10 Free and Easy Ways to Be A GREAT DAD

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…

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.

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1990 with my Step-dad Francis K. Bean

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.

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2017  New Dad Francis Marion with son Francis Marion

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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Daddy’s Girl

Continued from The Fam

To really understand me, you must understand the relationship I had with my dad. They say, a girl’s relationship with their father is extremely important.

From infancy, girls draw conclusions about what men are like from the men in their life. If there is a father (or a male in her life who takes a father role), that man becomes her guidepost for what to expect of men and what to expect of men’s attitude toward women. (http://psychcentral.com/lib/daughters-need-fathers-too/)

My dad used to tell me that I could do anything in the world I wanted with one exception – I could never be a dad. Hahaha.

Yeah…. Dad was funny.

dadDad wasfunnydad a dreamer. He was awesome at fantasizing about what to do with lottery winnings. From those discussions, I learned that Dad was generous. He wanted to do good things. Dad was handy. He could do anything!! Dad was a great thinker. He was creative. Our town had great Halloween parades and on more than one occasion, dad created amazing costumes. On one specific occasion he used chicken wire to fabricate 6 ft tall top hats that stole the show in the parade that year. He loved. He was a helper. He was the first in line to search for a missing child in the woods near Harvey’s Lake one year.

My dad was a great dad.

Why is this important? First and foremost, it is because it set the stage for how established expectations; not only for how a man treated me, but for how a man loved and interacted with my children.

I’m not sure that my dad was a great husband. Of course I wasn’t married to him but I know that he struggled as a provider. Being a dreamer created the potential for expectations that were unrealistic. He had a lot of BIG ideas that were simply unpractical under the circumstances. He may have used resources he didn’t have to chase dreams that were improbable at the time. He saw potential in EVERYTHING – including me.

Dad believed in me. He never questioned my intent – he simply helped me figure out how it may be possible.  After watching Now You See Him, Now You Don’t, I was convinced that I could figure out how to become invisible. My dad and my 8th grade science teacher encouraged me to pursue my thoughts.  Bravo to them for allowing me to believe!! Dad was a realist yet not too restrictive. He gave me room without allowing me to strangle myself.  He guided gently with great wisdom.

Consequently, I expected the father of my children to be the same.  I didn’t understand or realize that fatherhood could be anything else. I ultimately married with the idea that my children’s childhood and paternal experience would mimic mine. FAIL.

My husband failed. He was (without my awareness) held to a standard that he knew nothing about; that was impossible to achieve.

Without being aware – my dad had embedded a standard of fatherhood onto my psyche. He formatted an expectation that my consciousness simply expected. The stage was set for massive disappointment.

I mentioned in another post that my dad had inadvertently emotionally abandoned me while he was falling in love with my step-mother. Totally human. He didn’t realize it – it was unintentional. He was doing what people do when they are focused on falling in love. All of the other times that I can remember – he was there; present and ready to offer wisdom or support or whatever it was I needed at the time.

In early 1980 I was living alone in an apartment in Hayward, CA. I woke in the middle of the night – looked at the clock – and saw the red digital LED lights say 2:59.  A few moments later I was aware of light – that sensation which occurs when you notice it is daylight. I open my eyes. There is a man standing at the end of my bed with his t-shirt pulled up over his nose and mouth so that only his eyes were visible. His pants were down and his penis was being stroked by his right hand.

As the scene before me registered in my brain, my mouth opened and a scream escaped. I had always wondered if it would really happen – if I could actually formulate sound when needed – and it did. A blood curdling, shrill escaped through my vocal cords and the man ran.  I’ve always wondered how he ran, pulled up his pants, and grabbed my purse on the way out (it was missing when I took stock of the apartment).

I called my dad.

That would be normal except for the fact that my Dad was then living in Cincinnati and I was in California.  He told me to call the police and he hung up. He was the one to whom I looked toward for safety and security. Hands Down.

I later realized that I transferred that expectation to my husband. I EXPECTED him – without understanding it – to be my protector in the way that my dad had (seemingly) protected me. Hmmm…. Mistake.

My dad fixed my problems – at least it felt that way. When I was first pregnant and growing out of my normal clothing with no money to buy maternity clothes – it was my dad who sent a $50 Sears card and $20 for fabric so I could make some. My husband at the time had taken all the money we had left after payday to rent a boat, buy bait and beer, and go fishing. I was heartbroken. I called Dad.

His message was this:

An afternoon of fishing may produce a month of happiness and so its value is priceless.

He knew that self care was of ultimate importance and he took ‘care’ of me in exchange. I’ve never forgotten the primary message.

One October day I was preparing for a conference in Orlando when he called and wanted to chat. Dad was great about calling and checking in with my busy life.  I said I’d call him when I got back. We flew to Orlando, checked into the hotel, and got a message within the hour that Dad had died.  The only thing that I could think of is that I would never be able to call back.

It was years before I truly grasped the notion that I couldn’t just call and share my life with him or ask for advice. He has been sorely missed….

Dad, I love you and thanks … For all the love and lessons.