Today is Father’s Day and as many of us are, I am thinking about my father who, I have always said, was a GREAT dad. I know people who have never had that thought; people who had problems relating to their father, people who never knew their father, and people who downright dislike their father. In my counseling practice I frequently hear how the influence of a father has negatively impacted someone’s life. The consequences of the paternal relationship are significant in most of us, whether we realize it or not.
I thought I’d take a moment to share with my readers why I felt that my dad was great; the attributes that contributed very positively in my own life.
My dad was PATIENT. Some might say to a fault but to me as a child, his patience was a great virtue. He was a good teacher, allowing me time to comprehend the lesson and gently steering me toward answers. When he taught me to ride a two-wheeled bicycle he must have run 10,000 steps along side of me guiding the bike and supporting my balance.
My dad was FUNNY in a goofy kind of way. He was a man of statue; 6 foot 9 inches tall and very thin… always a demanding presence in a room. I wonder today if his quirky sense of humor was in defense of being different. He had a handful of sayings that still bring a smile to my face when I think of them and used humor to lighten a situation whenever possible. I can still see him sitting in a chair twitching his head and rolling his eyes as he said “No, that doesn’t bother, bother, bother me much.” We would play silly word games, sometimes he would be the only one who knew the ‘key’ and he would belly laugh as we tried to identify the secret. (I had an Aunt who was odd and different, but not peculiar…)
My dad was GENTLE. Whenever I had a scrapped knee or a splinter his voice would quiet to a whisper and comfort me as he patched me up or pulled out the sliver. He always seemed to find a logical solution to my problems and offered compromises whenever possible. During my first pregnancy my husband took our last $20 to go fishing when I could barely fit into my clothing. I had earmarked that money to buy fabric and make my own maternity clothes. I called Dad in my distress and he convinced me that fishing would bring sun into our lives if it meant that my husband was happy and content. He also promised to send money for fabric (pretty sure it was $20 cash and a $50 Sears card). Regardless, it was Dad that saved the day and diffused the anger I felt toward my husband.
My dad was KIND. He was always extending a helping hand to neighbors, at church, and to strangers. He knew how to do almost anything and loved to problem solve. If you needed transportation or a repair – he was your guy! At his funeral, the line of acquaintances who shared a story about how he helped them felt unending.
My dad was CREATIVE. He loved his projects. From building a doll house, or a picnic table, to remodeling old things (houses & furniture) or building a garden, dad had it going on. There were projects in practically every corner of the house and yard – some of them in mid-stage for years on end. He was a master organizer and an early adopter of the baby-jar boom for keeping nails and screws of same-type organized. He reveled in the job of helping my AVON superstar mom – track and sort her orders.
My dad was a DREAMER. My dad encouraged me to follow all of my dreams – telling me: “The only thing it’s entirely not possible for you to do is to become a dad. Everything else is possible!” Some of my fondest memories as a child were sitting on his lap and discussing how we might change the world if he were to win the lottery.
My dad was ENGAGED. I remember dad acting in the community theater, building sets, he loved politics and once went to a political convention as a delegate. He served on numerous committees, was instrumental in bringing Oddesey of the Mind to my brother’s school, and served his time in Girl and Boy Scout positions. In his mid-life he was a real estate agent, which served to foster and propel his social attributes to their capacity.
My dad was VERBAL. He frequently used the phrases that are so important in fostering self-esteem in a child and reinforced them as I grew into adulthood: “I love you”, “I am proud of you”, “you did a great job”, “you can do it”, “that was a good decision”, and “use your best judgement”. He would let me know when I disappointed him or when I behaved badly but was always great at helping me understand that it was my behavior he wasn’t happy with and that he still and always would love me.
My dad has been gone over 20 years now and I miss him. I will forever be grateful that he was the kind of father who taught and passed along encouragement and wisdom… much of which I hope that I have honored by fostering in my own children, the attributes he shared with me.
One cannot change the past or make a father be a particular way but one CAN break a cycle of disfunction by building or adopting many of the above qualities. Share this with young fathers and fathers-to be so that they can understand how positive fathering impacts the live of a child even 50 years later.
Happy Father’s day dad … and to all of you father’s who choose to make a difference in the life of your child.