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  • rebeccaforster

Watchers, Butterfly Herders, OGs

When our oldest was in middle school, I asked why he and his brother never did anything bad. Other mothers told me there were some real shenanigans going on in and out of school, so why weren’t my kids involved? His answer stopped me cold.

“Because we don’t want to mess up anything for dad.”

I complimented his thoughtfulness even though I wondered why I wasn't in the equation.

Now, years later, I understand what he was telling me. He loved his father deeply. His feelings were both ephemeral and weighty, so like any deep emotion there were no words to adequately describe it. Steve’s opinion of them was so important that both boys decided to live in a way that would make their father proud. More than that, they didn’t want to lose their guide in a world that was a little bit scary, a little bit confusing, and a little bit exciting. What Steve brought to the table was a parental style that was different than mine. We were both loved, but Steve was cherished for his calm, consistency, and wisdom.

As a human being, he has always been a ‘watcher’. I knew this when we married. He saw not just the forest, but each tree, squirrel, and bee. He appreciates both the beauty and the danger in his surroundings. To walk with him means that you are safe. If you choose to explore, he won’t let you stray too far. If you want to hold his hand on the journey, he never shakes you off.  If you lose your way, the watcher will get you back to the path no matter how long it takes or how hard the terrain.

Our youngest, Eric, loved to climb on walls when he was a toddler. Without warning he would launch himself at Steve, and even if Steve’s back was turned, he somehow managed to catch him. At some point, Eric stopped jumping off walls and started climbing mountains, but Steve has never stopped watching. Just in case.

Our oldest, Alex, is a watcher like his father. He sees need in the world and takes care of problems without fanfare. I have seen him rush to the scene of an accident to care for someone who’s hurt, and transform his neighborhood to make it both beautiful and safe. He has learned how to do this because he was raised by a father who showed him how to do it.

I know there are a zillion 'best dads' out there, each with his own style: the ‘OG’, big and brash who tames the world for his kids, the ‘butterfly herder’, who cares for the child who lives in their soul, the ‘accountant’ who makes sense of a crazy world for their children. There is no best way to be a dad, and somehow, as children, we seem to get the dad we need. For that I will always be grateful not only to my own father and grandfather, but to my husband for managing this job with amazing grace and love.

No matter what kind of dad you are, thank you for caring for your children in your special way, for making sure they are safe, for giving them rope but not enough to hang themselves.

You guys are awesome.

Happy Father’s Day!



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