When I was four, I dreamed of having my very own Cabbage Patch Kid doll. It was a fairly common dream in the minds of most little girls as the Christmas season approached, strategically stepping up the pressure on their parents a notch. It created what was known as the Cabbage Patch Craze in 1983, filled with determined parents attempting to shop and fulfill the desire of their little girls cradling a Cabbage Patch Kid doll on Christmas morning.
I had been sent a baby brother about a year before and I dreamed of cradling a little girl doll with flowing yellow yarn hair that resembled my own and a pink dress with lacy edges. I had wondered what assigned name would read on her Cabbage Patch birth certificate when I pulled it out of the yellow and green box with the clear window front. I thought about all the places she would go with me and all the fun we would have together. And on Christmas morning, I awoke to find a Cabbage Patch Kid waiting under my tree with mint green overalls, a white shirt, short brown hair, and a boy name—Jeremiah.
In retrospect, it was probably one of the first, in a series of hints from the universe, indicating that I would be raising three boys, no daughters.
It was also indicative of the kind of father I would have.
Children generally are not aware of the difficulties their parents may be experiencing, as they shouldn’t be. I didn’t know that Christmas morning my parents lived paycheck to paycheck and often worried how they would stretch money to make it through the month, let alone be able to afford to buy me a baby doll.
I didn’t know that my father had woken up early one morning to wait in line, outside of a closed toy store before heading to a 12-hour shift at the shoe store he managed at the time. I didn’t know when the shoppers rushed the aisle, my dad arrived at an empty shelf and argued with another woman as she grabbed the last doll to be placed in a cart already packed with several dolls. I do know that he won that argument because I opened a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas morning in 1983.
I didn’t have a shiny new car with a big red bow on my 16th birthday, but I did have a car when I moved in with my dad halfway through my senior year of high school to prevent me from needing to change schools. I didn’t get to attend a fancy, out of state college, but I did attend a 4-year in-state college and graduated debt-free, thanks to my dad. He taught me the value was in the work put into the degree, not where it came from. I didn’t have chair covers at my wedding but it was a beautiful wedding graciously paid for by him, and I had a dad I was proud to have standing beside me and walking me down the aisle that day.
I have a dad who taught me the importance of my independence as a woman.
He made sure I was the first to graduate college in his family because he knew an education provided me options and prevented me from ever needing to stay in a bad marriage because of financial dependence. I have a dad who made sure I married a good man and would never be in a bad marriage by setting the expectations for how I should be treated by men, and the type of a father to expect for my children. He taught me to always trust my own instincts in life and to not require a confirmation from anyone else. Any request for advice was and is always answered with, “What do you think? Go with your gut.” He never boasted or bragged about me to others, yet never let me question his pride but at the same time taught me to be humbled by that pride. I have a dad who taught me where my stubbornness originates, even if we both always continue to refuse to admit it.
The outcome of our actions often does not reflect the heart of our efforts. My parents made many mistakes raising my brother and me, just as I have made many mistakes in raising my own children. However, it is in those same mistakes that I have learned the most valuable of life’s lessons.
I gained the most insight not from what I had as a child, but what I didn’t have.
It taught me the vast differences between need and want and the pride in earning will always outweigh the gratitude of being given something. Sometimes I forget this in raising my own children. We try our best to prevent any unhappiness in our children, often failing to realize the missed opportunities for learning when preventing their slightest discomfort.
The lessons of my childhood at times were obvious, but most didn’t come into focus until I saw them through adult eyes. I may not have had everything but I always had a dad who tried and that was everything—even when it was a little boy Cabbage Patch Kid named Jeremiah.