Fathers Day

I wish all of the fathers who read this blog a great day.  Once a year people dear to us acknowledge [or fail to] our unique role in their lives.  Last night on a plane from Baltimore to Chicago, a young black youth boarded our plane and sat by himself across the aisle from us.  A 20-something woman sat next to him and the two had a great conversation. I noted that she asked about his siblings and mom, but not father. Actually, later on in the conversation, he mentioned his dad in a very positive way. Coincidentally, he had been attending a science camp at the Naval Station and he intends to pursue a career in science in the Navy.

Lots of black children that I know have no dad; of course they had a ‘father’ in the scientific sense, but no dad. That discussion is for another thread at a later date.  So, how was your dad? Mine was already in his 40’s when I was born.  He was a product of the Great Depression, with parents who were immigrants from Germany. My father was the bread winner for them and for his sister and her family as well. That delayed his own marriage and future children. As a result, lots of factors went into the formulation of his idea of what a nurturing father or dad should be.

I’ve often heard, especially at funerals, the phrase, ‘Well, he did the best he knew how.’ So then, the question might be: how does a man learn to be a good dad? Further, do fathers want to be good dads or do children just get tossed into the mix?  Did you strive to be a good dad to your kids? Did you have the modelling, the knowledge, the instructions to achieve that goal?  Or did stuff just happen along the way?

Perhaps you did the best you knew how.

Father

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6 thoughts on “Fathers Day

  1. Happy Fathers Day – my Dad was a great dad. How did he learn? I have no idea; but I do know that whatever he was EXPECTING to be involved in paternal parenting was NOT what he got.

    I know this because of a conversation where, when I was 5, looking forward to going to kindergarten, I sat him down, and asked him if he would rather have had a son than a daughter. He actually had a bit more choice than is usually the case, in that I was adopted as an infant.

    I don’t know if he had a preference or not; but I do know that turning me down when offered would have led to delays. Dad had the presence of mind when caught off guard, to tell me that he liked the idea of having a daughter, because he thought girls were ‘easier’, because they were sweet, and gentle and affectionate, and didn’t get into as much trouble as boys did, especially when they got to be teenagers.

    It was important to me to set him straight; I told him very firmly that I was not going to be easier than any boy, that I was precocious / ‘brainy’, I was stubborn, and I had a temper. I also was not shy about speaking my mind to adults — ANY adult. And I was NOT going to conform to his idea of what girls were like. More than that, I was going to keep doing things that he thought were dangerous whether he liked it or not. So he could either accept the fact that I was brave, but not stupid, and that when i did things he thought were dangerous, it was not because I was reckless, but rather that I had figured out a safe way to do them — that he should assume I knew something he didn’t know, until he had a chance to ask me.

    I also made it clear that if I went, the dog I got for my 4th birthday was coming with me. That was very important I felt, to specify.

    And if he couldn’t handle that, then he should return me immediately, and get a more docile child, either boy or girl.

    I asked him if anything he did while a naval aviator scared him. He said yes. I asked him why, then, did he do them anyway. He said, “because they needed to be done.” I answered him, “Exactly. When I do something YOU think is dangerous, I believe it needs to be done too.”

    He was nonplussed for a moment, then only half laughing, explained that I scared him more than anything that was really dangerous that he had done as a naval aviator – more than he knew he could be scared – but that he would try to remember that I was brave, not stupid, so as not to over-react, but that he would still worry, so could I please try to limit those events. I agreed I would – but only to a point.

    We had a number of these ‘meeting of the mind’ conversations as I was growing up. None of them went the way he seemed to expect, but I appreciate that he had them anyway, in an attempt to know who I was as a person. He always seemed to walk away from them a bit stunned, but sometimes laughing (sort of), like when he tried to explain to me around the age of 13-14 that as I got older, boys and men would sometimes lie in order to get sex. My response was, “Yes, I know. But that’s ok, it makes them generally more predictable.”. I’m still not sure if he was laughing or choking, as I left the room.

    My dad is gone now, but a special hug and a special wish for you guys to have a Happy Father’s Day if you have a challenging daughter.

    1. Dog Gone: [He] explained that I scared him more than anything that was really dangerous that he had done as a naval aviator…

      That was a brave, honest and surely inspiring statement from your dad. You and he must have had a great life together. How grand. And great memories for you as well.

      Thanks for sharing them with us.

  2. My dad died when I was 16 a few years after my mother, but I remember him a a truly devoted, very emotional and sentimental man. He was a classically trained tenor, had appeared on stage in musical comedies, touring with Frank Sinatra and Kate Smith during the war as part of their all purpose crew of armed forces back up singers and stage hands ( he told me how he had to prepare the aircraft carriers and destroyers in the South Pacific for Kate Smith…the had to measure and enlarge every door she was going to have to go through) and he made a few few records of classic Irish ballads. He left me his voice, which I have to admit, served me well, but I managed to wreck magnificently in the process. He also left me his sense of humor, I sure could make him laugh, but I wasn’t sure as to what he thought about that, because he always said I was the most sarcastic child he had ever known,,,Interesting to trace the shrapnel of the broken family I came from….I don’t have much, a few pictures and his Coast Guard ring. Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

    1. Oh, yeah part of my musical background, the constant onslaught of opera…he would sing the tenor parts and every Sunday in Detroit. we he would take me from church to church….because he was the “hired gun” soloist in the choirs in the prestige Catholic church choirs…so he had to time driving from mass to mass to get there on time for his carefully scheduled solo spot. I don’t think during that period, either of us ever sat through an entire Sunday Mass….It was fun actually, then we’d go somewhere and have a big breakfast.

    2. I had forgotten, Microdot, that you were orphaned at an early age. I currently have [actually my wife and I have] a strong relationship with two ‘orphaned’ children, one whose last parent died when she was 14 and another whose last parent died when he was 12. Both are strong and determined to survive, although their paths have had serious ups-and-downs along the way.

      I was honored to have been asked to be best man for his wedding last summer and my wife was honored as his ‘mother’ at the wedding.

      The girl, turning 18 this December, has dreams of studying the Arts in college. She fights serious episodic depression, but she will make it, I’m sure.

  3. My father, dead now more than 4 decades, was able to hold his only grandson briefly before he died the same year of my son’s birth. He suffered OCD and was forever tormented with religious scrupulosity syndrome. Sadly, so was his father. It ought to be no surprise that I often write about idiotic religious beliefs.

    My father was infatuated with astronomy and purchased a 8″ reflecting telescope that he used in our backyard to study the stars and planets. Years on, I would need to help him lift and setup the telescope and take it down. This interest in astronomy lit a fire in me for not only that science but the entire field of science.

    He was also a gentle man unless he became angered by idiocy or other drivers! He rarely used swear words other than damn and hell. I disdain swearing as well although I am not immune to an occasional outburst especially at my own idiocy.

    He was very protective of his children. One example came during WWII during a local, neighborhood ‘blackout’ test. He and our mother were putting us kids to bed one night and, through an open bedroom window, came a shout to him, “This is a blackout! Shut those lights off!”

    My father stuck his head out of the window and replied, “I’m putting my kids to bed and will turn the light off after I’m done!”

    I was quite protective of my children as well. Still am, in fact, even though they are in their 40’s. My wife often tells me that I’m too protective [money issue]. Well, perhaps, but maybe that is the greatest lesson that my father taught me.

    Thanks, Dad.

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