“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in 7 years.” – Mark Twain
When I was a kid, my dad used to take my two brothers, sister and me to the park and push us on the swings. There was an old crabapple tree there and he’d let us pummel him with crabapples that had fallen on the ground. Dad would take us to church every Sunday and stop for donuts on the way home. He’d pause in the middle of mowing the lawn to talk to me when I was excited to tell him something, even if it meant being stuck in the sweltering heat for even longer.
Dad showed us how to build the coolest snow forts in winter, or would help us build giant snowmen, even if he was exhausted from shoveling the massive driveway. In the summer, Dad was always the first one in the pool throwing all the kids in the air or bouncing a ball around. He coached my brothers’ little leagues and even kept coaching basketball long after my brothers had lost interest, because he really loved making a difference in lives of children.
Once, when my girlfriends and I were around 12 or 13, we were having a campout in my backyard. My friend Jessica said, “Let’s play a game. Let’s say whose father we think is the most handsome. I’ll go first: Tracy’s!” I ended up telling him about it and we still tease him about his “girlfriend” Jessica…and take the opportunity to remind him that he was- and still is- the handsome dad.
Dad was the SOREST loser at Sorry!, Life, or Rummy. He would always make us play “one more round” if he had lost so he could have one more chance at winning. He always rode the roller coasters with us at the amusement parks and even tried to sneak us onto some of the scary rides when we were too little on the height chart.
Dad worked hard and provided well for us but he was always home for dinner and never compromised spending time with us for his career. He was at every one of our dance recitals, chorus performances, school plays, and softball games. He taught us how to drive- although I’m sure he won’t take credit for my driving abilities….He encouraged us to do well in school and took us to look at colleges. Then, when I was homesick he would come pick me up from college and offer a ride to any of my girlfriends who needed to get back home and he’d always act interested in the latest gossip. Sometimes I think he kept up with who was dating who better than I did!
My father made sure we knew that family came first, and that a man should never treat a woman badly, either with his words or with his hands; that we should never marry someone who wouldn’t make family his top priority. Dad taught us we should be smart and responsible with our money. That we should follow through with our promises and our words should have conviction. He did his best to make sure we worked hard and always put our best into what we were doing: whether it was chores, school, or jobs- we should always give 100%.
My dad took his job as a parent seriously. There were times, especially during the teenage years, where I thought perhaps he was taking it a little too seriously and we definitely had our challenges. But I always knew that he cared and wanted the best for me. He didn’t just tell me how to be a good person, he showed me. And that is the greatest gift you can give a child.
Happy Father’s Day to my dad- and to all the dads who lead by example every day. You are appreciated, and you make a bigger difference than you know.