Father’s Day isn’t quite what it used to be. Instead of carefully selecting tacky, golf-related items for you to cheerfully open, now my daughters and I pick out useless junk for my husband to exclaim over. Same routine, different viewpoint, I suppose. And while the focal point of Father’s Day used to be you, along with Mom, my brother, and me, now the efforts revolve mainly around our own girls and their Daddy. But I still think about you on Father’s Day; parenthood has made me reexamine the role you played in my life growing up, and the role you continue to play.
It may seem that since Mom and I share more personality traits– being emotional, communicative, prone to anxiety and overreacting, (in the best possible way, Mom) and perhaps a bit, ahem, tightly wound– that I would have inherited more of my parenting style from her. Over Mother’s Day, I reflected on how many of mom’s values and skills I have incorporated into my own mothering practices. But the funny thing is- there are so many moments throughout each day when I open my mouth, and your words come out.
No, not just those words, (refer back to post on swearing toddlers) although I think it’s clear that some of my fiery temperament came from your genes. “Quit dinkin’ around,” I’ll tell my children as they stall bedtime in ridiculously imaginative ways. “For crying out loud,” I’ll complain, having officially grown tired of their antics. I’ve even caught such gems as, “Do you think I was born yesterday?” and “God bless it!” flying out of my mouth. My girls love that last one. One evening when one of them managed to drag an entire blanket into the (filled) bathtub, I patted myself on the back for having avoided “God dammit” by substituting the tastefully watered down, “God bless it.” The girls roared with laughter and chanted, “God bless it!” for the next half-hour.
Our own family mantra, “What would the Rolling Stones say?” (Answer: You can’t always get what you want.) is a direct reflection of your philosophy and technique. Now these quips might seem like nothing more than smart-ass remarks from an irritable parent, but if you look a little deeper, they send a few more meaningful messages.
- I have limits, and you kids are about to reach them, so be aware.
- I am a human being, who does not possess an infinite amount of patience. Be respectful.
- Sometimes a simple sentence is more effective than a long, rambling speech aimed at ensuring the cooperation of children who have begun to tune you out.
- A little humor goes a long way in parenthood.
- Not everything needs to be taken seriously, obsessed over, or studied in depth. It’s not always necessary to fuss over every single familial interaction.
You may think I’m reaching, or being irreverent, but I assure you that I’m not. While your own brand of wit may be the punchline of some of our favorite family jokes, you bring something much deeper than a few cheap laughs to the fabric of our history. I have learned things from you, things that matter.
I have learned to believe in myself, thanks to your frequent reminders of how “marketable” I am, even beginning with your insistence that my brother and I had such “natural ability.” (Although when it came to T-ball and golfing, I call BS. There was nothing “natural” about my skills.) Though I rolled my eyes at some of your attempts at encouragement, I never doubted your sincerity on the things that mattered. I’ve always known that you deeply believed in my skills and value, and you contributed so significantly to the development of my self-confidence.
I also think your faith in me has helped me to remember who I am as a whole person, and serves to remind me that in addition to being a parent, it’s okay for me to have goals and ambitions. As you know, that guilt, the struggle to be a present parent and keep my own needs on the table, is one of my biggest challenges. I sense you cheering me on when I reach a goal, or get published somewhere that matters to me, or when I write something that is worthwhile.
You taught me how to roll with the punches when life didn’t go the way I’d hoped or planned; you modeled resilience and flexibility, two qualities for which I do not possess a “natural ability”. You showed me how to lighten up, how to take my own plans, to-do list, Type A personality, and neuroses, less seriously. I am grateful for that- I clearly need all the help I can get.
You’ve always brought a balancing energy to our family; while Mom was available to help me process my feelings, sit by my side as I cried over God-knows-what, and provide a desperately needed nurturing energy, your qualities were just as essential. You kept us grounded. You were playful, fun-loving, and adventurous. Just the other day my daughters tied up Daddy with a rope and jumped all over him, and I remembered our early days of tying you up with hair ribbons, putting you in the cedar closet, and then experiencing legitimate shock when you managed to escape our meticulous bonds and chase us around the basement.
