So often we, as mothers, think back to how our own mothers have shaped and influenced us as parents. They’re usually the default example to which we revert when we find ourselves in a situation.
In my case, I’ve been fortunate to have one of those dads that was very involved, very supportive, very there, all through my childhood, adolescence, and now adulthood.
It’s his birthday today. And so I decided I wanted to dedicate a blog post to him, and to reflect on the things that he has specifically instilled in me, as a person generally, but also in the context of being a parent.
1. Laugh with your kids.
Really, really, laugh with your kids. Like full-on, from your belly, unapologetic snorting, tears in your eyes, kind of laughter. Make jokes. Reminisce about funny stories in the past. Point out things you see that make you chuckle. Several times, my siblings and I have gotten into uncontrollable fits of laughter, often over something we think is borderline inappropriate, only to find my dad unable to hide his tears of laughter in the background. It’s guaranteed to make us double over with laughter even more. My dad is the kind of guy that lights up a room with his stories, his sense of humour and his enthusiastic and lively spirit. He can make anyone laugh. He wins the grand prize of being able to single-handedly snap me out of my brooding teenage frowny moods (which still happen to this very day) by saying or doing something that makes me very reluctantly, but inevitably, break into a smile. That is no easy feat.
2. Be your kids’ parent and friend.
I know, I know. This tends to fall into either/or territory, right? If you’re too much of a “parent”, they’ll feel distant and disconnected from you and it’ll all culminate in some over-emotional breakdown at a big family event when you’re all old, and if you’re too much of a “friend”, they’ll have no respect and grow up to be self-righteous, anti-authority, law-breaking delinquents. Come on. I think there’s a balance. And this father of mine has struck it perfectly. You know when he’s in serious parent mode – as difficult as I know it can be (now that I’m a parent, and sometimes hate having to go into parent mode) – but you have to teach your kids something important about life, about being a good person, about doing the right thing.
But he’s also my buddy. As a teenager, our weekly ritual was going to do the grocery shopping together. We operate in the same way: we like lists; we like sticking to the lists; and we particularly like the selection of chocolate bars or ice cream at the checkout line which we consider a well-earned reward for sticking to said shopping list. On my last trip to visit my parents, he took Tuna out on one of these supermarket adventures and she was in heaven – and scored some coconut water in the process. The girl has learned her grandfather’s ways quickly.
My dad has given me some of the best advice I’ve ever received. There have been times when he has surprised me with his frankness, objectiveness and ability to put himself in my shoes.
3. Show your kids how much you love the other parent.
My parents are still super cute with each other, even after 31 years of marriage. My dad still tells my mother how beautiful she is and how he can’t live without her. He shows affection to her in front of us. He always brings her a gift whenever he’s been travelling. He supports her in every new adventure and challenge, even if it’s difficult or not ideal for him. He often tells us how lucky we are to have a mother like her, and we are. But we’re also damn lucky to have an amazing father like him: one that loves and respects his spouse, and leads by example.
4. Dream big, and let your kids dream big too.
My dad is the dreamer. My mom is the realist. They go perfectly together for that reason (and many others). I got my dreamer tendencies from him. He’s taught me that it’s okay to get excited about the prospect of something new, even if it’s not a sure thing. Yes, this means that dreamers like us get our fair share of disappointment, but I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything. He’s taught me to feel my feelings, take risks, and try new things.
5. Don’t wear socks with holes in them.
This is literally one of the actual things my dad has taught me, but it’s also a metaphor. Heaven forbid he sees you sporting socks that show off your big toe before you get your shoes on. You will be sent back to change. Even now, when I’m somewhere he isn’t, and I find myself wearing holey socks, I cringe and think of how he would disapprove. But this lesson extends to a lot more. Every single day, my dad gets up, showers, and gets himself looking sharp. He’s ready to take on the day. Even if it’s a Sunday and we have no plans. Even if he’s not feeling well. He shows up. He’s ready. And as a new(ish) mother, as hard as this can be sometimes, I try to make sure I start each day fresh, tidy and looking presentable. Of course there are days where the top knot and workout clothes will have to do, but I genuinely feel a huge difference when I get myself properly ready for the day. Somehow, my day goes smoother, I’m in a better mood, and I have more energy.
I love you, Baba. Happy birthday and long live the post-grocery-shopping ice creams for many years to come.