Father’s Day isn’t quite what it used to be. Instead of carefully selecting tacky, golf-related items for you to cheerfully open, now my daughters and I pick out useless junk for my husband to exclaim over. Same routine, different viewpoint, I suppose. And while the focal point of Father’s Day used to be you, along with Mom, my brother, and me, now the efforts revolve mainly around our own girls and their Daddy. But I still think about you on Father’s Day; parenthood has made me reexamine the role you played in my life growing up, and the role you continue to play.
It may seem that since Mom and I share more personality traits– being emotional, communicative, prone to anxiety and overreacting, (in the best possible way, Mom) and perhaps a bit, ahem, tightly wound– that I would have inherited more of my parenting style from her. Over Mother’s Day, I reflected on how many of mom’s values and skills I have incorporated into my own mothering practices. But the funny thing is- there are so many moments throughout each day when I open my mouth, and your words come out.
No, not just those words, (refer back to post on swearing toddlers) although I think it’s clear that some of my fiery temperament came from your genes. “Quit dinkin’ around,” I’ll tell my children as they stall bedtime in ridiculously imaginative ways. “For crying out loud,” I’ll complain, having officially grown tired of their antics. I’ve even caught such gems as, “Do you think I was born yesterday?” and “God bless it!” flying out of my mouth. My girls love that last one. One evening when one of them managed to drag an entire blanket into the (filled) bathtub, I patted myself on the back for having avoided “God dammit” by substituting the tastefully watered down, “God bless it.” The girls roared with laughter and chanted, “God bless it!” for the next half-hour.
Our own family mantra, “What would the Rolling Stones say?” (Answer: You can’t always get what you want.) is a direct reflection of your philosophy and technique. Now these quips might seem like nothing more than smart-ass remarks from an irritable parent, but if you look a little deeper, they send a few more meaningful messages.
- I have limits, and you kids are about to reach them, so be aware.
- I am a human being, who does not possess an infinite amount of patience. Be respectful.
- Sometimes a simple sentence is more effective than a long, rambling speech aimed at ensuring the cooperation of children who have begun to tune you out.
- A little humor goes a long way in parenthood.
- Not everything needs to be taken seriously, obsessed over, or studied in depth. It’s not always necessary to fuss over every single familial interaction.
You may think I’m reaching, or being irreverent, but I assure you that I’m not. While your own brand of wit may be the punchline of some of our favorite family jokes, you bring something much deeper than a few cheap laughs to the fabric of our history. I have learned things from you, things that matter.
I have learned to believe in myself, thanks to your frequent reminders of how “marketable” I am, even beginning with your insistence that my brother and I had such “natural ability.” (Although when it came to T-ball and golfing, I call BS. There was nothing “natural” about my skills.) Though I rolled my eyes at some of your attempts at encouragement, I never doubted your sincerity on the things that mattered. I’ve always known that you deeply believed in my skills and value, and you contributed so significantly to the development of my self-confidence.
I also think your faith in me has helped me to remember who I am as a whole person, and serves to remind me that in addition to being a parent, it’s okay for me to have goals and ambitions. As you know, that guilt, the struggle to be a present parent and keep my own needs on the table, is one of my biggest challenges. I sense you cheering me on when I reach a goal, or get published somewhere that matters to me, or when I write something that is worthwhile.
You taught me how to roll with the punches when life didn’t go the way I’d hoped or planned; you modeled resilience and flexibility, two qualities for which I do not possess a “natural ability”. You showed me how to lighten up, how to take my own plans, to-do list, Type A personality, and neuroses, less seriously. I am grateful for that- I clearly need all the help I can get.
You’ve always brought a balancing energy to our family; while Mom was available to help me process my feelings, sit by my side as I cried over God-knows-what, and provide a desperately needed nurturing energy, your qualities were just as essential. You kept us grounded. You were playful, fun-loving, and adventurous. Just the other day my daughters tied up Daddy with a rope and jumped all over him, and I remembered our early days of tying you up with hair ribbons, putting you in the cedar closet, and then experiencing legitimate shock when you managed to escape our meticulous bonds and chase us around the basement.
Interestingly enough, I’m not the only one who spouts your trademark quotes around this house. Like so many others, I succumbed to the cliche of marrying a man who strongly resembles one’s father, and my husband’s one-liners and eye-roll-inducing humor are eerily reminiscent of your own. The girls have been known to echo their Papa as well. Just the other day, after listening to my toddler screech, sing, and bark during her naptime, I inquired why she had chosen not to sleep. “I was dinking around,” she replied matter-of-factly, and then repeated over and over with increasing delight when she saw it had made Mommy laugh. If I call her a stinker, she often protests, “No! Papa calls me a stinker-binker!”
Your presence and influence is felt in our lives regularly- from our jokes and deadpan quips to our values, philosophies, and memories. We are grateful for every day we get to spend with you, and we do not take for granted your frequent trips to visit your granddaughters or your willingness to travel with us. You graciously and skillfully tolerate the chaos and emotionality of life with two young girls, and they reward your patience with adoration and devotion. Not a bad deal, eh?
I sometimes wish I knew you better, that I could understand all the factors that led to the complexity of who you are- your past experiences, your personality, your life philosophy, and the choices you’ve made. Maybe someday when the kids are older and I’m not so damn tired, we can sit outside with our beverages of choice and talk for hours. So you better take good care of yourself- we want you with us for years and years to come. We all love you so much, Dad. I hope you know how much you mean to us. Happy Father’s Day.
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This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday.
Today’s sentence was, “Dear Dad…”
June 27th’s sentence is, “The one thing I’ll never compromise on is…”
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