Dove’s first full weekend with her father was less than a year ago.
Gary was on one hand initially forbidden to see his youngest child, Dove, who is now nearly 4…then was accused of treating her differently and not wanting to be with her, as if their separation had been voluntary instead of imposed.
Gary was forced to miss the entire first year of Dove’s life and much of the next as well. Attempts to include her in the children’s time with Gary were boorishly refused. Jealousy and pettiness kept Dove and her father apart while the laborious wheels of the family court system ground away. By the time Dove was partially included in visitation along with the older children, she was pushing two years old, walking, barely knowing who her father was. By the time she was allowed to spend the same amount of time with Gary as the older kids, she was already three years old.
Gary has said that his relationship with Dove will always be different, because she does not know him the way the older kids do. That may true. But I noticed even with Dove’s first moments with Gary in our home, she had to know where he was at all times, peeking out the window and calling “Daddy” if he went outside; that she looked at him with a love reserved just for him; and that she shined with absolute joy when he lifted her up to dance with her in the kitchen.
Of course things are different with her than with children who know Gary as a diaper-changer, a feeder, a snuggler, a chef, a day-to-day loving father. Dove doesn’t know him that way because she was not allowed.
But what they were forced to miss doesn’t mean there is no bond. Gary doesn’t always see what I do.
We recently took the kids swimming, and Gary was in the water with the kids while I sat by the pool and watched them play. Every time Dove got ready to jump in, she bellowed, “Daddy….Daddy…Daddeeeeeeee!” to make sure he was looking before she performed her latest stunt. As soon as she surfaced, she whipped around to see if Gary was still watching her, and then she burst into a bright smile, so proud of herself. Happy.
A woman sitting nearby nodded toward Dove and commented to me, “She sure loves her daddy.”
I had to smile. So someone else saw what I see, too.
Another night, Dove woke up calling for her daddy. I was already awake, so I went to check on her instead of waking up Gary. I patted her back and soothed her, then asked her what she needed.
She repeated her request, in no uncertain terms: “Daddy.”
I almost laughed. Yes, ma’am! I wanted to smartly salute her, snap my heels, and march off obediently to summon her father without another second wasted.
Dove and Gary have been forced to miss so much together. All of the kids have. Watching them together is beautiful and painful at the same time. They love completely, fiercely, whole-heartedly. I admire the purity and intensity of their affection for each other. And for me.
Gary has drawn portraits of each of the kids, and the most recent was Dove’s. This is a link to the post, the drawing, and what he wrote about Dove. I think he says it better than I ever can.