As June is the month we celebrate Father’s Day, I want to focus on dads – mine, other terrific dads I know, and men who are father figures in the way they mentor, guide and otherwise lead by good example the young people entrusted to them.
I am fortunate to have had my father’s guidance and planning to balance my mother’s side of things. She was the disciplinarian, but I was actually more afraid of displeasing my father, because he was usually so charming, solicitous and instructive. Of course, my mother had to put up with me all day while my father was at work. And, yes, there are certain personality traits I inherited from my mother that I was afraid to show to my father (but of course he knew!). She is frustratingly opinionated and impossibly obstinate and domineering. She is also unintentionally comical and extremely disciplined. All of those are traits that I try to monitor and modulate in myself, so that my weaknesses don’t overwhelm my strengths. I have not always succeeded at that. My father made sure to let me know when I didn’t. But he always praised me when I did succeed.
As strict as he could be, my father’s character and personality have affected my entire life in a very positive and empowering way. This extends well beyond my childhood – from my pursuit of a college education to my work ethic, from my choice of life partner to my attitudes about money, from my health habits to and through a midlife crisis that almost Obliterated My Life As I Knew It. My father’s been gone almost ten years, and I still reach out to him for guidance. And, as woo-woo as this sounds, I have a sixth-sense way of knowing when he approves or disapproves of something.
In this era when we’re swamped with stereotypes about fathers, whether sitcom or horror-show, saints or sinners (why is it the media focuses entirely on Tom Hanks-wholesome types or Charlie Sheen-horrible?), it is sometimes hard to remember or value the immense sacrifices that many fathers of baby boomers made for their families. Mine was one of those fathers. My father is the man who DARED me to do anything I put my mind to, as long as it was productive, constructive and not immoral or unethical in any way. My father was my first mentor. Not just for my career, but for my life. For that, I will always be grateful.
Here’s hoping that the father(s) in your life have been as positive as mine, and that you still get the chance to hug and thank them.