Jim was a big guy. My office seemed smaller with him inside. His hand engulfed mine as we greeted one another. He wasn’t angry but he was stressed. He and his wife sat down on my couch. The couch got smaller, the room got quieter. I waited for this couple to find their words, their starting place. They exchanged a nervous glance with one another. They were desperately wanting and needing to tell their story. They had lots to tell. They were waiting for one another at this unmarked intersection.
Jim’s wife took the first step. “ Our daughter is struggling….” was as far as she got. Her voice trailed off into sobs. Jim said nothing but his head dropped and his huge shoulders rolled forward like collapsing glaciers. Jim’s wife repackaged herself and after several minutes began to spill out the history and details of their daughters struggle. Jim sat silent for two hours while his wife reviewed and recounted three years of clinical notes and history regarding their daughter.
Jim was a little surprised when I asked for his insights and observations about his daughter and her struggles. His wife had been the one coordinating and communicating with all the teachers, counselors and doctors. He was quick to point out that he was just a “ Construction guy.” His wife was the one who read all the books on parenting. I pressed a little further on him. He became flustered and finally blurted out, “ I don’t know how to parent like my wife. I am just trying to stay out of the way and not mess things up.” Jim had made some mistakes early on trying to confront and motivate his daughter. His attempts to step in and turn things around had not worked out so well. These early missteps had turned him into a Silent Witness.
Jim had come to believe that his greatest contribution was to step back, step out and let someone else help his daughter. Over the years I have seen lots of fathers come to the same conclusion. Highlight this in your brain. Tattoo this on your favorite body part. Your daughter has one father. It is you. There is not a book, aboyfriend, an expert or even a great mom who can replace you or make your contribution. There are lots of great influences that can and should be part of your daughter’s life. You my friend will always be irreplaceable.
Jim slowly but faithfully found his courage and his voice with his daughter. Turns out she did not need him to be perfect. Healing rarely requires perfection. Truth and love spoken together, even imperfectly do a good work in all of our hearts. Keep Speaking. Keep Loving.
Dr. Don w.
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