UndeservingShe was very proud when she gave me my award, and with good reason. She is so artistic and creative. When she puts her mind to it, and puts the effort in, she can do great and amazing things. Things I wouldn’t have the patience or the talent to do.

Of course I love the gift itself and the gesture behind it, but at the same time I can’t help think that she doesn’t really believe the words which are written on it. “First place for being the best Dad in the whole world.” How could she? I certainly don’t. Out of all my children she should be the last one who should be giving me an present like this.

It’s not because I don’t love her or don’t try, completely the opposite. She is my oldest, yet my baby girl. Our personalities don’t always mesh, we don’t share many of the same interests. In part it probably stems back to the first few years of her life. Her mother and I only stayed together for a couple years after she was born. Our relationship wasn’t ideal. Partly as avoidance I attended school during the day and worked a lot, so even then I didn’t spend enough time with my baby. When her mother and I separated it didn’t get any better. I’d like to blame it on my youth, but there is no excuse for not taking the time to build a strong, lasting relationship with my child when she was young.

She no longer splits her time between her mothers’ and our home, and it’s been this way for years. My wife, and mother of my other three children, was instrumental in making the transition to having her be with us full time. Had it been her given the award for best mother, or step mother, there would be no doubt as to whether it was deserved or not.

Sometimes I feel that the majority of our interactions are me criticizing her or chastising her for something. School has always been a contentious topic for us. School for her is hard, she has ADHD along with a learning disability. In the last few years especially she has made very good progress in school, but it’s been a battle. It’s hard for me to relate, school always came easy to me, she struggles just to get by. Her reading level is well below her grade which makes everything more difficult. This became especially evident one night when working at math homework a subject she despises. After some time of her “working” at the questions I checked on her and there was barely any done. Spending a bit of time explaining the questions and what was asked of her and providing examples turned the night around. In no time at all she flew through the remaining questions. Not everything was correct, but I’ve never asked for that, just full effort.

Given the difficulty she has, as well as our past, I know I need to work extra hard and spend extra time building our relationship. Already a teenager I see and fear the time for me to do this slipping away. With so many of our interactions negative why would she want to spend more time with me? In my mind I know that her wandering mind, which can cause so much of our frustration, isn’t her fault. Why do I tend to treat her as if it is? This must be the first change.

Changing the way I see things is going to make the difference. She is young for her age and at times I fault her for that, “why can’t you just act your age?” I should be happy that her interests are in horses and not boys and parties. In just a few short years she will be the same age her mother and I, as well as both sets of her Grandparents, were when we became parents. If she can hold onto her youth for as long as she can it make a much easier life path for her to travel.

Letting go of my selfishness is the next step. So what if I don’t like horses? She loves them. That is my obvious in with her. It can be something we can share with each other. So I’m going to embrace horses and barns despite being so much more comfortable behind a computer screen. I’m going to make sure there is time we can spend at the barn together. It makes me wish I was in the position to buy her own horse, but for now we have access to go groom and care for some. There is no excuse to not make this happen.

While I know I’ll never be the best father in the world, I’m certainly going to work at getting closer to it for the rest of my life. Hopefully someday I’ll look back at this present on my wall and maybe I’ll believe that she really does see me as deserving first place.

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