Interestingly enough, I’m not the only one who spouts your trademark quotes around this house. Like so many others, I succumbed to the cliche of marrying a man who strongly resembles one’s father, and my husband’s one-liners and eye-roll-inducing humor are eerily reminiscent of your own. The girls have been known to echo their Papa as well. Just the other day, after listening to my toddler screech, sing, and bark during her naptime, I inquired why she had chosen not to sleep. “I was dinking around,” she replied matter-of-factly, and then repeated over and over with increasing delight when she saw it had made Mommy laugh. If I call her a stinker, she often protests, “No! Papa calls me a stinker-binker!”
Your presence and influence is felt in our lives regularly- from our jokes and deadpan quips to our values, philosophies, and memories. We are grateful for every day we get to spend with you, and we do not take for granted your frequent trips to visit your granddaughters or your willingness to travel with us. You graciously and skillfully tolerate the chaos and emotionality of life with two young girls, and they reward your patience with adoration and devotion. Not a bad deal, eh?
I sometimes wish I knew you better, that I could understand all the factors that led to the complexity of who you are- your past experiences, your personality, your life philosophy, and the choices you’ve made. Maybe someday when the kids are older and I’m not so damn tired, we can sit outside with our beverages of choice and talk for hours. So you better take good care of yourself- we want you with us for years and years to come. We all love you so much, Dad. I hope you know how much you mean to us. Happy Father’s Day.
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This post is part of Finish the Sentence Friday.
Today’s sentence was, “Dear Dad…”
June 27th’s sentence is, “The one thing I’ll never compromise on is…”
Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic
Kristi at Finding Ninee
Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?
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I swear my mom and I were just talking today about that line from the Rolling Stones song and how it is so true. Totally loved your letter to your dad tonight and yes I do have so much of my dear, old dad in me as well, as much as I fought it for many years here.
Hard to appreciate it until we’re a safe distance away from childhood, huh?
So sweet, Stephanie. Someday your children will be writing letters to you two this way. xo
I hope so, Jean. 🙂
This is a great tribute to your Dad: “I also think your faith in me has helped me to remember who I am as a whole person.” What more could he have asked to impart to his daughter? Be sure to mention that to him next time you are sharing a beverage of choice and talking to him for hours!
Thanks so much, Anna! And I definitely will. 🙂
“I sometimes wish I knew you better,” Now that my dad is gone, I feel that way. Heck, the morning after he died, I felt that way. There was never any doubt that he was the parent and I was the child. I wish we could have been more equals.
I can’t imagine the whirlwind of emotions I will feel when my dad is gone. I think I better make more of an effort to have some of those conversations now. Thanks for that comment, Jamie.
Stephanie – I loved this. But I implore you, don’t wait until you’re not tired. Grab a drink, get on that porch and ask your questions. Serioulsy…do it now. Oh, the crazy stuff I’ve done to try and know my parents batter, after it was too late. And video tape him – seriously. Your girls will want to hear him tell you his stories.
That is fantastic advice, Allie- I really appreciate it! Your post today was so moving…
“Not everything needs to be taken seriously, obsessed over, or studied in depth. It’s not always necessary to fuss over every single familial interaction.”
You are quite welcome… Of course, I’m still working on integrating that practice! 😉
Stefanie, I love this. It is what I have imagined writing to my Dad for years! I recently was talking to my Dad, asking him about his career, and how he managed to start his own business when he had seven children to take care of, etc etc. Just spilling my thoughts without meaning for any reaction, and caught him wiping the tears from his eyes. Mind you, he is not an emotional man, and it has just reminded me over and over how I need to write him a message! This letter to your Dad will mean more than a million dollars could ever buy!! Nicely done. He is a lucky man!!!
