My dad died 10 weeks ago. This Father’s Day is going to be hard for me. As you can imagine I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my dad, his life, his parenting, our life together. I wanted to do something to honor him for Father’s Day. He was always curious about how I felt about him as a father. The day before he died he asked me, “Was I a good father?” It wasn’t the first time. That night I answered, “You ARE a good father, not was. Dad…you saved me…you absolutely saved me.” He nodded. We both understood what this meant and the importance of it. While the meaning will be lost on you let me just tell you, it’s important.
So, in honor of a great dad, in celebration of Father’s Day, I’ve written out a few rambling paragraphs outlining some ways my dad rocked the socks off of this parenting a girl thing. You daddies with daughters out there might want to take note.
He answered my phone calls – My dad answered my calls about 98% of the time. If he didn’t answer, I knew he was in a movie, or didn’t hear it ring. But I wouldn’t put it past him to leave a theater to take my call. I remember he would answer and say, “How are you doing my sweet-baboo?”. Once or twice he would tell me he was in a meeting, so and so says hello and would need to call me back in a few minutes…but he always answered anyway. Showing me that I was a priority in his life.
He talked about me with his friends – Before my dad passed I would often hear, “Haley! Oh your dad is SO proud of you! He told me all about how well you’re doing in life. He just thinks the world of you.” Since he has passed I hear, “Honey…you were the absolute joy of your dad’s life. I could tell when he talked about you…you were in a separate and special category. How proud you made him.” It is a gift my dad is still giving to me, through the words of others he spoke with. It warms my heart to know he spoke so highly of me to so many. Reminds me that I was on his mind every single day.
He taught me that it’s OK to laugh at “naughty” stuff (if you can’t laugh at naughty jokes then skip this one for crying out loud) – I remember once when I was in high school my dad and I were eating dinner in our TV room. He dished up his pasta and afterwards he looked down at his plate. The two bread rolls and lump of pasta were unfortunately placed. We both saw it. Out of the corner of his mouth he said, “Well…this looks very…phallic.” We laughed for a long time. For the first time ever I cracked a joke myself before I could even really think, I said, “Yeah…that sure is a mouth full…” There was a moment of mutual shock, and I thought I would soon be killed, but instead, my dad let out a hearty laugh, gave his eyes a good squeaky rub (a habit of his) and uttered an “Eeeeeewwwww, Haley Lynn!”. ANYWAY, you get the point. You don’t have to take it to that level…but just learn to chuckle. There is no shame in cracking jokes that make you blush a little bit. Life is short, just laugh at naughty stuff and move on. (We laughed about everything…laughter is just good for your soul.)
He stuck with me through my weirdness – I made some weeerriiiidd choices. I remember going through boyfriend weirdness, school weirdness, spiritual weirdness…all the while my dad journeyed with me even though I was making choices he could see were not helpful. He could have easily told me what to do, but instead he simply listened, asked questions, empathized and hugged me. He trusted me to make my own decisions, and trusted me to own the consequences. He knew that being present and informed about what was going on in my life was WAY more important than possibly shutting me out. In return, I tended to make better decisions because I knew he was paying attention. We would get a good laugh out of it later, and he would finally admit how nervous he had been for me.
He asked me about God – My dad would periodically ask how my relationship with God was looking. There was no wrong or right answer. I could spew it all out without fear of my dad questioning, correcting or lecturing me. He always sat quietly, listening to me, and he always found some way to affirm my thoughts. “You’re doing good listening honey.”, “Doesn’t it all seem like bull sometimes?”, “God doesn’t seem to work like we expect God too.”
He shared his spiritual life with me – Ok, ok, My dad was a pastor, so this came pretty easily to him. I LOVED it when my dad would tell me all about the latest things on his mind. His spiritual life was constantly growing and changing. He was being moved deeper and deeper into the depths of God’s spirit, and he had beautiful words to articulate it. But I encourage those of you who are shy about this to step outside your comfort zone and share what you feel or see God doing in your own personal life with your daughters. They need to hear it.
If you’re not religious – Ask her about God anyway. Spirituality is a huge part of people’s lives, regardless if it is yours. Perhaps you should find out how your daughter sees this part of her experience in the world. After all, she may have a perspective that’s different than yours, and how blessed you’ll be to hear her thoughts!
He talked about the past – In the year or so before my dad passed away, we started to talk more candidly about my childhood and his young adult life. Real, honest talk. My perspective versus his, his stories of shenanigans. There was still so much to be said. I’ve found out since he passed that while my name was “stolen” from a close friend, it was my dad who first heard my name from that friend, loved it, and mentioned it to my mom. I wish so badly I could talk to him about that. I loved hearing him talk about me as a little girl. He told me the stories that delighted him the most, over and over and over. I hold on to his reflections of me as child with great love. I was a spit-fire. I know so because he told me. It’s incredible how important having an adult perspective on your childhood self can be. Not everyone gets to experience that.
He made me feel beautiful without talking about looks - My dad told me I was “beautiful” a handful of times. It didn’t happen often, but when it did it was so meaningful and absolutely heartfelt. Somehow, even though my dad did not often affirm me for how I looked, I feel that my dad thought I was the most striking girl on the planet. How did he do that? Perhaps it was all the affirmation I got from him about other things? I would argue that the genuine interest and delight you show in your daughter as a human being will do more for her confidence than all compliments that you could give her about her physical appearance. My dad loved me down to the absolute core of who I am. I know it because he loved being around me, and I him. I’ve got a killer inner confidence and strength…where do you think that comes from?
I still look back to the day my father passed away and think, “Did that really happen?” It’s unbelievably hard to imagine my future without his guidance. I’m blessed to have so many memories with him. I’m blessed to have felt close to him. I’m blessed to have had him as my father.
Dad, you ARE a great father, not was. Happy Father’s Day.