I have to do a written tribute for Father’s Day this year, for many reasons – two of them being the best, most loving dads a girl could ask for. One I was born to and one I married. And I thank God for them every day. Because they really are incredible men. And supportive husbands. And fantastic fathers. And really good sports – I mean, really. It can’t be easy playing the steady to the comedic drama fest that is our life.
While my life has always had a substantial, overt female influence, I’ve got to give kudos to the man who had to live in Estrogen World with three very strong personalities and their hormones, two of whom were relatively loud and outspoken, one of whom has a more sensitive heart => thus has always been prone to bursting into tears with somewhat alarming regularity…..especially when she’s losing at family game night (sorry, Mom. You know I’m speaking truth in love). Hats off to the man who handled an existence of accents and music, dancing and fighting, exotic foods and foreign concepts with aplomb. It couldn’t have been easy, especially since his upbringing was so devoid of all those things.
And he only has one brother.
So, you know, no concept of girl stuff.
Yet, he found a way to navigate the murky waters of parenthood – and parenthood of a firstborn girl, no less. He learned to coach girls’ soccer, despite never having played the sport himself. He found the creativity and energy for stories and giggles, cuddles and tears, family vacations, sporting events and dance recitals galore. He learned to use every conceivable piece of recording equipment developed in the 80’s and 90’s, and woe be to him if a battery didn’t have enough charge to make it through an entire performance. He survived slumber parties full of screaming, giggling girls who stayed up well past reasonable hours. I’ll never forget my 13th birthday party…..We were wired, of course, and rolling with laughter as one of my friends performed midnight cheer routines while wearing Medzma’s balloon-stuffed bra. Unbeknownst to us at the time, there were two different boy sleepovers happening in our neighborhood that night as well. At separate times, each party snuck over and wrapped our house. The second group was so bold as to ring the doorbell upon completion of the task. Naturally, my dad came barrelling out of his room to the sounds of our fading shrieks as we oh-so-wisely unlocked the front door, threw it open, and ran screaming into the front yard and street – clad only in our tiny pj’s. In December. At three o’clock in the morning.
I actually thought he might stroke out that night.
He survived, as dads do.
He also managed to survive:
- teaching me to drive a five-speed standard car
- multiple proms and homecomings
- letting me out of the house in a bikini
- the highs and lows of a teenage girl’s dating life
- cheerleader tryouts (only once – I didn’t make it. It may have scarred him for life)
- volleyball and track injuries and triumphs
- the world of dance
- graduations – high school, college, grad school
- my first out-of-town vacation with a boyfriend
- my wedding – and all that entailed
Each step of the way, he had to redefine himself as Father, growing or shrinking the role as the occasion demanded. And while I can’t say I always agreed with the way he did so, I can say I’m so incredibly grateful that he did. It made all the difference. It colored all my memories. It shaped my life and expectations and sense of self.
I married a guy who, at first glance, is almost polar opposite of my dad. Gregg is outdoorsy and active, playful and competitive, all about practical application and the bottom line. My dad is introverted, a little anti-social at times, academic, kind of sedentary and full of esoteric facts and information that is often completely weird and not something we can relate to (love you, Daddy).
My husband, love of my life and father to my three beautiful children, grew up in a country setting with one brother, mostly male cousins and a hard-working single mom. He’d never even set foot in a dance recital before he met me, yet managed to brave The Nutcracker twice (because I was in it) the year we started dating. He has endured performances, drama, accents, foreign foods and traditions, hormones and spontaneous recreations of iconic musical numbers without batting an eye (or at least without developing a twitch). He embraced Fatherhood head on (luckily, with a two son warm-up before Hurricane Emry arrived) and rises to its challenges with regularity, strength and patience that sometimes astounds me.
When Luke began to play soccer, he stepped in to coach, in spite of never having played the sport himself. He’s helped coach Drew’s team every season save one. When Luke decided he wanted to take hip hop lessons, he showed up to every recital or competition, video camera in hand, ready to record the three minutes our son was in after sitting through four hours of all the girls – and he did this for four years. When Emry was born he learned to love pink and to change diapers even when intimidated by the parts he was cleaning. He’s even found the courage to mangle his way through a curly ponytail or two.
He coaches our sons in football and basketball.
He teaches our daughter to swim.
He drives kids to school every morning he’s in town.
He fishes with them, and tickles them, and doles out hugs and high fives.
He prays with them every night at bedtime.
He can dunk a basketball or pretend cookie in imaginary tea with equal skill.
I watch my daughter blossom every time he tells her she’s pretty, or smart, or strong.
I watch my sons stand taller when he takes them to shoot hoops, and then comes in bragging to me about what each of them did well.
He naturally reinforces their sense of self, even as he watches them grow and develop. I watch the subtle shifts in his relationship with each one as they mature.
He’ll redefine himself as Father, growing or shrinking the role as occasions demand.
He’ll continue to be an integral part of their core, their memories and their expectations.
And it will make all the difference.
Because we are genetically encoded for this.
We are, at our very core, created to crave this concept of Father. To look up to, seek assurance from and find approval in Him.
To know that we are loved, and protected, and special.
To feel the strength and security that comes from a daddy who blesses us with his presence and his unconditional love.
I applaud the men out there who are doing this to the best of their ability, who are successful in imparting any measure of this to their wives and children, and who continually strive and sacrifice to this end. You are appreciated, and you are bestowing a gift that cannot be overstated onto the generations to come. Thank you. We love you, even when the noise and chaos and drama overwhelm our ability to say so.
Solidarity, sisters. You are beloved by your Father.