Today, I think of the lessons I’ve learned from my father and my husband.
First, my father.
We didn’t always agree with each other. As a child, I thought he knew everything. As I grew older, I realized he did not. At times, this realization led to frustration and angry words from both of us, careful avoidance and emotional distance between us.
The love was always there, however.
He wasn’t a “warm and fuzzy” kind of dad; he showed his love by taking care of things. Before Google, before Siri, I had Dad. He’d find phone numbers, make appointments, and gather all the details. Nothing made him happier than feeling like he’d fixed a problem or found the answer. My conversations with him typically ended with him saying, “What can I do for you, sweet love?”
At the end of his life, when we both knew that his time was short, the love is what filled our hours together. We shared memories, pictures, letters, tokens. His favorite childhood toys, packed in a box. His college yearbooks. A uniform, a quilt, some newspaper clippings. He entrusted me with these things and experiences that illustrated his time on this earth, told his life story; what he did and the people he knew.
My father taught me many things. Top of mind today is what I learned from those days together not so long ago – that love matters most. It doesn’t erase the mistakes or the failures, doesn’t absolve us from being accountable for our choices. But it does provide shelter and warmth and connection, perspective and forgiveness.
Love is what will be remembered. Love matters most.
And now, my husband.
My husband views fatherhood through a lens of joy and delight.
“Parenting” isn’t always fun. “Parenting” involves rules and routines, schedules and plans. It requires words like no and careful and wait and stop. It brings sleepless nights, temper tantrums, anxious worry. Raising young humans tests your patience and your coping skills.
Being a parent, on the other hand, can be a lot of fun. Being a parent means that you get to play again, like you did as a child. Build forts and sand castles, go on treasure hunts, dig in the dirt, search for bugs. Read stories, solve puzzles, laugh and sing together. Talk in funny voices at the dinner table. Make up adventures and create imaginary worlds to explore. And the best part is that your playmates are people you love in a way you never thought possible before now.
This is the way my husband views fatherhood. It is the father that he strives to be and the father that he is. It is one of his most meaningful lessons – to revel in the joy and delight of parenthood. Celebrate the experience, enjoy the ride, even if there are toys on the floor or crumbs on the counter.
Responsibility and safety come first, of course. He is wise, and he is protective. But he never forgets that being a parent can be magical.
I see that magic when I watch him with our sons. I hear the laughter that they share in silly moments. I listen as they describe their adventures together and engage in deep conversations about everything from the stars and geology to dragons and castles. I notice how my sons trust their father with their ideas, knowing that he sees their potential and will do everything he can to find a way. It makes my heart sing.
Encourage the magic, believe in it and make it possible. Focus on and share the delight and the happiness it brings. That is where the joy of parenthood lives.
Happy Father’s Day.