Our teenage daughter made a rare appearance in the living room at the same time my husband and I occupied it and announced her presence with words that dripped from her mouth like liquid gold off honeycomb. The sweetness in hearing, “Dad, can you help me with something?” satiates me completely.

I knew she sounded like sugar to her dad too when he responded, “Yeah, honey. What is it?” I can’t name anything more savory than a dad being a great dad so I lived my best life for a moment inside this sweet and salty conversation of theirs.

Our girl leaned over the back of the couch to hand her dad a printout of John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. It’s written in a bit of ye ol’ back in the waaaaayy back in the day style and she was having trouble deciphering its meaning. “I can’t figure out what this is saying, Dad. Can you?”

For a split of a nano-second I was sad she didn’t ask me. I’m the wordsmith. I think and voice thousands upon thousands more words than her dad does each day. And I write that many more than he does too. Shouldn’t she have thought me her go-to, here? I heard some legalese though when her dad read aloud the passage giving her trouble and understood why she chose him, as he has an excellent command and understanding of the law. It also occurred to me I often complain loudly for all to hear, “I’m always the one doing ALL the things! Can’t you guys just ask your dad once in a while? Puh-leeez?” So I don’t dare let on how it can nip at my sensitive bravado when they actually do seek out him vs. me.

The feather’s weight of ick floated away and in its place, I felt awash in syrupy goodness. Moments like this carry me through the ebb and flow of life, loss, and longing in a way I’ve come to relish. They help me decide though I don’t have a dad, only ever an absentee father prior to him passing away many years ago, I have this girl and her brother and they have a dad and that’ll do. To this day, I still feel the sting of abandonment at times. I still wish I had a dad. But the fact that my kids’ father is never far from any of us soothes the burn and provides comfort.

When life serves us up instead of ideal, we suffer the bitter taste it leaves behind. But once we’ve had our fill of sour, it’s then we can bear down, invoke our highest grit factor, and begin to grope and stumble our way toward the things that wash acrid away. It’s love that helps me resolve any lingering rancor over being fatherless. Love works to smooth jagged edges in my psyche and my kids and their dad regularly give me a front-row seat to plenty of big love done in small ways. I walk on air for days after each tender display of love between them and in witnessing their interactions I’m blissfully reminded it’s always the little things that serve me the most.

Little things like watching a dad and his daughter lean in close, cheek to cheek to work together to puzzle something out. In response to this subtle display of love in action, my heart melted into a puddle of gooey adoration and grew a size at the same time.

Moments like these are made large for me and of high import because I can’t recall even one minute of time spent this way with my own dad. As a result, for as long as I can remember, my main goal in life has been to create a loving family and for my children to have a dad who will stay.

A dad who will show up when he’s needed.

A dad who will say yes when asked to help.

A dad they can count on.

Above all, a dad who will love them their whole lives through. 

This dad to my kids, he’s made mistakes though. Big ones. In being married to him for 22 years and in approaching failure a time or two, I’ve come to realize I have so little control over how he behaves, the choices he makes and whether or not he’ll stay married to me and present for our kids. So while an intact family has been my life’s main goal, I do realize I play just one role in our comedic-tragedy of a love story. My husband plays the other. And over the years, he’s flubbed lines, missed cues, even skipped whole performances. But so have I.

One season, we had to do a complete re-write of our entire script and try to begin anew. But through it all, my husband, my kids’ dad, has remained on the marquis. Because he loves us and he’s not afraid to say, “I really messed up. I’m so sorry. I will do better.” And of dire import, he means it. Nothing cuts this man as deep as when he understands he’s let me or our son or daughter down. He wears his obvious regret and palpable remorse like neon tattoo sleeves and can’t act like he doesn’t to save his soul.

It’s taken me years to discern just exactly what a good dad is; decades of chiseling away at layers of hurt and countless hours of sifting through damage and debris left by the dad I never had. So while at times I’ve wished my kids’ dad, my husband, had done better by us, it’s moments like this one spent on homework that remind me he is more than just still here. He’s still showing up for the important to the mundane. He continues to say yes, I can, I will, I do. He’s striving to get more right than he gets wrong. He’s being what a real dad, a good dad, must really be.

Seeing my kids and their dad together reminds me again and again there is always a way forward when life gives you instead of ideal. Even if sometimes it’s via the long way around.

You may also like: 

To My Hard-Working Husband, I See You

My Dear Daughters, This Is How You Should Be Treated—Love, Dad

Dear Husband, I Am So Grateful For You

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Jodie Utter

Jodie Utter is a freelance writer & creator of the blog, Utter Imperfection. She calls the Pacific Northwest home and shares it with her husband and two children. As an awkward dancer who’s tired of making dinner and can’t stay awake past nine, she flings her life wide open and tells her stories to connect pain to pain and struggle to struggle in hopes others will feel less alone inside their own stories and more at home in their hearts, minds, and relationships. You can connect with her on her blog, Utter Imperfection and on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter.

