Those words were immortalized by Sally Field after she won the Oscar for Best Actress in "Places In The Heart" (actually, she never said those exact words, but that’s how most remember it). She took a lot of flack, but it was an honest response that reflected the fact that we care about what others think of us. Of course, I imagine there’s no one we care about more than our children. I mean, why have kids if they are not going to idolize you? Seriously, I hope Iris grows up to love and respect Cherise and me. In the meantime, I want Iris to see me as someone she can trust and someone she wants to be around. That may sound like a no brainer, but in the early years, that can be a tricky thing. After Iris was born, I remember hearing the advice from a friend: "don’t take it personally, but for the first couple of years, we (fathers) are somewhat superfluous. Sure, we can help and they’ll like us, but the kids care much more about where the milk comes from." Cherise pretty much had the in and I couldn’t match up. Sure, we’d do stuff together and she liked when I was around, but I got the sense that once I left the room, I was out of her world. Out of sight, out of mind.
But in the last couple of months, something changed. Iris is very conscious of who I am and we’ve become best buds. Suddenly, our Sunday morning playdates (while Mommy sleeps in–Daddy sleeps in on Saturday) have become much more fun. We play basketball, we read books, and we race around the house. We take breaks for big hugs (she looks up at me with her arms outstretched–how can I refuse?). Sharing this time together has built a relationship that sustains after I go away. I still exist, even when I am not in the room. She knows who I am and she looks for me. In the morning, after she wakes up and has her morning feeding in bed, she will start looking for me. When she hears the shower, she looks at Cherise and quickly points her thumb to her head (sign language for "Daddy"), as if to ask "is that Daddy in there?". In fact, now she has stopped bothering to ask and just come into the bathroom looking for me. First she’ll knock (yes, that is cute) and after she comes in, she starts knocking on the shower curtain (yes, that is cuter). Yes, we may have to set some boundaries, but for now, I love that she’s wants to play with dear old dad. I am in her mind, even when I am not at home. She likes me. She really likes me.
Now I am not sure if this is quite like winning an Oscar, but at this point, I think it’s better. Martin Scorcese, if you’re tired of being nominated but never winning, have a kid and be a good father. I highly recommend it.