Today is Father’s Day and of course, I am thinking about the incredible paternal influences in my life. Hardly a week goes by where I am not reminded of some major impact my father had on my life even though he passed away almost 25 years ago. I’ve written about him quite a bit over the years I’ve been blogging but I’ve never really talked much about my step-dad. I got lucky at the age of 14 when my mom married him, although it took me a few years to realize it. He was a strong mentor and a true cheerleader in the face of my dreams. He fiercely loved my mom and provided another amazing example of how to respect a woman. He epitomized fairness and equality even while being a strong disciplinarian. I didn’t always agree with his approach, especially if he was bellowing but in retrospect, I appreciate his passions.
I cannot speak about ‘being’ a father but I can certainly attest to the attributes of two remarkable men who embodied the role successfully and share my perception of how they contributed to my life in such positive ways. It wasn’t rocket science nor did any of the things that made a difference cost money. Any man can be like my dad and/or my step dad… Here are a few of the things they did:
THEY SPENT TIME WITH ME
I never really cared how… it might have been sitting on dad’s lap as a little girl, fixing something, or being a helper as he tinkered on one of his many projects… It was often taking a walk, swinging in a hammock, or cooking together. I always knew that my dad and my step dad were available to make me a priority from time to time.
THEY LISTENED TO ME
Both of these men were on my ‘call list’… the ones you could call at any time, for any reason, under any circumstance and they would listen. They knew when to ‘fix’ things and when to simply listen. They offered suggestions but didn’t criticize. They didn’t get defensive or judgmental.
THEY TAUGHT ME
My father in particular was one of the most patient and kind individuals I’ve known. He found the patience to help me over and over again regardless of the task I was learning. My step dad might have had a bit less patience but he was determined to stick by you until the knowledge was imparted. Both of them were completely selfless when it came to sharing what they knew from common sense to book smarts, and they were equally relentless in their pursuit of acquiring more.
THEY FORGAVE ME
I was less than a perfect child and my mistakes occasionally ran deep and wide. They provided me with the space to fail and learn and they were always there to help me stand back up. When I was rude or sassy they stood firm, but let go and moved on without persecution or resentment.
THEY MODELED FOR ME
They modeled the behavior they expected from me. It was never ‘do as I say, not as I do’… While neither one of them were perfect of course, they upheld the values they spoke of; integrity, honesty, compassion, and respect. They never asked something of me that they weren’t willing to do themselves.
THEY PROTECTED ME
They protected me. Sometimes it was from myself, others it was from a boy who broke my heart or from a bad financial decision. They stood by me when strangers were rude or when I was treated unfairly. When Rocky died they literally held me up – one on either side of me and when I remarried, they shared time on the dance floor with me. I felt safe in the world because of them.
THEY ENCOURAGED ME
My father said that the only thing in the world I could never achieve was to become a father… other than that he said, “dream away”. My stepdad believed that I would conquer the business world and would challenge me to “work my brain” during the years that I chose to stay at home with the kids. If I had an idea, they were the inquisitors and financiers in support of the endeavor.
THEY TALKED TO ME
They asked about my day with genuine open-ended questions and prompted solid discussion about my life, social issues, and investigated topics of shared interest. When I moved away they would call me first… wanting share in my life even from afar. They were never salty or sarcastic about who called who – they promoted interactive communication that I knew was respected.
THEY LAUGHED WITH ME
I grew up knowing that it was OK to be silly and have fun, to tell jokes and play pranks. My dad and stepdad laughed with me even if I was laughing at them sometimes. My father was especially good at knowing how to balance life with silliness and laughter.
THEY SAID ‘NO’
They set boundaries, established rules, and demanded respect regardless of my age. I learned early not to expect everything I wanted but that my needs would be met. Of course, when they were able and often with delight, I was the recipient of their generosity whether it was a plane ticket home or a new dress for no reason.
These are the things that stand out.
My son recently became a father for the first time and I know he will be a great one. He has grown into a kind and fair man with an even temper. As I watch him look at his son, the love and awe in his eyes is vividly apparent and I know he is experiencing a love far deeper than he has ever known. This list is for him as much as it is for anyone so that his own son may someday describe him from this vantage point.
I never cared how much money my dad earned or how many places he took us. It didn’t matter if we went to Disney because we spent Saturday afternoons walking along the creek looking for tadpoles. A deep and thought-provoking conversation over a pot of coffee was far more memorable than taking his credit card to the mall on Friday nights.
I was a lucky girl and I like to think that some of the characteristics that my father and stepdad demonstrated infiltrated my own parenting. I see most of them in my brothers as I watch them with their young children and I wish them for my son as he embarks on this personal fatherhood journey.
Happiest of Father’s Days to all the dad’s out there!
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