Since 1987, every spring there is a ritual that takes place that gives special meaning to my life. It is the annual trip to the cemetery to place the flowers for the season on my Dad’s grave.
The most influential person in my life, past and present, my father was a man unlike any other. I could tell you stories that would mean far more for me to tell than for you to listen to. But this is what is important, because it applies to you and your Dad too.
Dad taught me that a REAL father is human. He gets tired, he can get sick, he can get injured. But Dads, because they are who they are, are the happiest when they are with their kids and all is well.
Real Dads know it is the job of a parent to teach their child how to make decisions, not make all the decisions for their child.
Real Dads know it is more important to encourage critical thinking in your child than to answer their questions in a way that lets you move on with your day.
Real Dads know how to provide opportunity for their child’s interests to be explored, not attempt to live vicariously through their child’s life.
Real Dads know how to give their child hints about how battles are fought, not fight the child’s battle for them.
Real Dads know that a child benefits by seeing a cooperative relationship between genders rather than encouraging gender specific roles or jobs within the home. Boys should know how to cook; girls should know how to mow the lawn.
My Dad’s way of teaching never discouraged me from wanting to learn more. He taught me that life is always about learning, and that process should never end. But perhaps one of the most important lessons learned was how to see people with an open heart rather than a closed mind. A Korean War vet, his comment about the conflict always included “but such a beautiful people and culture.” Foster parents to dozens of children, he would say “I wish I could keep every one of them…” Colorblind to race, accepting of diversity, open to difference, he was the person who everyone turned to in the room for conversation making, peace brokering and leadership. Gifted with music and voice, my Dad would give back through his musical talents in church as well as social occasions.
I could – and want – to wax on about all the virtues that made my Dad the hero I grew up believing him to be. And the older I get, the more convinced I am that my perspective on that has never wavered.
To you Dad, Happy Father’s Day.
And if you are a Dad this description does NOT fit, please GET REAL.