Had it come down to just the 2 of us even a few years ago, dinner would've been awkward and strained. We would have endured the "celebration" out of familial obligation and to appease my mother. But, not this year. This year we are both actually looking forward to a father-daughter dinner and that is a truly wonderful thing.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Man!!