NOTE: The National Association of Mothers’ Centers hosted a Webinar on the Power and Potential of Father/Daughter Relationships on March 3, 2011. Through that webinar I was inspired to talk more about how our fathers impact us! Read about my experience and share yours by adding a comment to this blog post!
Growing up as the oldest of 3 girls in my family, some of my most vivid memories of childhood are of our family vacations. My father – who was the only male between myself, my mother, and my 2 younger siblings – should have had a
Masters PhD in automobile packing! The women in our household were by no means LIGHT packers when it came to vacations! Which and how many shoes, shirts, shorts, suits, slacks, and skirts to take, were always a point of contention among us ladies and my father. “Efficiency packing” was not our style, but arguing against packing all our “stuff” was pointless. So my dad made do with the hand he was dealt and was officially awarded the family title of “master packer.”
Over the course of the years my father earned many other “degrees” and awards such as:
- Personal Coach-of-the-Year (in whatever sport I decided to attack)
- Master’s of Aquatic Fun (swimming was fun with friends, but even more fun with dad!)
- M.B.A. in Conflict Resolution (when the business of sibling arguing got out of hand)
Not that my mom didn’t have a lot of influence and wasn’t a prevalent person in my life – in our family, my mom was the permanent daily fixture on our family lives. She tended lovingly and with much gusto to our every-day needs, wants and necessities as a “stay-at-home super-mom” and later as a working “super-mom”. But my father was more than just a “superhero side-kick”. Looking back, I can reflect on the influence and life lessons only my father could have taught me.
LESSON #1: Don’t rely on someone else to fix things for you.
As an adolescent it can be scary to do things yourself! And easy to rely on others for the simplest things – such as calling in a pizza delivery order. It can be even more scary to do something you are not familiar with – such as quickly fixing a recurring carburetor problem in my car. (YES! I can fix my carburetor thanks to my dad!) I amazed friends in my high school parking lot by performing a quick fix my dad taught me to get my car running. It was forced, do-it-yourself incidents like this that helped to build my confidence as a young woman and give me courage to take on the even bigger, scarier things to come in life!
LESSON #2: Pick and choose your battles.
I was a pretty good kid, all things considered. But even “good kids” can make mistakes and wrong decisions. More-so than my mother, the importance of earning and keeping my dad’s trust played an important part in my decision making process. Looking back, I believe this was because my dad so very rarely seemed to get angry and disappointed. One solid look of disapproval on my dad’s face, told me VERY QUICKLY that I had done something very wrong. There is something to say for overexposure… my mom, who spent most every waking minute with us, did not have the same effect for this very reason! My father was my mother’s secret “superhero weapon” when it came to discipline. And as I grew older, I realized the importance and power of being trustworthy and admirable. Through his actions, my dad taught me to pick and choose my battles, so that the battles I did pick were viewed as significant by others.
LESSON #3: Finish what you start.
Ever participate in a high school swim team or a sport with 2-a-days? If you have, then you already know how getting up at 5 in the morning to swim laps prior to school and then filing back to the natatorium everyday after school to practice yet again, meant sometimes going days without seeing sunlight! This was the story of my winter as a high school swimmer and diver. By the time I was a junior, I was getting really burnt out with swimming. Just prior to the first meet of my junior season, I approached both my parents with the intention of quitting the swim team. There are two things I clearly remember about my dad’s reaction to this request… first, that I felt my parents took the time to at least hear me through on why I wanted to quit, and second, my dad’s actual firm, but thoughtful response – “We don’t quit something we have not finished. You get through this season, and if you still feel the same next season, you don’t have to return.” This reply is one of many which helped to instill a great sense of responsibility, commitment, determination, dependability and reliability in me. To this day, I ALWAYS work to finish what I start.
Passing the “Torch”
There is so much more that my father knowingly (and unknowingly) taught me – beyond how to systematically pack a van for vacation! Additionally I’ll point out, a Dad isn’t the only one who is capable of teaching the above lessons. A case in point is my husband, who was raised by an AMAZING single mother who instilled many of these same life lessons in him and his brother. I feel fortunate to have such a great husband to partner with me in teaching these life lessons. My husband, like my father was to my mother, is WAY MORE than just a “superhero sidekick!” My husband connects to our children in a way that is so different to how I connect with them. My hope is that someday my kids will look back at the life lessons that their father has instilled in them and see that the “first man” in their life was just as positive an influence as the “first man” in my life was. THANK YOU DAD!
What life lessons and positive influences did your father have on you? How do the fathers in your life influence your children? Leave some comments to share! And encourage the fathers in your life to unlock their unique influence in their childrens’ life!