Last night at church, our pastor started off his Father’s Day weekend sermon with, “If you want to get a really interesting conversation going with a group of people, just ask them to tell you about their relationships with their dads.” Moms have a lot of societal pressure to be the “perfect Pinterest” moms, doing all the things to make sure their kids grow up to be functioning adults. But dads have such a responsibility in this, too. Their relationships with their kids bear a lot of weight, especially as their children enter into adulthood. We’ve all heard the term “daddy issues” and we’ve all known someone who has a dysfunctional relationship with their dad. I’ve also heard it said over and over that some people really struggle with seeing God as a loving father because their biological one was anything but.
This, however, is not my story. My dad is pretty amazing, and becoming a parent myself has given me an even greater appreciation for him and the way he partnered with my mom to parent my sister and me. In fact, the part in weddings that make me the most emotional is when the father lets go of his daughter to give her away; I cry every time. And I know it’s because of the great relationship I have with my own dad.
My dad is wicked smart. I used to sit at his feet with a notebook and a pen, asking him to explain all the big things I heard about but didn’t understand. I wanted to soak up every bit of wisdom I could from him. We talked about things like the stock market or The Great Depression or The Holocaust. A great teacher, patient and thorough, he explained things in ways that my young mind could understand. I still call him when I don’t understand something I’ve read or need him to boil down something that’s going on in politics because I don’t have the time to investigate it myself.
He was at every gymnastics meet, every softball or volleyball or basketball game, even when our teams totally sucked and it was hard to watch. He practiced with us in the backyard and gave us pointers after games. He never pushed us to do the sports he’d loved (like swimming), but instead wanted us to enjoy whatever we did. He still cheers me on and encourages me in all the things I’m doing, like parenting my kiddos and pursuing my passion for writing.
To this day, I believe that the reason my sister and I did so well in school and beyond was because he had high expectations. He knew we were capable of rising to those expectations, and he expected us to do our personal best, not to be THE best, which is an important distinction. He knew that a hard-earned B was better than a handed-to-us A-minus. Although life looks so different now than it did when we were in school, he still expects both of us to show up every day in our lives and be our best.
When we talked about college, he gently pushed us out of the nest, not because he couldn’t wait to have an empty home, but because he wanted big things for us and knew we couldn’t get them by staying where it was comfortable. Anytime we wanted to come home though, we did, and we picked right up where we had left off. He still loves it when we can all be together under one roof, and makes it a point to make it happen. And he loves his grandchildren as much as he ever loved us.
I was not the easiest teenager to parent; I could be moody and mean and had a flair for the dramatic. My dad taught me that as much as I’d like it to, the world does not revolve around me. He’d remind me of this whenever I’d complain about things or people at school or I’d talk myself into thinking that someone was talking about me behind my back or that the coach wasn’t letting me play because I was being punished somehow. And he was usually right.
He taught me to ask questions and think for myself, not to blindly follow any one institution or person. He taught me that nothing is black and white, everything has its negatives and its positives, that good can be found in (most) all people.
He taught me that above all, we need to be kind. He called me out when I was being particularly nasty in 7th grade and every time I’d say something bad about another person. He was my first teacher in empathy, asking me to imagine how another person felt.
He taught me that it’s okay to do what makes you happy. He still swims laps every week at the local gym and is unapologetic about flipping through news channels all day long and drinking Diet Coke (much to my 5-year-old’s admonitions). When he quit his CPA job years ago, he taught me that it’s okay to change careers midlife if the one you’re in is sucking the very fun out of your life. When he learned computer programming on his own, he taught me that it’s never too late to learn new skills if you have enough determination.
And, he taught me how important it is to honor your spouse. I think my childhood friends were grossed out sometimes when my parents would hug or kiss or hold hands in public, but I loved that about them. My dad supports my mom and cares about her well-being more than his own. They have a life together that I hope to have with my sweet husband when we’ve been married as long as they have.
So, Daddy, thanks for being the dad you are, and Happy Father’s Day; I’m so glad you’re mine.