A repost from 2014…
I stood this year, like every year, at a bit of a loss in the Father’s Day card aisle: golf, remote controls, beer, sailing. It would just be weird to get my dad a card with any of those things. Some years I settle for tools, or gardening.
Alternatively: cards with poems and jokes about dads being lazy, stupid, fat. Is it too mushy to say those things have just never applied to my dad?
Some years I have settled for poems about dads who are mental, or flippin’ bonkers.
It’s hard to find cards or presents or words sometimes to honour our men. But I have been asking, the past few days, for people to tell me about their dads, their ‘father figures’ or the dad they share parenting with. And it turns out that lazy and stupid aren’t the right labels for lots of men. And it turns out that being a good dad means even more than fixing things, or football.
I mean, Russ is a dad who is passionate about football, he plays it for hours with his boys and is involved in coaching their teams. But he is also a dad who is passing on his childhood love of the Famous Five at bedtime, who tells stories for the hundredth time about his old dog Rover, and who takes them to the river to catch tadpoles. Fiona watches him teach their boys how to treat others fairly, to consider other people’s point of view and to do the right thing even when it’s hard.
Tory’s husband is a Fireman. I’ve bumped into him in the leisure centre on his day off, taking the kids swimming so she can have some time to herself. He encourages her to do this whenever there’s a chance. He encourages her to pursue her passions. She is soon going to have 3 kids under 5, but she says I never think of it as a one woman show. As a dad he is patient and fun and energetic and she sees this encouraging their children to be fearless and free, and steadying her.
Jerome is Chief nappy-changer and bather. Judes notices how he takes such joy in these menial tasks. His humour and laughter and ridiculous voices have made her laugh in the tired, newborn days. He supports Judes breastfeeding by tending to their baby’s other needs. She has been surprised by his amazing patience. She so appreciates his sensitivity to know when to take over without discussion. It is a team effort.
Judith D has never once cut her boys’ nails. It’s daddy’s job. She also credits Tom that the house is clean as he does housework around her long evening breastfeeds. Her 3 year old teaches her about radar towers & wind socks & taxi ways… passing on the knowledge that Tom passed on to him. Some days as soon as he gets in from work he takes Samuel off to see something he notices on the way home – lambs maybe, or a forage harvester. He involves him in gardening, recycling, washing the car.
Erin says that words to describe my brother Paul as a dad are patient, gentle, kind and sensitive to their family’s needs. She says patience is a HUGE one.
Chris does the ironing, the groceries and the nursery run. He can achieve something that eludes me: symmetrical pigtails. The worst night of breastfeeding I ever had he simply sat on the floor beside me. He whispered to the girls that I’d gone to the dark side today, and it brought me back. He is joker of the pack and a well-used climbing frame.
Rach talks about one night when Ruben was barely 2 and a half, just starting to string sentences together, when they were outside a caravan, eating pizza by the sea. She went in to do dishes and he talked to his dad for 40 minutes in an epic monologue about everything on his wee heart. Jürg listens. Rach says it’s one of the greatest gifts he gives their kids, and she notices it all the time these days. She says: “He gives them all the time in the world to talk. No expectations, no pressure, the conversation can flow wherever they lead it. And he listens, and they can feel it, and so they talk……..and it is beautiful.”
Lorraine says there is no part of Eoin’s life that Andy is not involved in. Nappies, feeding, getting up in the night, minding him regularly. He loves it when his son watches him doing DIY, but he also models cooking, cleaning and helping. He models loving women. He works part time so that he won’t miss his son growing up, even though this means sacrifices in other areas. He prays that Eoin would be a person that is kind. Over and over. He is super proud to walk around with his son in a backpack.
Kate says she couldn’t ask for a better dad for her son. They live close to each other and share care in a way that works. Their son has routine, stability, love and a lot of time with both parents.
My dad remembers fondly his own dad playing gentle “fighting” with him as a young boy. He would try to hit his dad who would gently hit back without hurting him. He loved these “fights”. He says his dad really cared for his family and included them as much as he could. “He always made you feel that he had time for you. That you mattered to him.” He says he thinks he understood the Fatherhood of God quite well and emulated that (I would say the same about him).
And the first thing my mum said about her dad? He was a carer, all his life. He looked after his siblings, his children and his wife. He was an avid reader and taught himself DIY skills, gardening, cookery and theology. He was a hard worker and a strict disciplinarian but also full of fun and practical jokes.
My friend Jenny says that her dad and granda have ruined her for life as she expects all men to be respectful, kind, loving and caring.
Rosie could write a book about her dad, and I think she should. She sat by his bedside today watching him sleep thinking of the lifetime of friendship and closeness they have shared. They have always been best buddies. She loves his wisdom and his ability to see things from every angle and his great sense of fun. She loves his interest in other people and their well-being. All these traits are still obvious though he’s now so weak and confined.
It’s been an emotional few days receiving these stories, hearing women praise their men. They wrote more and said more and confessed there was still more. Hallmark can’t really design cards for these men, can they? So today we will praise them. I mean, honestly, we all still roll our eyes and bicker and tell tales on them, I’ll still be doing that tomorrow, no doubt. But today let’s just say it, there are many men who aren’t stupid or lazy or useless… and neither are they THE WORLD’S BEST DADS in some perfect, macho, aggressive, cartoon super-hero kind of way. They are Gentle Men – patient and kind, hardworking and fun, serious and silly. They are sharing their passions. They are listening to their children. They are saving our lives a time or 2 with their humour. Thank You.
(As I wrote this I kept starting and deleting disclaimers. Some fathers seem to confirm the stereotypes, some are abusive and some are difficult and brilliant, both. Some fathers are absent and some deeply missed. I cannot write about these things with any wisdom, but I read those who do, and hope they will continue to write. Father’s Day could prompt all kinds of stories. I’m just holding space, today, for some of the good ones… for the fathers who are carrying on generations of good men, and for the ones determined to be the father they wish they had, wee frizz salutes you)
Feel free to praise a man in your life in the comments section …