The Greatest Gift a Dad Can Give His Child

by Dana Boyle on June 17, 2011

This is my Father’s Day tribute to my dad.  I could talk about how my dad was always there for me.  I could talk about how he worked long hours, took on side jobs and did anything he could to “get ahead” and make sure we had the best lifestyle he could provide.   I could talk about how he told us we could be or do anything we put our minds to, and to never give up on our dreams.  I could talk about how my dad gave up HIS dreams to be our dad.  I could talk about the endless ways my dad has helped me in adulthood, from rehabbing my first house to taking care of my dogs for me.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the best thing my dad ever did for me.

My parents on their wedding day – February 21, 1976

My dad loves my mom. I’m not talking about the kind of love where people say, “You know I love you,” but their actions and behaviors don’t support that knowing.  I’m talking about walk to the ends of the earth, sit on the couch holding hands, help in any way I can, lift you up when you’re down, believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself, hold you when you cry the ugly cry, love you even when you are in a horrible mood, take on your load when it’s too heavy, support and love your side of the family, kiss in front of the kids, go out dancing once a week, build you birdhouses for your garden, equal partner kind of love.

I always knew my dad loved my mom, no matter what.  Children have a way of knowing, even when adults try to blur reality to protect them.  There was never a need in our house for my dad to “pretend” he loved my mom.  He always did, and he always showed it, even in the toughest moments.

When we were very little, my dad would stay home with us in the evening so my mom could work or go out with her girlfriends for coffee, or take a class she wanted to take.  He enjoyed us, and he made my mom feel secure in leaving us with him so that she could be fully present in whatever it is she was doing away from the house.

When we were teenagers, he backed my mom up in every decision she made so that when we tried to pull at his heart-strings all he had to do was say, “What did your mother say?  And if you tell me she said yes when she said no, you’re in big trouble.”  At that time in childhood when girls and moms clash, he played the neutral mediator and resolved our hormonal disputes – refusing to allow us to talk to our mom with disrespect or disobey her and explaining to us that the reason we were fighting with her is because we were actually just like her and we were going to grow up to be wonderful women.

As we were growing up, I always felt a sense of security knowing my dad loved my mom.  It made me feel like we were a solid family unit and that nobody was going anywhere. I could see his love for her in the way that he went straight to her when he got home from work to give her a kiss and ask her how her day was before he did anything else.  I could see it in the way he looked at her and told her how cute she was when she was dressed in her gardening clothes with paint in her hair or dirt all over her legs, and how he told her she was beautiful when she was decked out for a party or a holiday.  I could tell he truly enjoyed her company and thought of her as his best friend when he stayed up late with her playing cards and laughing or he took her out dancing every week and broke a sweat on the dance floor with her, or when he took long walks with her, holding hands and talking about their goals and dreams.

On the dance floor – about 1989

Sometimes in today’s hectic world where marriages and families can seem less important, I feel like parents may not stop and think of the impact their love for each other has on their children.  I recently spoke to a friend of mine who has teenage children and is worried about being intimate with her own husband when her kids are around, even if they are asleep, because she thinks they might “know” that their parents have sex.  I told her that I knew my parents were intimate with each other because they had such a great relationship, and knowing that made me feel secure because it meant they loved each other and weren’t going anywhere.  She had a big ah-ha moment and told me she never thought of it that way because her parents were divorced and, while they get along just fine, whether they deeply love each other was never relevant in her life.

Another girlfriend of mine shared an analogy with me recently about families and the effects of the state of a marital relationship on children.  She said, “A family is like a fish bowl.  Everyone has to swim in it, no matter what anyone puts into the water.”  If someone is polluting the water, everyone will feel the effects.  If the water is fortified with love, everyone will be swimming in love as well.  They can’t avoid it.

On Father’s Day, when we all have cook-outs and give our fathers gifts and cards, if you are a young father of children I challenge you to give your children the best gift you’ll ever give them.  I challenge you to truly love their mother.  It will make them feel they are part of a solid family structure where their parents love the whole them, not just the part that is from your side.  It will give them permission to love their mother and love you even more deeply, because love is something that is better when it’s shared.

At my wedding, October 16, 2010

Thanks, Dad, for giving us that precious gift.

Happy Father’s Day to my dad and every other dad out there, including those who will one day be dads.

 

 



{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen Waller June 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm

What a fantastic tribute to your Dad who sounds like a very special man.

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Dana Boyle June 23, 2011 at 8:41 am

Thank you, Jen! He is something special! Thanks for reading and for interacting with me here. Nice to meet you.

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