The other day I was driving through my old neighborhood and spotted a father and his daughter, about aged 4, stopped on their bikes. The young father patiently looked into space as his daughter struggled to blow a fuzzy dandelion puff. It was taking an inordinate amount of time but the Dad just waited.
I brought me back to Tempe, AZ when I was just about to enter 2nd grade. At the beginning of the school year my mother would always take the school-aged girls shopping to get fabric for first day of school outfits, and a new pair of shoes. That year, I had a baby sister who was teething. To take some of the pain away, she was given an over-the-counter medicine called “Numzit” or something with an equally catchy name. I tasted it and it tasted good, and since I didn’t have to ask my parents’ permission to eat it, I ate it. I ate a LOT of it, and it just so happened that on the day we were supposed to go school shopping, I was heaving Numzit into the toilet. So, my Mom and sisters went shopping without me, and I had to stay home with my Dad, the little kids, and “the boys”. I distinctly remember being bent over the toilet spewing red Numzit with my Dad hovering over me. He turned to leave, because, well, who DOESN’T leave the bathroom when someone else is puking? I grabbed his leg and cried “Don’t Go!” so he stayed, and I can only imagine that his face had the same expression on his face as the father I spied with the pulmonary challenged daughter and the dandelion…bored and resigned, and in my Dad’s case, a little nauseated.
But he stayed.
When my husband was separated from his first wife, he found himself living alone with 2 teenaged daughters. He had to take on the girly tasks, like buying tampons, and making gynecology appointments. It was a difficult time for him and the girls, but through the sadness and struggle, he just did it, with no complaints. Although he had always had a close relationship with both daughters, the story goes that he had never changed a diaper (or maybe just one), so I don’t think he ever envisioned having “lady parts” conversations. But to his credit, he didn’t pass it off on a female relative or friend. He stepped up.
That’s what good Dads do. Moms get a lot of credit for child rearing, and while Dads don’t always come by it naturally, the good ones are the ones who find a way to give their kids what they need even when it’s not fun or comfortable.
This is not the day to point out that I had to go first day of school shopping with my Dad and “the boys” a few days after the Numzit trauma, and spent the whole of 2nd grade wearing the most hideous black velvet saddle shoes that my Dad made me buy. (But, I had to mention it of course). Today is the day to celebrate the Dads who wait, and the ones who stay, and the ones who step up.
Happy Father’s Day!