Some of my earliest memories of my father include riding around the living room on his back while he pretended to be a horse, letting me touch his scratchy weekend beard, telling me silly jokes and teaching me how to play cards. I remember sitting under the kitchen table early in the morning with one of my little brothers eating cereal out of mixing bowls (I’m sure we were supposed to be in bed) and my dad “catching” us as he was quietly leaving to go to the hospital for work and just peeking under the table and making a silly face.
I remember my brothers scraping their knees and my dad scooping them up off the pavement as if they weighed nothing at all to put band aids on and make it all better.
Once when I was about 5 years old, my dad and I went to the top of Killington Mountain (and my mom and brothers were waiting for us at the bottom), and it started to blizzard. I was so scared and so cold, but my dad just swung me between his legs and wrapped his arms around my body and skied me down the whole mountain like that singing at the top of his lungs so I wouldn’t be scared. Now, maybe moms wouldn’t have taken a 5 year old girl up to the top of an expert mountain in the middle of a blizzard in the first place, but that is not the point. He made me feel safe…and actually made it fun…and I still remember that 45 years later!!
When I was in high school, mostly the moms went to the kids’ sporting events after school. You didn’t really see dads there. It wasn’t a thing. But once in a while, I would be running down the field hockey field and I would hear “go Walsh! Get ’em!” There was my dad, having left office hours early to watch me play.
My dad taught me how to drive. This cannot have been an easy task. I’m sure he needed anxiety medication afterwards, as driving stick shift did not come (shall we say…) naturally to me. Sometimes we ended up on the grass. Often I stalled. He probably got whiplash. More than once. But he stuck with me and I can now drive anything, although I would rather drive to a further parking lot than to parallel park…still not my forte, but I digress.
When something goes wrong in my life, my mom is always there for me…and this whole article is in no way to downplay the importance of mothers!! But there is something very special about a good dad. When everything falls apart, my dad can say one word and I will sort of buck up and keep going. Often his go-to word is “courage.” Two syllables that remind me that I already have what it takes to face whatever the current crisis is.
Dads are funny, and they are embarrassing. My dad would sing at the top of his lungs while my brothers and I skied with him. He said it was to keep his cadence. We were sure it was to mortify us. I sometimes do this to my kids for the same effect
Dads are strong and sensitive and just by their presence they can make everything feel all better. Let’s give them some room to let their presence be felt. Tell your kids funny stories about their dad…about before he became a dad…what he was like…how he is the same…how he is different. My dad has great stories about the first cars he ever owned…and one common theme between he and my boys’ dad is that they both owned cars that lacked a floor on the passenger side. I have never known anyone else who owned a car without a floor aside from these two!! My dad also had a car that would not go in reverse. If he liked the girl he was dating, she could steer while he pushed the car out of the parking spot. If the date wasn’t going so well, she would push.
So, dads, tell your children your silly stories from when you were a teen or in college. They will eat them up!!! Be strict and stern when you must and be silly and fun when you can. You won’t appear to be your children’s friend. You are something so much more. You are their father. Relish the title. It is one of the very best. Happy Father’s Day!!