I don’t know if I’m normal. I see dead people.
Just kidding. Kind of.
I have vivid memory recall of past moments in my life. I can remember certain times in my life with photographic detail. Colors, smells and emotions are in perfect focus. I imagine there is some rose-tinting going on, but it’s still an overwhelming sensation. People have commented on how much Leta looks like my father, me and my family in general. I see a lot of Heather as well, to be sure, but lately Leta and I will be playing or roughhousing and Leta will do something simple, a gesture, a word, a gaze and I’m in recall mode.
Sometimes I pick her up and not only is it like I’m looking in a mirror, but also it is like I’m looking into my past. I have these strong memories flooding my senses… of my siblings or parents holding me or playing with me when I was little; close to Leta’s age now. I remember everything in sharp detail. The smell, how I felt so happy and excited and full of love. A few of nights ago, I picked up Leta and the look on her face took me back so far that I almost lost my balance. It’s as though I’m looking through her to my past. It’s freaky.
Parenthood is a strange cocktail of humor, bittersweet authoritarianism and tender moments that swing from heartbreak to heaven. I think being home and around Leta more than the average dad punctuates these feelings. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
Sometimes I will see a look from Leta that takes me back to me looking at my father. In her look are a ton of emotions that span from simply upset to something more like a blender full of standoffishness, exasperation and frustration. All in one look from a three year-old. I gave this same look to my dad countless times throughout my life. And no amount of computer generated effects can replicate the out of body experience of seeing yourself in your child so completely.
Leta and I already have sown the dynamic with my father and I’m trying hard to eradicate it. I don’t want the relationship to head down bad roads where she’s afraid to speak around me or afraid of my judgment. I don’t want her to pipe down around me. I want her to sing out. Sing out every atonal note with bad timing. I’ve got to change this now and every day that follows, because during puberty, it’s going to be much rougher.
Leta has an attitude and can be bossy. Most of which I attribute to being three years old and the rest I attribute to a split of her own personality and her parental genes. Part of me loves that she’s not afraid to holler out, but when it turns dark and she gets so mad she hits me or her mother and her tone goes mean, my hackles go up and I kick into the dad mode where I channel the best and worst parts of my father. Mostly worst.
Heather’s really good at applying things from her difficult periods of childhood towards Leta and it’s helped me to do the same. I always get better and quicker results by maintaining a parental zenlike calm where I re-voice her concern and talk her down or ask her to take a couple of deep breaths and then I tell her to “let it go” very calmly. After about 2 seconds, she’ll calm down and ask nicely for that thing she’s already screamed for a thousand times. I reward the nice asking always. My dad and I never had this dynamic. I only hope that between Leta and myself, we can keep it up.