This past weekend, a longtime family friend posted on Facebook a picture of himself wearing a T-Shirt. “You can’t scare me. I have two daughters” was on the front of the shirt. As the father of two daughters, I can totally relate.
I was raised in a family with lots of boys. Four of my six first cousins were boys and in our own house, there were two males and one female siblings. I enjoyed an idyllic type of childhood with so many friends, but most of the time I was with boys doing all the things that boys in the deep south grew up doing.
I got married, and we were blessed with first a daughter. Eighteen months later, we welcomed another daughter. We named them Catherine and Elizabeth. They were instantly the joy of my life, but at the same time made me a bit tentative and afraid. Did I know how to be a good father? In particular, did I have any idea of how to be the father of girls?
Like all young parents, you just try to find your way. While life seemed like a blur during those early years of parenthood, my wife and I were not just running on autopilot. Some guardrails had been laid down in my earlier years. Lessons had been learned that I never knew had been taught.
This past Father’s Day, I reflected not just on the life of my own father. I thought about my own role as a father, and later my two wonderful sons-in-law and the role they play in the life of my grandchildren. Father’s Day is a great way to celebrate the fathers in our lives. It is often more than just one man.
My grandfather was a role model and inspiration in my early life, but it was my own father that taught me what it meant to be a man, and by extension, what it meant to be a father. My mother had no small role in that education about parenthood for me.
I would like to think that I was and hopefully continue to be a good and loving father. I have always wanted the best for my daughters and now their own children. But as I reach that elder statesman role in my family, I realize that my role as a father was no accident.
The great gift my father gave me was teaching me to be a good father myself. He set standards and gave examples. He quietly taught me what was important and what was not. I was not aware of it at the time, but the lessons were there from the very beginning.
Now, I watch in awe as the fathers of my own grandchildren do their job. They make me proud. I see the connections that were not so clear to me when I was the young, scared father of two young daughters. Their hand is steady, and their success is obvious. Along with my daughters, these fathers are doing a wonderful job.
After writing about Father’s Day for many years, mostly including the love and admiration I had for “Big Dan”, I wanted to recognize the long connection that results when a father raises a good son …. and a good daughter.
Happy Father’s Day to “Big Joe” and “Big Dan” who taught me how to be a good father by example. Happy Father’s Day to Daaron and Grant, who are the two most important fathers in my world today. Good fathers to my grandchildren and good husbands to my daughters. For me, that makes for a Happy Father’s Day, indeed.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org