I Thought Our Friendship Would Be Unbreakable

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Two friends selfie

The message notification pinged on my phone. A woman, once one of my best friends, was reaching out to me via Facebook. Her message simply read, “Wanted to catch up and see how life was treating you!”  I had very conflicting feelings. It seemed with that one single message, a flood of memories surfaced. Some held some great moments and laughter. Other memories held disappointment and hurt of a friendship that simply had run its course. Out of morbid curiosity, I clicked on her profile page to see how the years had been treating her. She was divorced and still...

Keep Reading

The First 10 Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking

In: Journal, Marriage, Relationships
The First Ten Years: How Two Broken People Kept Their Marriage from Breaking www.herviewfromhome.com

We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash. Meet Single Christians! My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site. We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.” We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband, I Loved You First

In: Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
Man and woman kissing in love

Dear husband, I loved you first. But often, you get the last of me. I remember you picking me up for our first date. I spent a whole hour getting ready for you. Making sure every hair was in place and my make-up was perfect. When you see me now at the end of the day, the make-up that is left on my face is smeared. My hair is more than likely in a ponytail or some rat’s nest on the top of my head. And my outfit, 100% has someone’s bodily fluids smeared somewhere. But there were days when...

Keep Reading

Stop Being a Butthole Wife

In: Grief, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Man and woman sit on the end of a dock with arms around each other

Stop being a butthole wife. No, I’m serious. End it.  Let’s start with the laundry angst. I get it, the guy can’t find the hamper. It’s maddening. It’s insanity. Why, why, must he leave piles of clothes scattered, the same way that the toddler does, right? I mean, grow up and help out around here, man. There is no laundry fairy. What if that pile of laundry is a gift in disguise from a God you can’t (yet) see? Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out on this one. I was a butthole wife. Until my husband died. The day...

Keep Reading

I Can’t Be Everyone’s Chick-fil-A Sauce

In: Friendship, Journal, Living, Relationships
woman smiling in the sun

A couple of friends and I went and grabbed lunch at Chick-fil-A a couple of weeks ago. It was delightful. We spent roughly $20 apiece, and our kids ran in and out of the play area barefoot and stinky and begged us for ice cream, to which we responded, “Not until you finish your nuggets,” to which they responded with a whine, and then ran off again like a bolt of crazy energy. One friend had to climb into the play tubes a few times to save her 22-month-old, but it was still worth every penny. Every. Single. One. Even...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Friendships End, No Matter How Hard You Try

In: Friendship, Journal, Relationships
Sad woman alone without a friend

I tried. We say these words for two reasons. One: for our own justification that we made an effort to complete a task; and two: to admit that we fell short of that task. I wrote those words in an e-mail tonight to a friend I had for nearly 25 years after not speaking to her for eight months. It was the third e-mail I’ve sent over the past few weeks to try to reconcile with a woman who was more of a sister to me at some points than my own biological sister was. It’s sad when we drift...

Keep Reading

Goodbye to the House That Built Me

In: Grown Children, Journal, Living, Relationships
Ranch style home as seen from the curb

In the winter of 1985, while I was halfway done growing in my mom’s belly, my parents moved into a little brown 3 bedroom/1.5 bath that was halfway between the school and the prison in which my dad worked as a corrections officer. I would be the first baby they brought home to their new house, joining my older sister. I’d take my first steps across the brown shag carpet that the previous owner had installed. The back bedroom was mine, and mom plastered Smurf-themed wallpaper on the accent wall to try to get me to sleep in there every...

Keep Reading

5 Tips For Dealing With a Toxic Mother-in-Law

In: Grown Children, Journal, Marriage, Relationships
Woman frustrated with her mother in law

Many people admit to having difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships with their in-laws, however having a toxic mother-in-law can be especially tricky when balancing a relationship with your spouse. I have five simple tips that can help put you on a happier and healthier path when dealing with a toxic mother-in-law. 1. You don’t have to like your mother-in-law, or even be friends. Establish clear boundaries with your spouse. Let him know that it is OK for him to maintain a relationship with his mother without involving you. By doing this you can eliminate the pressure to please your mother-in-law;...

Keep Reading

To the Mother of My Son’s Future Wife

In: Grown Children, Inspiration, Kids, Marriage, Motherhood, Relationships
marriage, wife, husband, grown children, www.herviewfromhome.com

To the mother of my son’s future wife, I’m in the midst of dirty diapers and temper tantrums, but I do have days where I think about the future and what it will look like for my son. I wonder who he will be, what he will do and probably most of all, who he will love. I wonder about the type of woman he will bring home to meet us one day. I have my own thoughts on the type of person I wish my son would fall in love with, but we all know that the heart wants...

Keep Reading

Sometimes the Middle Child Needs a Little Extra Love

In: Kids, Motherhood, Relationships
middle child mother www.herviewfromhome.com

Mamas, look after your middles. Those babies who are born second, third, fourth or so in the birth order. The ones who are sandwiched between the idolized older sibling and the teeny tiny baby who stole everyone’s hearts. They need you more than you know. They need a little extra love from time to time. A hug and a “good job” here and there just to remind them that nobody has taken their spot in your heart since you added to your family. Try to remember they weren’t given a choice of their place in the lineup. If given the...

Keep Reading