For the past fifteen years I have watched my daughter Sydney grow into a mature, mindful and intelligent young lady. I give myself a lot of credit for who she is and I’m not too humble to say it. Sydney has my emotional intelligence, my measured calm.
This weekend, I went to the beach with my wife, Sydney and one of her best friends. While there, someone stole my wife’s engagement ring and wedding ring. Prior to this cowardly act, I had promised Sydney and her friend that they could pick out a sweatshirt or a necklace from anywhere on the boardwalk. After filing the police report, I got back into sorts and spoke the following words to Sydney. “Did you figure out what you wanted to get?” Her reply made me tear up. “Carleigh (her friend) and I talked and we cannot let you buy us anything when this has happened to you.”
I dropped her off with her mom this morning and I felt the usual emptiness that comes from knowing I will not see her soon enough. But today, I felt something else; appreciation for her mother, Summer. You see, it is easy to be proud of how Sydney has been raised but naïve and unappreciative to assume I have been the only reason for all of her terrific traits. I began thinking back over the past fifteen years, ten of which we have been divorced, co-parents of Sydney, and asked myself the following question: “what has Summer been able to bring to the parenting table that I have not?” This was a humbling but necessary exercise.
Here is what I found:
- While I fancy myself calm, I am fully aware that not everything can be dealt with or looked at from an overly calm lens. If Sydney was 100% calm, 100% of the time, she would not be able to express the raw, necessary emotions needed to release every now and then, to be alive, and to truly feel. We all go through trials and tribulations and thanks to Summer, Sydney does not deal with them through a suppressed lens.
- Sydney enjoys reading, tending to animals outside, gardening, and horseback riding. These are serene activities and environments that enable her to appreciate the little things while not getting caught up in the daily bustle. Summer has raised her in this regard, not me. This has served her well as it has enabled her to be more appreciative of life and the world whereas I tend to struggle enjoying some of the little things.
- Sydney has bounced from playing softball to doing karate to trying her hand at volleyball; and that’s been just the past nine months. I honestly can’t keep up with her interests anymore and there are times when it frustrates me. And yes, it is about costs (this stuff aint cheap) and focus, or lack thereof. Frankly, I worry that her lack of commitment and decisiveness about her hobbies today could translate to a non-committal mindset down the road, specifically when she’s in college. Summer sees a completely different picture. To her, it is perfectly healthy for Sydney to try new things in bunches. It gives Sydney experiences and her indecision today could lead her to be more focused tomorrow. Well said Summer!
I know myself.
I know Sydney and I love her deeply.
I know Summer and while our marriage did not work out, she is a great mother to Sydney.
More importantly, however, I know that I need Summer to round Sydney into an even more mature, intelligent and mindful young adult.
Reflecting back on the stolen rings and Sydney’s response, my wife shared with me that she saw Sydney put her head down into her hands after finding out. She saw the pain in Sydney’s eyes. Meanwhile, I was my usual calm self; that is not a compliment. Clearly, Sydney could teach me a thing or two. Summer could too.