Summer’s bounty has started to arrive. Our CSA started this week, with lettuce, scallions, broccoli and some other goodies, plus a quart of fresh-picked strawberries. Not much other than the dill that quietly naturalized in the garden is ready to eat yet here at Sithean, but in a few weeks I expect that to change.
Eli and I had an unexpected evening alone last night, and pulled out all the stops on dinner at home to make Half-baked Harvest’s Chicken Souvlaki Bowls, which were pretty delicious, and fun to eat on the weekend that we’ve finished up Whole30.
I don’t plan to make Whole30 a lifestyle – cheese and wine are far too important to me – but we did feel healthy and lost some weight, so I suspect we’ll be having some periodic stretches of it in our future.
Today we’re celebrating Father’s Day at a bluegrass festival – us, the kids, and my ex-husband, headed off to picnic, listen to music and eat from food trucks. That’s not probably typical, and it does occasionally feel pretty awkward to all of the adults involved, but I don’t think I would change it for the world. As a matter of fact, when I look back on my life in old age, I think I will value that combining of us together not just as 3, and hopefully someday 4, co-parents but as friends and as a mutual support system. It’s intentional, and it’s actually pretty great.
And fathers – in all their forms – are hugely important.
My father had – has – a lot of mental health issues that impacted our relationship over the years. I spent a very good deal of my childhood years wishing for a ‘normal’ childhood. It wasn’t all bad, and I still often treasure memories of tromping around Boston on Saturdays with him and my sisters, but there’s a good deal I would rather not have happened as well.
Having a parent who isn’t a good parent is a tough thing and all too real for too many kids. In my adult years, I’ve realized that as a parent, one of the greatest gifts he gave me is a long list of what not to do with my own children. One of those not-things? Ensuring that their Dad, I and Eli fully align on the really important stuff and avoid conflict about the small things. We put the kids at the center, and every decision is a result of that.
My ex and I have carefully crafted a friendship out of the end of our marriage. We still irritate one another, but we also trust one another 100%. We’re not always in agreement, but we always align, and we still enjoy one another’s company. He’s helped around the house endlessly, especially in the early days, and we’re completely committed to helping one another out when it’s needed. He’s a great Dad and a great human. I’m lucky.
To enter as a stepfather and a partner into a situation that is as complex as that is requires a special kind of patience and thoughtfulness. Enter Eli, who handles it with immense grace. In some ways, I’m sure it would be easier for him if my ex and I weren’t quite such good friends. But he makes it work, and better than that.
I’m not sure there’s anyone on earth who could have stepped into the stepfathering role quite as wonderfully and generously as he has. Great with kids, committed to learning both them and great parenting, always up for a game or an art project or a Nerf battle outside, he brings not just love and support to me, but light and fun into our house in a way it wasn’t there before. He loves us all, and shows it all day, every day, in endless ways. He bears kid moods and meltdowns, relentlessly adapts to our traditions, and brings his own flavor of joy to everything we do – making even dinner time fun and interesting.
He was the thing we didn’t know we were missing until we found him.
Life with him is so, so much better than it was before, and if I thought I was lucky always, I didn’t know it like I do now. It’s not perfect, and everyone is still adjusting, but even so – this is the best life has ever been, and it keeps getting better.
Add to that my children’s wonderful grandfather, Angus – whose limitless patience, candy jar and love of them is a joy to behold, someone who I adore and admire as a person and I am lucky to know, my amazing and adored brothers-in-law, who are truly great fathers as well as visibly loving and adoring my children , and I’d say my kids are doing pretty good in the father, uncle and grandfather category.
Today as we sit on a blanket and listen to bluegrass, I won’t be wishing a thing was different – even if it rains, or there are mosquitoes, or the kids eat too much sugar and get overtired. That’s the small stuff. The big stuff is the 3 central adults in their lives surrounding them to give them experiences and time and teach them what it means to take a less-than-ideal situation and make it something great.
Happy Father’s Day to all of you. May your day be filled with love.