What Makes a Super Papa?

A few days ago, I shared an old letter to my Super Dad. I read a few parts of it to Mila and saw her smiling at the picture.

“He’s a Super Papa, don’t you think?”

“Yeah. He my Super Papa… but why?”

We’re head deep in the “why” stage here, so I wasn’t too surprised at this question. Instead of answering her, I turned that question back to her for the next few days. During that time, I’ve wrote down all the reasons Mila thinks her Papa is her Super Papa.

Swims in the pool with me.

Let’s me surf.

Walks.

Gives me ‘nacks.

Catching the moon.

Gets rocks.

Plays with me.

Go fishing.

Tells stories.

Makes me smile.

I give him a heart.

Everything that makes him super in her eyes is being present and there for her. After she would tell me her reason, she would tell me she loves her Papa and wants to go to their house.

As she wrote in his Father’s Day card, she sung, “I love my Papa Ridgway. My Papa Ridgway loves me. He makes me happy. This is me and this is him.

I don’t know the true definition of a Super Papa, but I think Mila has it right.

Those important to you aren’t important just for one reason. It’s the millions of little things that let you know they care about you. The moments that she identifies him as super might seem like simple pieces to some, but are everything to her.

It’s the difference of making a regular man a Super Papa.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father figures positively impacting the kids in their lives. You help make the world go round. Good father figures need recognized and celebrated, especially today!

Thank you to any father figure who is putting the work in. It takes a village to raise a gold generation.

A Letter to my Super Dad.

*This letter was originally written in 2013. I’ve been reflecting on fatherhood so much this week, that I remembered this letter and wanted to share it again. So my dad could be reminded of how much he meant to me then and still today.

It’s hard for me to think a ton of negative thoughts about fatherhood, because I have one of the best.*

Dear Dad;

When I close my eyes, I can easily imagine a few people. Most notably is my family. When I picture my mom, I see her smile and hear her laugh. It gives me a warm feelings. Logan’s picture in my head is him a football uniform. I sense a strong, but welcoming feeling. My dad is more complex. I picture a him smiling too, but much taller than he actually is. He is almost always busy with something, like in his work clothes or making me breakfast. It’s a very comforting and protective feeling. He is my Super Dad and not anything less.

Almost twenty-one years ago you and Mom began something magical. The two of you were in love and soon after your family grew. Even though I obviously do not remember being brought home or anything about my beginning years, I can only imagine how much your lives changed; it mostly brings a smile to my face. A little over a year afterwards, my baby brother was brought home and even though it was the end of our family, it was the start to my beautiful life.

This weekend, you went through a tragedy I would never wish on anyone. I hope I never have to lose Logan; he, just like you and Mom, mean the whole entire world to me. From Friday night to tonight, I have witnessed every single emotion I know develop and be acted upon through you. No one should ever have that much go through them at once. I am very sorry you lost your brother and I am even more sorry and sad about the pain you are going through.

I know I’m not the best daughter.

When I was much younger, I gave unlimited hugs and love. In my eyes you were my everything, along with Mom. Every spring when we got our bikes out, you retaught me how to ride again. You taught me so much, much more than you realize. Through your actions and words I picked up on good and bad, right and wrong, and I mimic your emotions.

As I grew up, I pulled away from hugs and wanted to distance myself so I could grow up. Just like you, I became stubborn and set in my ways. We always have to be right and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even though I did things you disagreed with, you would always stick up for me. I think that meant/means the most to me. You could’ve just said I was making dumb decisions to others, but you always stood up for me. Even if it was when someone made me cry or someone that doubted my decisions, you had my back. I’m sorry I tried to differentiate myself and rebel against you guys. It wasn’t anything you guys ever did, it was just me finding myself. When I graduated and went to college, I know it made you upset when I would text Mom first, but I did not do it purposely. I went to Italy and tried my best to talk to all of you. But when I moved back home, I feel as if it bought us all back closer than ever before. On the mornings where we eat breakfast and talk start my day off wonderfully.

Through all of this time, you worked to make Logan and my life better and comfortable. There are days where you will work well into the night, just to make sure we get what we want. You devote your time not only to your family, but it makes me so happy to see you spend time doing things you love. On Friday nights, you are so happy to be on the field. The people I graduated with to the football players now all respect you and appreciate you to no end. You have impacted their lives even in a small way. Sometimes I think you believe we take you for granted, but I assure you that is not true.

