For this Father’s day, to get the story straight from the horse’s mouth, I asked the spouse how becoming a father had changed his identity, his personality, his view of the world. How has fatherhood changed his purpose in life?
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Meh.”
The man is a prolific poet with his words.
I realized that everything I had wanted to say about the spouse and his fathering abilities, I had already said in The Neanderthal I Did Not Marry. So when he was as useful as a pen out of ink on this topic, I decided to write about the other guy. You know, the one who gave me 50% of my DNA and 100% of my brute awesomeness.
He is a short, small-framed man with playful eyes, thinning hair and an ever thickening repository of bad jokes. He has an unbelievably corny and awkward sense of humor, something I apparently inherited from him. He has a childlike ability to laugh at the simplest joys, to invent silly games with my daughter, to get attached with, and care for people with an enviable ferocity. He’s my Daddy.
He has kind hands that have tended to roses and vegetable gardens, and injured birds on the street that have required nursing, and of course his very own children.
And yet he is badass enough to take care of the manliest jobs around the house, to change air filters and bulbs, and fix cars and appliances like nobody’s business.
In his gentle, kind ways, he managed to empower his only daughter to have the horsepower of a racehorse on Red Bull.
And the wizardry here is that he comes from a culture that normally doesn’t receive accolades for the treatment of its daughters. But somehow he was open minded enough to treat his just like his son. To make the start line for her the same as his son, and to tell her that the finish line could be whatever she wanted it to be.
The struggle for men with daughters is to be strong and capable, without taking away from being kind and nurturing. He mastered this balancing act, and showed me that it was no different for me as a woman.
He planted the seeds of imagination and creativity in me by participating in pretend princess tea parties when I was a toddler.
He taught me time by taking the clock off the wall, and showing me how the hands work.
He taught me money by sitting down with bills and coins and a piggy bank.
He taught me organization by setting up study schedules and breaking down large projects into manageable pieces for me. These skills are the premise of how I work today.
He taught me ambition by never giving up himself. And by encouraging me to take the harder path.
He passed down to me his passion for reading, for literature.
He taught me to be opinionated by always valuing my opinions.
And he edited the first poem I ever wrote, and many others after it.
Most importantly though, he set the bar high, very high. For what I should expect in a man. For how I should be treated by that man, because he always treated his wife like a queen bee.
A week before my wedding, he sat me down and said, “You are intelligent, beautiful, confident and multi-talented. Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you aren’t any of those things. Don’t ever let anyone put you down. Don’t ever let anyone have that kind of power over you.”
So power to the dads who empower their daughters. Happy Father’s Day to all of you, everywhere.