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My 15-year-old daughter just had knee surgery and spent a week recuperating on the couch. At first I felt useful, schlepping ice, food, and drinks to her until she had a bad reaction and stopped taking her pain meds. She became uncomfortable and lost her appetite. Suddenly her answer to any question was, “Make me feel better.”
I’m not against comforting my child, sitting with her, holding her hand, offering hug after hug. However, I am much happier when I have something to do for her, like reading out loud, picking up a video, or baking her favorite treat.
The feeling of being unable to help my ailing girl, to soothe her in some way was so incredibly frustrating that there were moments I fled from her. As soon as she dozed off or got caught up in a movie, I was out the door with the dog or finding something else “important” to occupy me just to get away from her and my feeling useless.
There were moments I even felt angry at her for whining, having the sense she was incessantly complaining about things I couldn’t do anything about just to make me feel bad. She was attacking me for not doing something to make her better when she had to realize I was powerless to help in any way.
Being a dad is so much easier when I feel good about my role, when I’m doing things that make my daughters’ lives better, more fun, adventurous. Here was one of those humbling situations that offered no visible rewards, no smiles appearing on my girl’s face. The best I could hope for was soothing her a little, enough so she could sleep, or feel enough TLC to get through another day until she healed up more.
We started going through the Harry Potter videos in order each afternoon. The second day I felt so behind in all the things I had to do — the laundry, the groceries, the bills, and that sense of frustration with my daughter started creeping back, that just sitting with her was a waste, that I wasn’t doing anything.
It took a little while, but I realize I was doing something.
There are important things I do as a parent that have nothing tangible to show for my time and energy. Taking care of my child, even when she’s a teenager, is one of those. I can’t measure what I did. Still, I have to believe that simply facing her discomfort is equal to playing a game, making a snack, or adjusting her knee brace.
Helping her get through the recuperation may not leave me with anything tangible, but there may be something between my girl and me, something I can’t even name, that I know will reap a deeper reward in the end.
And we’ll all feel better.Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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