You are the most important man in my life and will always be; even though you think that won’t be true sometime in the future. The way you raised me has and always will impact and effect me and the things I do. When people tell me I’m a good student, worker or person, it is a direct reflection on your parenting. You’re more than just a parent too. I can talk to you, joke around or I don’t have to say anything if I can’t. You are hard working, caring and even though we can argue, you can make me laugh or smile anytime. My relationship with you is unlike any other relationship I have. I can’t imagine not having you in my life.

For selfish reasons, this weekend’s events have made me think about what would happen if I lost you… Honestly, I don’t know what I would do. I would not only lose my father, but one of my best friends too.

I just want you to always know I love you and I thank you for everything that I accomplish; without you I would be nothing. I promise to hug you more and call you first more. (Not just when my car breaks down on the side of the road.) I hope I never see you as sad and upset as you were this weekend. It really hurts me to see you like that, although I know those emotions are normal. Like I’ve said many times these past few days: I am so sorry.

I love you Dad and I promise I will always be your little girl.

Celebrating Fathers with a Fatherless Daughter

Simplicity of Grace

‘A mama, a papa, and a baby.’

My two-year-old says as she brings me three different sizes of stuffed animals. This concept of family, what a family is supposed to look like is new to her. After a few movies, she’s realized our little mother-daughter unit is not the same as her favorite characters.

Being a single parent, I didn’t think we’d have conversations like this for a long time. I tell her some families have a mama and a papa, others just have a mama or a papa, or some have two mamas or two papas. And no matter what a family consists of, all that matters is the family’s love and happiness. A lot of that information goes over her head and she reverts back to her mama, papa, and baby pretend play.

As I sit and watch her play like this, I worry about her future and if she will think it’s negative she doesn’t have a ‘dad’ in her life. I think she’s happy with just the two of us, but moms always worry.

With Father’s Day nearing and with my daughter noticing talk of dads, my worry for my fatherless daughter has increased… until I realized family is so much more than a mama, a papa, and a baby.

Through this journey of motherhood, I realize ‘father figures’ are not always biological dads.

My daughter is impacted every day by men in her life that choose her. By widening the scope of what makes a family, she has never missed out on having a ‘dad.’ She has a grandpa who protects and plays with her. An uncle that chases her around and helps her fix things that are broken. A great-grandpa that makes sure she has everything she needs and cheers her on. There are countless of other ‘uncles’ who watch over her, ask about her days, and continually want the very best for her. She might not be ‘theirs,’ but there isn’t a shortage of love and fatherly influence.

So on this Father’s Day and every day, I want to say thank you to all of them for showing my daughter what a dad is supposed to look like. Thank you for choosing her when hers wouldn’t. She has soaked that impact up more than I could have ever imagined.

Thank you to the dads the make a difference in their children’s lives and the others that aren’t theirs too.

To my daughter and other children who don’t have involved fathers, I hope you see that there are so many that love you and want the best for you. A family isn’t just a mama, a papa, and a baby, but a group of people who pick each other and support them unconditionally.

Originally published on Newsymom.

Father’s Day.

Three months ago I was planning Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts; Father’s Day more in particular. I imagined getting baby and navy blue paint to put on Jensen’s feet and showcase them in crafts for Anthony and my dad. A canvas and a mug for them both, with touches of Jensen everywhere. Of course they would get a picture of them and Jensen in a frame, I would fill all our walls up with Jensen’s face. We would get fun little first Father’s Day cards for Anthony and a grandpa card for my dad. It would be the first of many perfect Father’s Days for our little family.

Instead, I broke down at Hallmark. Well actually my breakdown started in Hallmark, then I ran to the bathroom in the mall to really get into it. I felt pretty pathetic sobbing in the stall, everyone in there had to hear me. At first I was okay. The cute cards got to me a little bit, but I was focused on the ‘adult’ looking cards for my dad and Anthony. Then it all happened too fast for me to comprehend at that time… Little kids came running in, right in front of me, picking out the cute cards I had my eyes one. They excitedly picked out their favorite cards having their mom read them out loud to them. Their smiles lit up the room. Except for the spot I was standing. I stood their paralyzed with my tears building up. Somehow I kept it composed long enough to buy my cards and run.

I’ll remember to just DIY my cards for the next occasion or order them online.

But this post isn’t about me, nor is this whole day. It’s about the two amazing fathers I was blessed with in my life: my dad and Anthony.

