My dad and I have a standard greeting. When I call him up, I say "hello daddy O" and he replies "hello daughter O". I have to keep reminding him that now I'm married, I'm technically "daughter J". Nevertheless, when I call him the next time, we do the same thing. I guess it's because for the best part of 40 years, I was in fact "daughter O" (in fact, truth be told, I still think of myself as daughter O- just don't tell my husband!). It's Father's Day on Sunday and what better time to remind us all of some of the things that make a 'daddy'.
Firstly, being a dad, involves being present and active in your child's life. Before I go on, I need to add a caveat. I know that there are some dads aren't able to be present or active in their children's lives. That being said, let me tell you about 'daddy O'. Growing up, my dad could only cook 2 things: rice and porridge. Not the most balanced diet clearly, but he made excellent rice and porridge (not at the same time I hasten to add). However, when I think back to my childhood, that's not what I remember the most. What stands out for me are the times he spent doing the Reader's Digest word game with me; our Saturday night dance parties that have left me with very eclectic taste in music ( Millie Jackson, with a Sam Cooke chaser anyone?) or the nights he would pop in to sing us to sleep after a night out. He wasn't perfect, in fact he still isn't. He also wasn't always as present as he could have been. In spite of all that, I knew he was there for me and was interested in my life.
Secondly, dads are supposed to help you set standards for yourself. As a young girl, my dad had a unique test for potential boyfriends. He would invite them to play Scrabble with him. During the course of the game, he would 'interrogate' them. At the end, he would send us on our way. When I got back, I would always ask him what he thought. He didn't give chapter and verse, but he usually had something insightful to say about the young man in question. The common theme was that he always made me think about how the young man had/would treat me, if we were in a relationship. I must confess that for a while, I thought he was a bit weird and scaring off potential boyfriends ( why couldn't he just threaten them with bodily harm, like other dads?). Looking back now, I realise he was helping me to set standards for how I should be treated in a relationship. Of course, I didn't always listen and there were some epic fails because of that, but I am grateful for the standards he helped me set.
Lastly, dads stick up for you. I was reminded of this recently, by the father of the Stanford student convicted of sexually assaulting a young woman. His dad wrote a letter to the court, talking about how the incident had affected him. As a woman, I was foaming at the mouth with rage ( he wasn't the victim here), but as a parent I totally got it. When our children do something wrong, it doesn't make them any less our children and our instinct is to protect them. The truth is, whilst we may hate what they have done, it's really hard I imagine to hate your own child.
My dad has supported me in many an adventure, even when other people were sure I had lost my mind! I remember moaning to him about being single and asking if there was something wrong with me. His response to me was a daddy O classic. He said "darling there's nothing wrong with you. There are lots of men out there, but not so many you'd want to marry!" Considering that I was practically in my dotage by society's standards, that was unusual advice to say the least.
In my limited experience, being a parent is possibly the hardest thing I've ever done. There's no instruction manual, no holidays and no sick leave either. As a mum though, I do get some appreciation for what I do (usually very sticky hugs at the worst time possible). Dads, not so much. As we celebrate Father's Day on Sunday, let's appreciate all those dads out there who want to do more and be more for their children.
Happy Father's Day. Until next time, go well.