When I was little, my dad worked a lot. Because his office was in our house, there were some nights when the work seemed to have no stopping hours. But my dad also knew he was missing out on us growing up, so he made it a point to fit time into his work schedule that included us kids. He’d set us up at the table so we could help him with some of the busy work. When he had appointments out of town, he’d drop my mom and us off at the park and then arrive back just in time for all of us to enjoy sandwiches together while playing on the swings. As we got older, Dad would take us for drives while he worked in the field, treating us to a hot chocolate by the fireplace in the lobby of his favorite hotel in Sonoma, slurp clam chowder with French bread in Bodega Bay, or just take a drive to check out the scenery in our beautiful county. My dad perfected the art of making work feel like a vacation as he sprinkled in fun stops along the way while we accompanied him. On the weekends there were tasks to be done around the house. Off we’d go for a trip to the hardware store with Dad, enjoying a hot dog from the stand outside the store. Or we’d take the long drive out to the dumps to throw junk away. Even a trip to the grocery store seemed a bit more magical with Dad because he always let us get the things Mom would never let us buy.
As kids, we thought we had to go with Dad so Mom could get a break now and again. And with three young girls, there’s probably some truth in that. But the bigger truth is that this was my dad’s way of spending time with us. I mean, it wasn’t always about work or errands. He’d take us to the car races some weekends. There were some great vacations my dad set up for the whole family. And the hills behind our house were perfect for a dad to take his kids for a hike. But when you’re a busy man like my father was, you fit in the quality time however you can. And my dad made sure we knew he loved us through time with us.
For daughters, their father is the very first man they fall in love with, thus setting the standards for any man that enters their life. In fact, how a father treats his daughter gives her the stereotype she will judge every man with thereafter. If a dad treats his daughter wonderfully, her standard for men when she is older will be that of someone who treats her just as wonderfully. But if a dad ignores his daughter or mistreats her, it’s likely that she will also choose a man later in life that treats her poorly. Girls need their dad to tell them they are beautiful, smart, and to show they are cherished through hugs and attention. If they don’t get it from dad, they’re liable to search for it elsewhere when they get older, lacking the confidence and security that comes from a healthy relationship with their father, and clouding their judgment in who is deserving of their love.
For sons, a father is the one they look up to as their role model. Want to know what a boy will be like when he grows up? Look to his father. A father is a boy’s first example of what it means to be a man. And actions speak louder than words. This is why it’s so important for fathers to not only be there to guide their sons, they must also have their actions match the lessons they wish to instill in their boys. The way a father is with his son molds the kind of man, husband, and father a boy will be. Boys need their dads to wrestle with them, encourage them, show emotion in front of them, and guide them. By their father’s example, they’ll learn how to respect those in authority, and even those in positions of service to them. They’ll also learn how to treat those they love, and even those they aren’t fond of. Boys need their dad to monitor their behavior, hold them accountable when they screw up, and draw a clear line between right and wrong until they can draw that line for themselves.
Dads, you are important. And many of you are making it a point to be present in your children’s lives. Know that you are making a difference. Happy Father’s Day to you this Sunday, and every other day you spend with your children!