Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dear Ol' Dad... The Consistent Parent

Today being Father's Day, I thought it only appropriate to write about my own "Dear Ol' Dad."

The Ol' has nothing to do with his age as you may have guessed; it's just something we've always said. My parents divorced when I was two years old and my dad was about the age I am now. My mom had "custody" and my dad, "visitation." Daddy's usual parting words after a visit were something like, "Love you. See you soon. 'Til then, try to think of your Dear Ol' Dad sometimes."

Of course I did think of him. Often. Reality or not, my "inner story" painted his home (a Deck House) as the beautiful castle and my dad as the king, strong but kind and fair. I was only allowed to visit the castle on some weekends and a couple of weeks during the summer. The rest of the time was spent cleaning cinders (well, sheds), fighting with my wicked siblings and wondering how my fairytale went so wrong.

Even couturier mice couldn't help me when I would crawl under the covers while my fairy godmother was clearly out on a bender. I'd cry myself to sleep and whisper over and over, "I want my Daddy."

Something which always made me feel better was "Daddy Thursday." Happy memories. I was in elementary school and got out at noon on Thursdays. Every week, Dear Ol' Dad picked me up from school and we went to Spiro's Deli. We ordered Italian submarine sandwiches, loaded, extra hots. I may be imagining the "extra" but that's the way I order my subs (grinders, heros, hoagies, wedges, zeps, torpedos) to this day and have always attributed it to some early childhood programming.

We also shared a bag of BBQ potato chips and pretended to fight over the burnt chips. Actually, we weren't really pretending once I learned that the burnt ones might be the ugliest, but they taste the best. Thank you to my dad and dozens of bags of potato chips for teaching me at an early age that external beauty doesn't necessarily define whether or not something (or someone) is "good."

It's a philosophical stretch maybe... but sometimes life can also look yucky on the outside and still be pretty darn fabulous.

The other thing these Thursday outings taught me is that consistency counts.

It's probably not fair to my mother that I have such fond, vivid memories of doing the simplest things with my dad, like eating potato chips. I know my mom did the best she could at the time to create special memories with me as well.

Yet, there was something about looking forward to those Thursday afternoons each week and being able to count on the fact they would actually happen. As an adult I appreciate it even more. Knowing what my daily juggling act is like, I can picture my father looking at his watch whilst trying to finish a crucial project or needing to rush out of a meeting. "Sorry - I have to run. Gotta take my little girl out to lunch."

Even though he lived in a different state, was a corporate VIP and a workaholic, I never once remember waiting for him or wondering whether or not he was going to show.

In general, I've always known that if Daddy said he'd do something, it would be done. When he said he'd be there, he was there. When I really needed him, he was always there for me. (Still is.) Even if it was something silly like my teenage obsession with getting a white blazer, he would take me to a dozen stores until we found it. Hey, it was the 80's... white blazers were "cool" then.

It wasn't just about getting what I wanted. It also held true when it came to discipline. For example, if he promised I'd be in BIG trouble for using a bad word, it happened every time.

It was about consistency.

As I think about my quest to minimize my own kids' need for the accumulating funds in the "Therapy Jar," I truly believe that this lesson is key.

Set expectations and follow through. Whether rewards or consequences. Be consistent.
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Angela said...

As I get older, I too realized more an more how lucky we are to have such a reliable father. And if I might add, he also taught us to approach misfortune with a sense of humor. Dad: he's a fart smeller, I mean a smart feller! xo

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