Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fathers, Be Good To Your Daughters

The phrase "Just wait until your father gets home!" was never uttered in my household while my sister and I were children. And although this was partly because my mom was the Chief Disciplinary Officer in our home, it was also because there was not a one of us who believed that my dad would ever handle a situation with anger or even the most vague threat of violence. I can't ever remember a day of my life, in childhood or beyond, that I have been afraid of how my father would react to a given circumstance. A little dread at possibly disappointing him, sure, but never fear that I could lose his love or even his patience.

Which is not to say that my dad is a pushover or a milquetoasty man. For reasons I never understood, his demeanor seemed to intimidate most of my young friends, and he still makes most babies and children a little bit wary. I suspect that's because he treats everyone the same, whether they're fifty or five. He is calm, reserved, patient and a bit smart-alecky, which plays pretty well with grown-ups but can be a little weird to kids who are used to everyone playing big and goofy with them. But that temperament was a perfect fit to mine as a girl, when I was easily overwhelmed by loud noises and overt emotions. That's his genetic legacy to me just as surely as the dome nose, anxiety-prone digestive system and love of Fats Domino.

I hear a lot of mothers comment on the difference they see in how their fathers act around their grandchildren in comparison to how they remember being treated growing up. But when I see my dad around my children and my niece, the most frequent sensation I feel is nostalgia. With these little ones, and especially his granddaughters, he is the same quietly strong, loving force that held up my sister's first two-wheeler and optimistically coached my dismal basketball team. They also get the same half-octave-deeper, half-step-slower Dad Voice if they flagrantly disobey. (My sister can expertly mimic the exact tone of his one stern word: "Girrrls.") And they can bask in the same knowledge that, whatever they do, he will treat them with kindness, fairness and respect. And I hope that, like his daughters, his granddaughters will carry that expectation through their lives, with him and every man they meet.

Happy Father's Day, Pops. I love you.

Pops and "Scooter"

Pops and "Wildcat"

Pops and "Jack"

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