On Fatherhood

When I think back on my childhood, some of my most favorite memories of time spent with my dad involve very few words. As a child, I was very shy and quiet and super introspective, often even around my family. Still, today, even though I have come out of my shell some, I am a most definite introvert, and am very often stuck inside my head. I used to really stress and be uncomfortable with my own silence, but as I have grown older, I have come to see it as a good quality. Because even as my dad and I sat in silence together, memories were formed, bonds were made, and the senses and imagery that became stored within the depths of my mind are still very strong to this day.

Upon thinking about time with my dad, I think about foggy, early mornings around a lake, fishing poles in hand, surrounded by trees and the cool air. I think about long drives, watching the countryside race by the windows of my dad's truck, as we ran errands to who-cares-where, and ended the drive with a stop at a little convenience store that sold handheld, fried fruit pies in the crinkly waxed-paper wrappers. But I was not even a lover of sweets. It was not about the fried pie. It was all about the experience—about the sights, the sounds, the smells, and, most importantly the time.

The word "dad" immediately conjures up memories of learning to mow the grass, a chore that I actually still enjoy to this day. There were bike rides, and the time I was able to make it up the monstrous hill, as I pedaled as fast as my little legs could go, trailing behind him. And the time he let me get on the roof of our beloved house in Oregon and help paint the siding.

And all the smells—freshly cut grass, coffee (both freshly brewed, as well as the stale scent that would linger in the cab of his truck), Old Spice cologne, his sweaters and flannels that I would steal and wear in high school, and, though it might sound strange, I always loved the smell of my dad's hats.

We have all heard the saying that anyone can become a father, but it takes a special someone to be a dad. And "dad" for you might mean something different than it does for me or for someone else. But I believe we all look for a certain guiding force in our life, a solid rock to lean on, a beacon of light. And, if we are lucky, we will often find that source of strength in our parents. 

Now married, and with children of our own, I have had the privilege to watch the person I met on a blind date, so many years ago, my high school sweetheart, make this journey into fatherhood. And what a joy it has been to witness this transformation. The strong hands of a man turn into gentle, tender guides in the lives of our two daughters. But as I have experienced the abounding love, admiration, care—all the hugs and kisses and smiles and laughter—it has also become clear all the work and concern that come with being that strong father figure.

Roles are shifting as the times change, and family life continues to evolve, but dads often still find themselves as the head of the family. When our first daughter was born, I was lucky to be able to make the decision to quit my job as an editor and stay at home with her. I do not take this privilege lightly, in the least. And with that decision came some hardships for both my husband and myself. Life got real, really fast. We both suddenly had this little being we needed to take care of—there were dirty diapers, little sleep, lullabies to sing, lots of crying (and not just from the baby!), mouths to feed, Legos to build, blocks to stack, and favorite books to read over and over on an endless cycle. And he still had to get up and go to a job every morning to provide for our little family.

We all have stresses in life. I could drone on and on about those that I feel myself. But I do not minimize the weight I believe is often felt on the shoulders of our dads. They want to give the world to us, to their children. And it is difficult to figure out the work/life balance, to be at all the ball games and swim meets, events at school, dance recitals, family dinners, celebrations of every sort, to complete the "honey-do" lists, and still make sure the boss is happy. And just because they might not always show it, they get all the feels too. Daughters go on first dates; sons make "player of the year." There are first steps, first words, graduations from everything, shining moments on stages, licenses to drive, school dances, and monumental awards. And their little birds leave the nest too.

So, Dads, we thank you for your hard work, your care, and your love. And, to my dad, I thank you for the quiet moments, for time spent well. Thank you for helping me enjoy the ride.

Happy Father's Day! And, remember...dads like soap too. After all, hands that change dirty diapers and do dirty chores require good soap.