Paynesville Press - June 16, 2004

Community Perspective

Father starting at square one with daughter

By Steve Venenga

I need to start this year with a little family history. On my side of the family, one thing has been consistent through the years. Either you have boys OR girls. No mix and match. Once the sex has been determined, all the following children will be that sex.

Boy or girl, one kid or four, that's just the way it works.

So as our second child approached I was preparing my wife for the fact that we were going to have another boy. On March 5, God gave us a sweet little girl, Jilian Lynelle.

A girl? Now what?

Those first few days in the hospital were quite different the second time around. One reason is that we had been there before and knew the drill. I knew where the pop machines were, which vending machines had the best stuff, and even remembered some of the nurses. When Kimber was recovering this time I went to the cafeteria and had lunch instead of waiting anxiously in the room.

The other reason, of course, was that we had just had a little girl. Having a boy was mentally easier. I understand a boy. I know what I can teach him. I know what he needs to learn. I've been there and done that' kind of thing. No problem.

I didn't know what I was doing in terms of being a Dad, but at least I had some relevant experience going into the job. But Jilian? I was sitting in the hospital thinking: "What am I possibly going to teach her? How can I be a good father to a sweet little girl? How can I relate to her?"

I certainly have not 'been there and done that' with the experiences and issues she is going to face. (I guess if I had, that would be a whole separate set of issues.)

I must admit that at first I was a little apprehensive. Walking her down the aisle, shopping for prom dresses, tea parties or playing with whatever little girls play with, it's quite overwhelming when you've had zippo for experience with girls.

Everything is different! (Even beyond the basic anatomy lessons and diaper changing etiquette on the first few changes!) I used to think it was funny to tell my friends with daughters that I couldn't wait until Jacob was old enough to ask their daughters on a date.

THAT ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE. My apologies to Scott Smith and Wade Roemeling in particular.

I've heard that every Dad needs a little girl. Well I've got mine, and I'm starting to believe it's true.

Jilian has only been around for about three months, but I can already tell that my kids are different from one another. When I sit across the dinner table from my wife holding my daughter and my sweet little girl smiles at me, I melt. I just know she is smiling and thinking, "I love you, daddy."

In that same situation, my son sitting next to me can give me a big smile and laugh as well. But with him, he's smiling as if to say, "I just put my Matchbox car in your milk while you were making faces at my sister." Oh, the adventures of living with a two-year-old. This one in particular. He's quite a kid.

Jacob is really growing fast. In fact, fast is a good description for him. He moves fast, changes focus fast, changes moods fast, and learns fast. As I reflect on how quickly he learns this Father's Day, that is the part that scares me the most.

He learns fast, but from whom? I'm starting to realize that 'do as I say and not as I do' may not be the best motto. He already wants to do all the things I do. When I'm home in the evenings, I have a shadow. Weekends especially. He wants to eat what I eat, wear what I wear, act like I act, fold his hands to pray when I pray, everything.

The influence a father has on his son is startling - amazing - phenomenal - and impactful all rolled into one. A tremendous responsibility.

And I realize I'll have the same impact on Jilian, only in different ways.

Here is what it really comes down to for me this Father's Day. I'm still making it up as I go along. I have a feeling that working hard and on the job training is the only way to get good at being a dad. When Jacob was born, I was nervous, excited, and afraid all at the same time because I had no idea what it took to be a father. The second time around I thought I had an advantage with a couple of years experience.

Then you throw sweet little Jilian into the mix, and I'm back to square one. No clue. All I know is that I love them both, and I'll do the best I can.

I'll bet there are other fathers out there with a similar motto...I know it was my Dad's.

Happy Father's Day.

Steve Venenga has written about his kids the past two Father's Days.

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