*Thanks for your patience and well wishes as I was down for the count for the last week with cruddy pneumonia and the aftermath of not leaving a bed for five days. I’m up and kicking again, though, and thanks, again, for the good vibes! Also, you can expect a post in the coming weeks about the ordeal – stay tuned!
As Father’s Day quickly approaches this Sunday, I wanted to devote this post to the two most important dad’s in my life.
First, my dad. This man, quite simply, is the man who set the tone. The man who showed me what hard work looks like. The man who showed me what commitment looks like. The man who showed me what an actual, real, complicated, day in, day out marriage looks like. The man who does his best to keep his stories to 20 minutes or less, but doesn't always succeed, much to my mom's dismay, much to my delight. The man who taught me about sports and birds and trees, though I still don't know what the hell I'm looking at half the time (mainly with the birds and trees). He’s the man who, when I was around twelve or thirteen years old, noticed that I was in a funk. Which, for a thirteen-year-old girl, is very rare.
But I think of this day a lot, wondering what moments my girls will remember and capture like a Polaroid in their minds. This day, for whatever reason, is one of those Polaroids for me. And at face value, it may seem like a fairly mundane, typical day. But not to me. (And no, dad, I’m not going to talk about the time that you locked Amanda and me out of the house while mom was at work so that you could watch the Tigers game in peace and I peed in the bushes and then got in trouble with the neighbor. I’ve totally forgotten about that time and that’s why I never bring it up!)
Anyway. So on this day, my dad said, “Let’s go for a bike ride.” Which, if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t love to do because I was busy sulking and didn’t want to go exercise with my dad. But he convinced me, and we started riding. And as we started riding, we started singing – one of my dad’s favorite things to do and, as it turned out, one of mine, too. I mean, we probably looked like crazy people, riding our bikes and singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” down Halstead Road. But for a rare moment in my self-conscious teen life, I didn’t care. And we started to laugh and sing and ride for what felt like two hours, but was probably closer to about 30 minutes. And the funk subsided and we rode back to the house and went about our days – him doing his grown-up things (and probably watching the Tigers) and me probably wondering when I could wear my bitching cat cardigan again.
I flash to that memory more than you might think, because in that moment, my dad was able to connect and get through to me by being silly and getting me out into the world. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that the things that break me out of a funk the fastest are exercise, fresh air, and shenanigans. Dancing, singing, laughing, being ridiculous. And the first person to teach me what that looked like was my dad. He would whistle throughout the house, sing, grab me, my mom, my sister, and dance. We’d roll our eyes, begging him to stop embarrassing us in front of nobody. But it wasn’t until I was older that I realized what those moments gave me.
They gave me a release. My dad taught me about humor and he found that that was our way of connecting and was my way of connecting to the outside world. And as I watch our girls grow into these little people with these big personalities, I can only hope that I find their certain special way of connecting to the world, to me, and can do it by just letting myself be a little silly and free each day.
Don’t get me wrong - my dad is a buttoned-up guy most of the time. He can be serious, focused, and use all of his military training to get us out the door on time as a family…a trait I hope to pass along to my kids, no matter how Ian tries to fight it. But he can also take pleasure in the exact moment he’s in – reminding me to this day to stop and literally smell the roses. Listen to the birds. Appreciate that we woke up this morning and are breathing and able to be part of the world in whatever way we choose. And I take that with me every single day.
He's also given me the joy of watching him be "Papa" to my girls. Papa can do no wrong (much, again, to my mother's dismay) and is sooooo funny, showing his silly side to them for the price of endless giggles and trying to instill in them a love of nature via feeding the chipmunks in the backyard out of their hands. They love their Papa and live to get one over on him in the form of hiding and jumping out at him when he "least expects it." (spoiler alert: my kids are terrible hiders and the loudest humans on the planet, so until Papa goes totally senile, he'll continue to humor them until they learn that hiding means that we can't actually see you.)
Now something else my dad has given me is the reminder to give Ian a break, because he's a good man. And he’s right (but don’t tell either of them that).
Ian is, hands-down, the best dad I could’ve ever given to my girls. He’s the dad who tosses them in the air, gives shoulder rides, braids hair, gives baths, reads stories, and does “the happy dreams dance” with Rauri each night to help chase away the bad dreams she’s afraid of having. He is a soft place for them to snuggle, a rough-and-tumble place for them to wrestle, and a consistent, strong, and endlessly patient man who lets them know that they’re loved and safe with him always. He gets attacked with hugs and kisses each night when he comes home from work, and at least three times a week, Fiona comes in around midnight to “nuggle with daddy” for just a few minutes until she’s ushered back to bed.
But honestly, I think the best thing that he’s giving to these girls each day, quite simply, is him. Just….him. Someday, our girls will come to realize that not all men are worthy of their time or energy, and they’ll know this because of who their father is..and not just because he’ll be standing at the door, staring down the poor sixteen-year-old boy who has dared to ask one of our girls to a dance. But because they will know what unconditional love feels like. They will know what safety and trustworthiness feel like. And they’ll have these Polaroids from their childhood that are filled with giggles and hugs and their dad finding that special thing that gets through to them when they’re tweens and fuming at me for breathing the same air and needing to get out of the house like, now. They’ll have their dad.
So to all of you dads out there – the stern dads and the giggly dads, the wrestling dads and the book-reading dads…thank you. Thank you for showing up for your kids and your spouse. Thank you for helping grow the next generation into thoughtful, wholehearted, interested and interesting people…we need more of that and we need more of you. Happy Father’s Day.