“Do I look like Daddy?”
“I faint like Daddy.”
“I love baseball and the Red Sox like Dad.”
“I give good hugs like Daddy.”
“Dad always had time for us.”
“Dad let us eat dessert almost every night.”
I hear these sentences ALL of the time. It’s been no secret that my kids have always ADORED Scott. Of course they did! When I stayed at home, they admired the man who spent about 90 minutes a day and every Sunday with them. He came home from work, and dinner was already on the table. Plus, after spending his work day alone, he was more than ready to be nothing but FUN. He played the Wii, read books, and played catch. He was great.
I want my kids to remember him that way. I want their memories with him to be wonderful. After all, my kids lost their dad at very young ages. He was around when they were the toughest, before their long-term memories kicked in. I will get to be a part of their growing up. The new memories will be with me, and not with him.
However, in the middle of an amazing and fun trip to Disneyland, I had to set a record straight when my son looked at me and said, “Dad had WAY more patience than you.”
Um, no. That man had very little patience for child misbehavior, or kids acting like kids in public. He expected perfection and my kids have no idea how many times I said, “Let it go, Scott, they’re kids. They’re learning.”
I was blindsided with my son remembering this truth. I looked at him in the eyes and calmly said, “Your dad loved you very much, but he had very little patience for you. Do remember when he would get up and leave the room? Do you remember how he would pace when he was angry? What about all of the times he made you leave the table?” I really could have gone on, but I could see in my son’s face, he remembered.
In that moment, he remembered Scott Fitzgerald, his dad, not the angel.
I know it’s not good to talk ill of the dead, but that day, I realized something very important: My kids need to remember their dad as a man and not as an angel. Scott was a human through and through. A man we adored, but one who made countless mistakes.
Since that day, I gently remind my kids of his mistakes here and there.
“Dad hated rule breaking.”
“Oh, I’m not yelling, I’m just saying something you don’t want to hear. Don’t you remember how loud your dad could yell?”
The list could go on, but you get the point.
Now, you might be thinking I’m giving my kids these truths in order to make my parenting look better. To a point, I probably am; I’m human too. However, my real reason, is a good one. I might be parenting in the shadow of an angel, but my kids are going to be LIVING in the shadow of an angel. They will live in the shadow of good memories, nice reminders, and memories where he showed his heart.
I’m afraid, as they grow and make mistakes, they’ll be afraid of letting him down. Their mistakes could feel even bigger, since Scott won’t be around to remind them of the stupid things he did when he should have known better.
Scott was a good man. He was actually a great and wonderful man. However, he was a man, and he would want the kids to remember him that way. Loving, yet flawed. A wonderful dad, but he was definitely not perfect.