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I have a daughter (9) and a son (7). 16 combined years of very different experiences. Girls are different. Boys are different. Temperaments and personalities vary. And I am learning to be a father. 

My daughter is quiet. Her mind hums with thoughts, and hearing them is a precious occurrence. Even in her quieter nature, she grins because she gets the joke. She’ll smile and assure her brother that “daddy’s just joking.” He’s not really going to let us drive the car, and our dog doesn’t really turn into a wolf at night. 

The work of raising her is gentle and delicate, so I remind my hands to be tender. I can make her wither with just a look, and she’ll run crying to her room. And I can whisper in her ear at bedtime that I am so proud of the girl she is and watch her radiate in the darkness.  

My son is not easily corrected. He can be rough, loud, talkative. He is constantly synthesizing language, he has figured out adults find his words amusing. He describes himself as “pretty soggy wet” after he runs through rain and warns us to stay inside because “thunder’s cracking down.” If he talks himself into a bind, he’ll mumble a little to find his way out. 

He wants the world to shake around him, to walk on walls, break things, rebuild them. I shower him with affection, all the while working to break him like a wild horse–to teach him how to submit, respect authority, use his hands to build and protect, while solidifying in his core truth that can never be stolen: daddy loves you. 

They are both so different and I will study them all my life.  

I believe it when others tell me to cherish this time because it goes quickly. I will never again have this opportunity to shape them to be adults who help and heal, and not hurt. The hope is I won’t look back with sorrow or regret, but with joy because I worked to be present with them, to pay attention to them. I am learning to be a father, delighting in my children.

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