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Friday, June 17, 2011

Fathers Be Good To your Daughters....Mine Was!

Me And My Dad on Top Of The World
     Do you know that song by John Mayer? "Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers. So mothers be good to your daughter's too." It's a beautiful song and very true. With Father's Day approaching, I have naturally been thinking a lot about the kind of Dad my father is and the kind of dad that Mr. Jones is to our girls. Unfortunately, in America, we don't really have too high of a standard for dads. Mothers are expected to feed, clothe, bathe, change, nurture, engage, teach and discipline their children. This is a given. Fathers on the other hand are not really expected to do much. In fact, in this day and age, they are praised just for showing up. So many men just check out of their kids lives. I can't tell you how many single moms I've met during my 11 years of teaching who refer to their child's father as "the sperm donor." It's a sad state of affairs when all we expect from our men is a child support check and a visit once a week.
     My husband is not like that because his dad isn't like that. In fact sometimes, I'm embarrassed when my girlfriends complain about the lack of help they get from their husbands because I cannot contribute to the conversation. Mr. Jones does everything from diaper changes, to laundry, to homework. He is insulted if someone says he's "babysitting" our children. He says "I'm not babysitting. I'm parenting." He does a hell of a lot more than just show up. He's the kind of dad that my dad was (and still is). When I was born, most men didn't change diapers or even feed their babies. They went to work, came home and drank a beer in front of the TV. My dad went to work and fell asleep in front of the TV too, but with my sister and I asleep on his chest. My dad set the bar pretty high. He was the over achiever of dads. He didn't have any sons, so I was the best he could do. He taught me to hit a baseball such that the boys in the outfield would back up when they saw me coming. (Yes, I said boys. We played in a boys league 'cause there weren't enough girls. He was the coach, of course.) Most dads teach their kids to ride a bike. Mine did too, after he taught me to ride a horse (western, of course, he wasn't going to raise a horse-snob). I learned to sit back into a canter, and "cowboy up" if I fell off.  If he had a hammer, I had a hammer. If he was working on the engine of our boat, I was right beside him. I was never very mechanical, but that didn't matter. He taught me how to navigate across the Long Island Sound using a compass and a chart (right-red-returning), and to pilot and dock our boat before I was old enough to learn how to drive....which he, of course, taught me to do as well. He taught me to shoot a mean game of nine ball. (Although I'm not sure if my success in the game had more to do with my skill at shooting or subtly leaning over the table at just the right moment when my male opponent was about to make his shot---that I learned from my mother!) My dad had a lot of interests. And I was interested in anything that he was. It didn't matter what we did, as long as he was with me. We would talk about everything in my life. As a teenager, he'd take me out to lunch to try some random restaurant that my mom and sister would never set foot in. We went alone on a pack trip (camping on horseback) through the Colorado Rockies when I graduated college. We'd head to the beach in March and just walk and talk about life. He was always interested in my perspective on things, and he always had the best advice (still does). Today, we don't get as much time alone together with my girls and my sister's kids occupying everyone's attention, but he's there for almost every one of his grandchildren's soccer games, field days, recitals, shows, and concerts. Not to mention that he'll drop everything in an instant if we need a quick babysitter. He really is an amazing man- an amazing father.
     I remember reading somewhere that studies show that fathers who spend a lot of time caring for and engaging their daughters as babies have better relationships with their children through adolescence and adulthood. This is because they don't have to make a connection with a teenager. They already have one from  birth. John Mayer hit the nail of the head with his song.
   Why did I choose Mr. Jones? Well, if you read Mr. Jones And Me, you remember how I saw him across a crowded room working with children with autism and I said, "That's the kind of guy I need to marry." I instantly saw in him the qualities that I knew would make a good companion- a good husband and a good father. I wasn't conscious of that at the time. I just knew there was something about him that made him special. And after I met my father-in-law, I realized that he was just living the example that learned from his father (another exceptional man who I love to death!).
     These are extraordinary men., but they are not alone. I know that there are a lot of dads out there that are doing a heck of a lot more than showing up. It's just that our society tends to focus on the negative... "the dead-beat dad." But I know some of my friends out there are exceptional dads just like my dad and Mr. Jones. I know you guys are stepping up with the diapers and the feeding and the changing and the laundry. And some of you are fighting to with every ounce of your being for custody or more rights to be a bigger part of your kids lives. So many of you are doing so much more than just showing up, and I think that that needs to be celebrated. If you are that kind of dad, I thank you for being an example to a generation of children who need so much guidance. (I hope my daughters meet one of your sons some day!) We need to celebrate the men who make this world a good happy secure place to live for our children. So this Father's day lets really celebrate the men who are being men and taking care of their own. Lets tell them that we love and appreciate them.

Mr. Jones, you make my life worth living, and our children are wonderful, happy and beautiful inside and out because you are their father.

And Daddy, I am everything I am because of the man you are and have always been. You taught me everything I said above, but most importantly, you taught me to love with an open heart and see with an open mind. There is nothing I would not do for you.

     I hope you will share this with the men in your life. As much as we girls have it all under control, the world is a better place because of the good men in our lives: our husbands and our fathers. They need to know we love and appreciate them because unfortunately, they are limited in supply!

Sending love out to you as always....especially to you boys!
 Happy Father's Day! 

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