Wow, that is amazing! Thanks for sharing that, and for such a sweet comment. I really appreciate it! xo
What a beautiful tribute to your dad. They say the #1 determinant for a woman’s relationship with her husband, is the relationship with her father- for better or worse. What a beautiful thing that is that you have a wonderful father figure and that influenced the man you chose who will be your girls’ father figure and influence on who they choose one day. That is a powerful and blessed cycle to be a part of! Happy Father’s Day to your dad and your husband!
So true, Vicky. Thanks so much for that lovely comment! xo
Beautiful Stephanie. I saw one of you FB posts were one of your girls had used the word “dinkin”. Too cute. My dad and I have had some of those hours of talk. Some of them were great and some of them backfired when he remembered something I did as a teenager and got mad all over again and if I was still 16. I repeat as I did then I said, “But that wasn’t my fault” and then try to slink out of the room as quickly as possible.
Ha! That’s awesome, Kenya. And yeah…we’re all about “dinking around” here… 🙂
Here’s to learning the things that matter from our dads, including, but not limited to “those words.” Beautiful letter to your dad for Father’s Day, Steph!! And I hope you get the porch time with beverages sooner than later.
Me, too. And your letter today? OMG. Bawling.
Sobbing…so sweet babe. Isn’t amazing how you find a man who is so similar to our dads…though my hubby would refute that to his grave. Love all the pics and the sheer joy on your dads face while being with his grandkids.
Thanks, hon! And yours was gorgeous, too. 🙂 🙂
Aw, thanks. xo
Love it. My father had a lot of one-liners he used too, and he’d replace GD with God Bless America. You know how when people type SH!T like to make it less of a cuss word replacing the i with an !, he would talk like that. His word was shhhhhhttttt. It usually followed really bad news like, “The car is totaled,” and “I just got kicked out of college.” And “You got to be kidding me” usually soon followed it. Anyway, my parents had similar roles as yours. The mom was more of the water helping me sort through feelings and emotions, and my dad was more like the earth, the stable ground we depended on.
Oh I love that water and earth metaphor! You are right on. Thanks for such a fantastic comment, and for stopping by and linking up with FTSF!
Such a sweet post Stephanie. It made me think about my own dad and I echo a lot of what you said. I love the pics!
God Bless It and What would the rolling stones say. PERFECT. Lovely letter. I think our dads would get along, but I’m sure that doesn’t surprise you 🙂
What a lovely tribute to your dad. I love the dry quips through out this…I have a bit of a dead pan humor myself so I loved that. And “dinkin’ around”…my husband says that all the time. 🙂
That’s such a lovely thing to write. I hope you find time to sit with your dad in the near future, it sounds like it could be very rewarding. #FTSF
(Hope you don’t mind me asking here. Have you seen the new #FamilyFriday link? – http://bit.ly/1vfrQa6 This post would fit in well there, too!)
As I am reading so many Dear Dad letters, it’s so interesting to know and realize the similarities in many of us daughters. That ‘old school’ traditinal parenting holds a strong hook in many of our hearts, as our fathers were more distant, a bit unattached, strong willed, and that kind of quiet support and backbone of our lives.
What a beautiful letter. So much there… I hope he reads it!!
Isn’t it amazing how our parents teach us many things and now we just outta be aware to pass it along 🙂
Beautiful, Steph! I was giggling through the first paragraphs imagining you accusing your girls of “dinking around” and unexpectedly pulling out a “God bless it!” and then admiring your ability to look deeper to the layer underneath the external and recognize the life lessons behind the amusing catch phrases. It’s such a heartwarming essay to an outsider like me , I’m sure your father will completely melt reading this. 🙂
This totally made me cry. A beautiful letter Stephanie! I bet your dad loved it. I feel like I am getting to know my dad better in his later years…or at least trying to ask him more questions. Interesting to truly begin to see your parents (especially your father) as a person completely outside of their extension to you. Loved this.-Ashley