Dads have a way of passing along lessons when you’re least expecting them. We asked parents and parenting experts to share their favorite memory of Dad and what they learned from it.
One summer my dad coached my softball team. He told me that I could always be doing something on the field, never just standing and watching the others complete a play. I could back up another player in case she missed the ball. I could mentally note how the play changed the dynamics on the field. This lesson continues to apply to my life: I can always be doing something to help, and can do my best to be in position to handle the unexpected.
— Amy Knife Gould
As a teenager, I was taking classes in a renowned ballet school in Chicago, and my dad would take classes with me. My teachers had been his teachers, and dad was in the front of the class with the professionals and I was in the middle with the kids. It was fun to go together and talk about the classes and steps and music. I didn’t think we were different from other families. While dance has been a small portion of my own career, it wasn’t until a few years ago I truly realized who dad was and the scope of who he is. Dad and I were lecturing together about a ballet he danced in and as we were preparing together, it suddenly struck me that as I was growing up, being a kid, going to Girl Scouts and getting braces, he was doing all these things. My father — both my parents, really — were people, artists, and while we were important to them, we were only part of their lives. It is good to be parents, but in order to be good parents, there needs to be more. Sometimes we forget that!
— Marie Grass Amenta
With four kids spread over an age range of just seven years, there were inevitably events, trips, meals and boxes of Little Debbie treats to which one or more of us was not privileged. This often led to whining and complaints of inequity. But my father had a catchall rule that solved this: “Them who ain’t there, don’t get.” Though I still feel that my siblings owe me those two Nutty Bars, dad’s precept helped me to see how clear, proactive boundaries could form the foundation of a system of positivist discipline.
— Brett Berk, author of “The Gay Uncle’s Guide to Parenting” (Three Rivers Press)
In my workshops, I always ask dads, “What is a golden moment from your childhood?” The answers have a universal quality even though we may be sitting in Africa, Australia or North America. They are about connections. Connections to friends, to nature, to family and the slow pace of life to enjoy them. Very often it is about time alone, daydreaming and just being. One dad commented recently, “It was like I was finding all this space inside myself.” Never in 25 years of asking this question has anyone ever said anything about expensive toys or equipment, classrooms, sports clubs or any of the other organized activities we feel are so vital for our children.
— Kim John Payne, author of “Simplicity Parenting” (Ballantine Books)
My dad was a real creature of habit. Every time I left the house his farewell was punctuated with the same admonition, “Keep your nose clean.” I’m not really sure what “keep your nose clean” meant. Likely it meant that I should keep out of trouble. And I usually did. But it wasn’t because he told me to. My departure was never complete unless I heard those words. And to this day, when I bid farewell to my kids, I say, “Keep your nose clean.” Like father, like daughter.
— Betsy Brown Braun, founder of Parenting Pathways consulting service
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