As I spend my days changing diapers, preparing Ellie’s food, grocery shopping, cooking, administering naps, and scheduling play dates, I often forget that I’m a dad and what that means. The people I talk to on a regular basis are all moms and we talk about the stay-at-home life for the most part. I have way more in common with my mom right now than I do with my dad too. My mom and I talk about recipes and baby stuff and things like that. While this is really exciting for my mom it can be difficult and a little isolating at times for me. But I often forget that my dad might feel a little left out now too as my mom and I talk at length about butt cream and the Reverse Tooth Fairy. With Father’s Day here, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my relationship with my dad, the things I’ve learned from him, and the power a dad can have.
By power, I don’t mean control, I mean influence. Dads typically don’t get to spend as much time with their kids as moms do, but it doesn’t mean they are any less influential. For example, my mom always gave us baths when we were little and always made us use wash cloths and soap. But one time my dad had to give me a bath and he didn’t use a wash cloth, only a bare bar of soap. Woah, bare bar soap, no wash cloth!? I feel just as clean and it seemed so much easier. I’ll stick with this! I never used a wash cloth again until maybe sometime in college. (That seemed like a good time to start worrying a little more about how clean I was.) All it took was one time with dad and it stuck.
Another example was when my mom was on a crusade to make sure we didn’t use the word “fart.” She insisted we say “pass gas.” With her having two boys, three if you count my dad, this was a losing battle from the beginning. “Dude, did you pass gas?” It just wasn’t going to work, but you have to appreciate her effort. So my dad gets the credit for teaching my brother and me the less proper, but more descriptive sounding word, “fart.” We never looked back since.
Other than teaching me proper personal hygiene and fun descriptive words, my dad also taught me that anything is possible. One time, I don’t know how it came about, but he decided he was going to paint my brother’s truck to prolong its life. He had never done it before. People he talked to urged him not to do it. But he did it anyways. Of course my brother and I were enlisted for all the sanding, and sanding, and sanding involved. But when it was done, wow! Everyone who told him it was a bad idea said it was one of the best paint jobs they had ever seen. Just because someone tells you no, doesn’t mean you can’t. I learned that from him.
And when we first bought our house, I found myself in a similar situation. We had gutted the whole first floor, and had a three month deadline to finish it before our wedding. We were doing all of the work ourselves with a little help from friends from time to time. Everybody thought I was crazy. At one point, even my dad questioned if we’d get it done. Well, because of him, I dug down deep, worked my butt off and got it done on time.
And with showing me that anything is possible, he instilled in me a strong work ethic. I’ve never met anyone that works harder or longer than my dad. My brother and I are half his age and he can work circles around us. He has stamina like no other and can push through being tired like I’ve never seen before. From staying up til 2:00am helping me on a school project or understand algebra, he was always there. And now, if I ever need help working on my house, or car, or need to talk something out at midnight, he always has time for me. I’m thankful if even a portion of that has rubbed off on me.
One thing that maybe didn’t click until maybe a year or two ago, is that he let me be me. All through school I was in the arts and was always trying new things. Drawing, painting, music, band, drama club, cooking, I even learned how to quilt and I know how to crochet. (Are you really that surprised?) I didn’t think of gender as I tried any of these. I tried things my dad liked, so I figured I’d try things my mom liked too. He was always supportive of everything I tried the whole time.
So when I decided to be an interior design major in college, I imagine that most fathers wouldn’t have pictured that for their son. He never cringed, or said, “Are you sure?” He just encouraged me to follow my interests. I never thought anything of it. It didn’t seem like a “woman’s career” to me. It wasn’t until I realized I was one of two dudes in all my classes and when most of my male friends teased me about my major did I feel a little unsettled. My dad never tried to persuade me into something different. He let me be me. And since I decided to be a stay-at-home dad, or started writing about my feelings on this blog, I thought that maybehe’d be a little uncomfortable with it, or not understand why. If he has, he hasn’t shown me and has only shown support.
And with him letting me be me, sometimes I think I forget to let him be him. As I’ve tried new foods, or watched different types of movies, listened to interesting music, I just want to share them. To share what I experienced, and what I learned. Sometimes as a kid, everything is about “me.” My wants, my needs, me me me. You don’t realize what your parents sacrifice for you. My dad can be a pretty meat and potatoes type of guy, and sometimes I don’t give him enough credit for how much he goes out of his comfort zone just for the sake of pleasing me.
Even though it wasn’t my dad’s job to make sure I had clean underwear, or to pack my lunch for school, or change the majority of my diapers, he did teach me how to ride a bike, change the oil, swing a hammer, work power tools, that classic rock is awesome, how to eat a burger while driving, and that coffee is best consumed only black. Just to name a few. So today is not only my day. It’s also yours dad, and to me you’re the World’s Greatest Dad. Thanks for setting a good example of what a “man” really is. Happy Father’s Day pop! You’re my rockstar.
Happy Father’s Day to all you other amazing dads. I don’t know about you, but I’m about to eat some pancakes with a side of cocktail shrimp.