Editor’s Note: To celebrate Father’s Day, we asked some moms we dig what was the greatest lesson their dads taught them that they abide by in raising their own children. Here are the second batch of lessons moms learned; the first series of responses ran on Tuesday.
Lessons Moms Learned: Be present, be kind, listen
My father has always been there for me, no matter what. His genuinely unconditional love taught me how to accept children for who they are. Value them as individuals. That means hiking with one, cooking with another. He taught me that being kind and being there to listen are essential. Especially when children mess up.
I broke the needle on his highly prized record player I was not even supposed to use. His response? That he’d wanted to buy a new one anyway. No blame. Listen to your children. Suspend judgment, don’t critique. Give advice sparingly.
Knowing he believed in me built an inner trust in who I am. A small glance conveyed he was on my side. He enjoyed activities I enjoyed simply because I enjoyed them. I want my children to feel this same unconditional love and valued for each of their unique ways.
– Tovah P. Klein; author, How Toddlers Thrive; psychologist, mother of 3 boys
Lessons Moms Learned: Let them explore, absorb
My dad taught me what I consider to be singularly the most important and impactful life lesson he could have. Having only sisters and an interest in the less-than-typical girl things like dolls and playing house, but falling heavily in love with computers and technology (y’know, back when personal computers were the size of refrigerators), my dad was the one who encouraged me to explore the things that interest me and give no shits about the professional or role stereotypes for women. Which he probably told me subliminally when I bugged him incessantly to play Oregon Trail on the family computer and he finally said yes.
I’ve carried that ideal with me as a parent and am always sure to encourage my son to pursue what his heart and mind yearn to absorb, no matter how quirky or off-beat those things happen to be.
Lessons Moms Learned: My hero, my hairdresser
When I was a little girl, one thing was for sure, I was not a fan of getting my hair washed (which is pretty ironic since now getting a blow dry is my greatest luxury). Determined to get the job done without the tears, my dad started giving me “monster do’s.” He would take the shampoo, suds it up, and create funny hairstyles, show me in the mirror, make me laugh and then rinse and do a fresh new look (gave a whole new meaning to ‘lather, rinse, repeat’). Vidal Sassoon who?!
Now that I’m a mommy to 15-month old Lennox, I find myself doing those silly styles on him each night. And each time I do, I’m reminded of those precious, priceless daddy/daughter moments that remain with me all these years later (we don’t need to discuss how many year). My dad is the first man I ever loved. Growing up, he was my friend, my hero and my hairdresser.
Lessons Moms Learned: Be present
My father is a master at being present. I am a master at making an avocado salad while tying someone’s shoes while checking someone else’s homework while talking on the phone. But my dad has always been able to just be present.
Lessons Moms Learned: Take risks
My Filipino father role-modeled risk-taking and hard work. He played the horses as a supplemental form of income for our family, and did pretty well. I don’t advise gambling as a life approach, but I learned something positive about risk taking. He instilled a pride of hard work, and that nothing is menial. He worked his way up from being an immigrant “houseboy” to being a hotel sous chef. All his working life he rose at 5 a.m. to work in a demanding kitchen despite a myriad of health problems. Most importantly, despite his own unrealized goals and disappointments, he was a father who stayed.
Lessons Moms Learned: Have together time
When I was expecting our daughter, as silly at it sounds, I couldn’t stop thinking about a TV commercial. In it, a man has a splitting headache and reaches for aspirin as the announcer says the man needs fast relief because he can’t miss a very important meeting. The scene cuts to the very large man perched on a tiny seat, pretending to drink tea out of a tiny little plastic cup with his tiny, beaming little daughter.
I would get teary and turn to my husband: “Promise me,” I would say repeatedly. “Promise me that you’ll have tea parties with our daughter.”
He would nod, perplexed, and promise.
I love my father. But he is very much a man of his time. And in mid-20th-century America, a good father was one who went to work, provided for his children, paid for their ballet lessons and braces, came home late with a splitting headache, and just wanted a Scotch and to be left alone. At dinner, we ate with the TV on, or played the Quiz Game about what we learned in school. Whatever he knew of me, he learned through my mother. It’s just the way it was.
But just as I wanted something different than my parents’ traditional marriage, I wanted my daughter to have the relationship with her father than I always yearned for with mine.
So early on, Tom began walking our daughter, Tessa, to her ballet class. He rocked her for hours when they both had bronchitis one winter. He did, indeed, sit at a tiny blue table and sip imaginary tea from a tiny cup, and made time to be “Lance Mist,” one of her star patients when she ran “People’s Medical Needs” out of our basement playroom.
Now that she’s 13, they have “T” time. He takes her shopping. They go to the gym together. She still curls up on his lap at after dinner. He loves her confidence, her fire and even her sass. But more, he sees her. He knows her. And we are all the richer for it.
– Brigid Schulte; author, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time; @BrigidSchulte