Life Lessons from My Father
I’m a daddy’s girl. As the oldest of seven, I never quite got enough attention as a child, but whenever I was around my father, I always saw the effort he made to make me feel extra special. It was never big gestures but a little wink here and silly face there, a tickle here and a snuggle there, that always made me feel like he had his eye on me. In our family, my mother was the disciplinarian; she was strict and wasn’t one for reasoning with me as a child, but my father was soft spoken, more easily persuaded, and poured into my inquisitive nature. Now that I’m a grown woman, my relationship with my father is one of challenge and support, as I challenge him to take care of his heath and take his meds, while he supports me as I navigate managing my career and a budding lifestyle brand. I support him as a widower and single father raising my younger siblings and he challenges me to practice compassion when I’m being hard on myself and others.
I’m so proud of the man that my father is—the steadfast, thoughtful, funny man who is as committed to our family as he is to his store brand coffee in a can. Here are some of the life lessons I’ve learned from my father. These have helped sustain our father/daughter relationship and maybe they will help you cherish your father or foster the same qualities in the fathers around you.
I can’t say that I’ve ever seen my father be an all out activist, or stand up boldly to declare injustices. However, it is his posture of mutual respect and care for others that I’m so proud to have gained from him. He has a calm, thoughtful respect for people that I admire and try to emulate. The stillness about him is calming and if you don’t know him, you might confuse it for disinterest. Those close to him know it as a peace, mutual respect, and willingness to listen and learn from others, which I regularly use in my own engagement with people. This mutual respect has sustained our relationship as I’ve watched him navigate the death of my mother, his wife, and during my frustration at times when he couldn’t be her. Over time it’s through this same mutual respect that I’ve grown to respect more of who and how he is as a parent and to respect my role as his daughter.
I’ve only recently come to notice how my father approaches things from a restorative posture. He doesn’t stay mad long or fume, he lets things pass quickly, and he’s quick to change his mind and restore things, even after big blow ups. This used to annoy the hell out of me, because I always wanted him to be more firm or strict (particularly with my younger siblings). I wanted him to be, well, more like my mother. As with all things as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn the value in balance and in being flexible enough to allow your mind to change—to not be so rigid that you would let one argument, one disagreement, or one failure throw you off track. I’ve taken on his spirit of restorativeness. I try not to let things linger and while I may boldly say how I feel, I leave space for my mind to change and to be persuaded toward things that aren’t yet known to me. I try not to stay mad too long, for fear that I might miss out on getting back to the good stuff.
Use Your Words.
My favorite story about my father is when, on my 11th (or so) birthday, he wasn’t there. I don’t remember why or where he was, but I remember that he left me a birthday card that read, “Dear Ashley, I’m so sorry I was not there on your 11th birthday. When I get home on Friday, we’ll do something special for the weekend, maybe go shopping or out to dinner. I love you very, very, very much. Love, Daddy PS. Study your Spelling.” This card is one of my most prized possessions and started my weird obsession with greeting cards and words of affirmation (my primary love language). I have kept every birthday card, greeting card, and thank you card that I’ve ever been given and every few months, I pull them out to read them and cry. It’s cathartic to me to read the words of people speaking over my life, pouring into me, and wishing me well. I cry because when the world is hard, it helps to hear people speak with kindness; also it reminds me of my dad, because he is my most important person of kind words. To this day, I seek his approval and when I overhear him bragging on me or when he tells me he’s proud, I feel as full as I did on the day that I read that birthday card.
My prayer is that all the lessons I’ve learned from my father are long standing, that he is forever present in body and spirit, and that I will never forget the power and importance of mutual respect, restoration, and using my words. Dad, thank you for being a shining example of fatherhood. My pride of you and us is overwhelming.