I’d like to say I’ve never given my Dad any of the stereotypical Father’s Day gifts. But one year as a kid I gave him a three pack of English Leather colognes. I don’t know what the shelf life is for English Leather but I think there’s probably two unopened bottles in his closet that date back to the first term of the Reagan administration. That would be enough material for a joke but it also came with a soap on a rope. The Dad’s Day Daily Double.
This time of year we joke about what kids give to their Dad. I’ve been thinking about what my Dad’s given me. Gifts through the years to be sure. All the “firsts”. First football. First bicycle. First BB gun. First record player. First car. Yet as an adult I see that the balls and bats and bicycles were tokens of a deeper love that transcended the birthday parties and the Christmas days I so anticipated as a child.
To me it was a green Schwinn bike with chopper handles and a banana seat. To my Dad, it was about teaching me to ride on my own.
To me it was a Daisy BB gun. To my Dad, it was about teaching me what it means to hold power in my hand.
To me it was a 1970 Orange Chevy Blazer. To my Dad, it was about preparing me for the responsibility of independence.
They say you can’t fully appreciate your parents’ perspective until you have children of your own. I think that’s true. Now that I’m a Dad giving gifts to my children I see they can’t understand that the scooter given at Christmas, the one that makes me “the best Daddy in the whole world!”, is but a token of a far deeper love and commitment. To them it’s the cool Barbie scooter with the pink tassels on the handle bars. To me it’s teaching them to ride 2 inches off the ground before they ride a 12-speed on the street. And realizing that from here on out, the wheels just get bigger and roll faster. Right through adolescence and into adulthood.
Watching them ride and fall and get up to ride again I wonder if they are learning the life lessons I’m trying to teach them. More importantly, I wonder if I’m teaching the lessons well.
Whether we like it or not, our children learn what they live. Which is to say more is “caught” than “taught”. When I think of what I’ve learned from my Dad, it’s more about who he was and is as a person than specific lessons or chalk talks.
He told me he loved me a lot. And that’s important. But the fact that he would shut the combine down on the only dry day of the week during harvest to come watch me play a football game made the “I love you” ring true.
He said, “I’m behind you all the way” quite a bit. But his sacrificing valuable work time on the farm to attend every event I was involved in during my school years made his support real to me.
He said, “You can try out for anything you want, but once you start, you finish.” But his not letting me quit when I realized I didn’t like running track as much as I thought taught me the value of seeing things through to the end.
My Dad is the best Dad anyone could ask for. But he’s not perfect. He knows that. I know that. And I’m not perfect. My kids will tell you that right quick. As parents, we’re going to screw up and our kids will see it when we do. But if they know in the core of their being that we are committed to loving them unconditionally, then the mistakes we make in our parenting won’t be as costly.
Or as the Bible puts it, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. No English Leather this year. Just a thank you for all the gifts you’ve given me over the years. The best being your unconditional love and commitment.
When I tell Annie and Emma, “I love you so much!” they smile and roll their eyes and say, “I know…you tell us that a million times.”
Next time I’ll tell them I learned that from their Grandpa Gene.
“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and he let me watch him do it.”
– Clarence Kelland
Todd A. Thompson – June 15, 2007