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My dad, my superhero.

This is my favorite picture of my dad. I know you can’t see his face and I know I have a thousand pictures of him and I together, but this is the one. My dad has always been my biggest cheerleader, my protector, and the best guy I know. Everyone says that about their dad, but it’s true for me. Even when I’m so mad at him I can’t even look his direction, I still know I would be able to go talk to him about anything. He’s the first person I call when something truly does not go right because he makes it better. My childhood was a dream and it’s because I had him, well mom helped too.

I can just remember when I was first pregnant how scared I was to tell him. For some reason I thought he would be disappointed or mad. I remember puking up water on the stairs before I told them and he came along to help clean it up. He never asked me if I was or pushed me to tell him. When I did tell him, he just smiled and said, “I’ve known all along.” He was there to find out Jensen was a boy and was always wanting to know how my appointments went. When we found out Jensen would most likely have Down syndrome, he told me Jensen was loved no matter what. The moment Jensen was born, he was in the room. He talked to Jensen and held him. He cries with me and listens. Jensen is so lucky to have him as his grandpa. We even got him a #1 Grandpa grill spatula.

There’s no rulebook on what to do when your daughter’s son is stillborn or what to do when your grandson is stillborn. My dad has had a tough role to play since Jensen has been born: grieving his grandson and watching his daughter crumble to pieces. Through it all he’s been so gentle, patient, and kind. He’s handled losing Jensen with such grace that I don’t think I’ll ever have.

I’m so blessed to have the dad that I do.

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A+D=J

On our way up to stay with Anthony on New Years Eve, I cried. It was funny, Jensen was kicking and dancing away all day. I remember feeling every kick and just crying for some reason. Halfway up, I called Anthony and just kept saying I didn’t want this year to end. It was such a great year; I graduated, I met Anthony, I bought a house, I got pregnant, and he was my Jensen. Anthony listened, as he always does, and just reminded me we were going to meet the best part of our future. Our Jensen was to be born in April and that I should be happy because we were going to have so many good parts of 2016. He calmed me down, made me laugh, and we took this picture.

Let me tell you, Anthony is my rock. On day one when we found out about our little Bebe, he was scared, but excited. Through all the good news and the bad, the multitude of appointments, and all my pregnancy hormones, Anthony was right beside me. He read Goodnight Moon and Go Dog Go to Jensen and made sure I took my prenatal vitamins every day. When we got bad news, he told me it would be okay and Jensen was still our perfect boy. We went to baby class together, did the baby shower registry, and planned every last detail. I tried my best to prepare him for our little bundle, but I could never have prepared him for Jensen’s passing. Nor could I have prepared him for this grief that is so woven into our every day lives.

Anthony’s first Father’s Day is without Jensen physically here. It hurts me. We shouldn’t have to spend tomorrow without Jensen, he should be almost three months old. I know he would have been the best daddy in the whole entire world and at the same time, he is.

There’s a difference in parenting when you’re a bereaved parent. We can’t physically hold Jensen or feed him, but we parent him in all other sense of the meaning. Anthony loves Jensen, cares about his legacy, and still does everything he can for him. Sometimes my grief and I take over our relationship, but he’s right here to help. As I’ve said before and will always say, Antony is my rock. I know Jensen is so proud of his daddy. He showed it every time he would hear Anthony’s voice and feel his presence.  As much as I know how proud Jensen is of Anthony, I know the love between them is so strong and so endless.

My two boys. My perfect little family.

Related to Father’s Day, I submitted to Still Mothers a post I wrote about Anthony and his grief. I’d love, if you haven’t, for you all to go read it. I’d really like to say it was an honor to have them publish it on their site and let my family’s story be seen by so many other people. The post, in short, is really about a bereaved father’s grief and how society really needs to take in account that these dads really are hurting too. That not only a mother has lost a child, but the dad too. Click here if you want to check it out.

I’d like to wish all the fathers out their a Happy Father’s Day, especially my dad and Anthony. All you guys out there fathering your own, not your own, or just being that father figure in another’s life has so much impact on this world. To all the bereaved fathers out there, I see you. I see your grief and I want you to know you are as much as a father as any other father. You love and care for child while they’re waiting for you in heaven. You are not forgotten nor should you ever be overlooked. Your child loves you, that you should never forget. If you know a bereaved father, tell them Happy Father’s Day. That will mean more to him than anything on this day.