February 3, 2011

The Anti-Santini

I’m not the yelling type.  I never have been, and barring some unforeseen life change, probably never will be.  I have started raising my voice to you Joy.  Why?  Because you’re two.  And after asking you once and telling you again, raising my voice seems to work.  I’ve always told myself I would try to remain calm; I’d be firm and in control, never aggressive.  Not that I am mean or condescending when I do this, but I’ve been raising my voice more often lately, and resorting to it sooner.  But the ends don’t justify the means.

This may seem unusual for a Marine.  If you ever read The Great Santini (which is worth a read), I hope you never see any of him in me.  This may also sound unusual for a Marine: I want to make sure you grow up in a loving environment.  I want you to know that your father loves you and always will.  I don’t want you ever to be afraid of coming to me and sharing your thoughts, feelings, opinions.  Or your favorite book.  I know I may want to regret saying this as soon as you hit those teen years, but this feeling will never truly change.  If I raise my voice to you once a day, as it seems I’ve been doing lately, this environment will fade.  If I raise my voice to you repeatedly, I may begin to yell, and eventually find myself grasping for a branch as I plummet down that slope.

This may be overly dramatic, but falling into such traps is a great fear of mine.  Sure, I could intimidate you and force you to obey.  But I would rather lead you to the right path, even as a two year-old.  I am your father and in a position of authority, but I can build our relationship around love and mutual respect so we can grow and learn together.  I will always choose your willful obedience over fearful reluctance, even if it means a more difficult path for me.  Raising my voice has worked.  And it has been easy.  When I can’t think of anything else to do at the moment, or my patience has ended, a louder, lower timbre seems instinctive.  I need to realize the ways of coercing you to do what I ask, before I get in those frustrating situations.  What I need to do is work on “the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables [me] to inspire and control [my girls] successfully."  John Lejeune may have long since passed, and his words may have been intended for leaders of Marines, but they certainly apply to a father who loves his girls.

There will be more times when you frustrate me.  (And trust me, I will frustrate you too, especially when I wear my Members Only jacket around your friends.)  I may lose my cool.  God-willing I won’t.  I am, after all, the adult.  I am the one with the experience and responsibility to do my best for my family.  I will always strive to foster a loving relationship between both my girls.  Because if there is one thing I love, it’s when you sit on my lap with your doggy book for us to read together.  That’s something I’m not willing to let go.  And neither is that jacket.

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