Tom and his wife had the pleasure of hosting their daughter and two grandsons for a couple of weeks, while their son-in-law was on a month-long trip. His time was limited to a few FaceTime calls and one brief in-person get-together.
So, 3-year-old Tyler’s full-time playmate was Putter. An explanation is needed. When Tyler was born, Tom wanted a unique name for himself. It had to be a complete departure from Gramps, Papa T, or Poppoff. Tom is a lousy golfer, but Putter seemed a suitable appellation. (Golf has to offer something positive.)
Putter was just a stand-in
Tyler and Putter played a lot. Tyler wanted to play all day. Putter needed time in the clubhouse – alone. And while Tyler and Putter were best pals, Putter noticed how much Tyler missed his daddy. When Tyler was reminded that Daddy wouldn’t come home tonight, tomorrow or the next day, he would become downcast. Putter would try make him laugh, and most times be successful, but at the mention of his daddy, Tyler would tear up.
It was apparent to Putter that his 3-year-old grandson really, really, really missed his daddy. Sometimes, no amount of games and toys and making funny faces with Putter could overcome the gloom of not having Daddy there. Daddy was the main player in his young son’s life. Putter was a pinch-hitter.
Missing in action
What about all those young children whose Daddy is missing in action or who’s not part of their kids’ lives at all? Worse yet, what about the daddy who comes home every evening after work and buries himself in the TV or newspaper and hardly acknowledges his kids? Watching Tyler ache for his daddy was tough enough, but everyone knew his daddy would return eventually. In some families, daddy is just another word for an empty space.
You are loved
To you dads out there, we will state the obvious. Be present in your children’s lives. Your kids long for your attention, your voice, your funny faces, your silly, noises, your perspective, your presence. When you go off to work, they miss you like crazy. A big part of their small world is missing. They will think about you a lot. But they won’t be able to feel your hug or hop on their favorite sore knees, daddy-bronco, and hold on for dear life. You’ll come home from work tired and worn to a frazzle. Shake it off, dad. You have even more important work to do—play with your kid.
We grownups can’t measure that void. We cannot understand what it feels like to our small child when we aren’t there. We dads need to know our absence can create fear or sadness in our child’s life. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” you say as you walk out the door. To your young child—and to Tyler—that means a very long time.
So, daddy, when you’re home, really be there. When you’re not home, get there as soon as you can. Someone misses you so much, it hurts.