Posts Tagged ‘father’s day’

In my family, we pretty much ignore Father’s and Mother’s Day. My parents view it as a Hallmark holiday and don’t take it seriously, so I don’t either. My kids make cards or cute little presents in school but that’s it. So I’d forgotten it is Father’s Day until I read Postsecrets. For those who aren’t in the know, Postscrets is a website where a guy posts anonymous secrets people send to him on postcards. The postcards are fascinating – some very funny, some sad, some titillating.

This week’s postings were all about fathers. Many of them were heartbreaking – people writing about fathers who never loved them, who weren’t there, who were frightening. It made me realize how lucky I am.

My own dad had a pretty crappy father – distant and alcoholic. But unlike so many people who use something like that to excuse their own failings, my father obviously chose to be something different. We’ve never discussed it, so I don’t know if it was an intentional decision on his part, but he was not the father his father was.

My dad took me fishing. He built these boats that were a cross between a kayak and a canoe, basically making a stable, two-person kayak, and he’d take each kid out a different day when we were on vacation. Actually, to tell you the truth, I don’t know if my brothers went. If they’d wanted to, he’d have taken them. I only remember that I got to go. I loved fishing. I loved hanging out with my dad.

He’d take us for walks in the woods and explain stuff to us, pointing out insect nests or other interesting sights. I do the same thing with my kids, and I have to confess, they frequently tune out or otherwise make it clear that I’m providing way too much detail. I can’t help myself. I don’t know if I did the same thing to my dad, because I found out that kid memories and parent memories can be quite different.

For example, I remember my dad singing. I remember loving my dad singing. When I mentioned that to him not that long ago, he laughed and told me he stopped because I once told him as a little kid to shut up already. But he never stopped going on those walks with me and I remember a lot of those interesting facts, so even if it didn’t appear that I was listening, I was.

Once, we went for a walk in the fall and there were tons of garter snakes in the woods. We caught one and my father brought it home in his pocket for me. I wasn’t a little kid at this point. I was a teenager, who thought snakes were really cool (that was back in the stone age, when you couldn’t just go buy a corn snake at the local pet store). We got out the old fish tank and turned it into a home for the snake, setting it up in my room. Since the snake was inside and wouldn’t hibernate for the winter, my father and I went out to the garden and dug up a ton of worms, putting them in a bucket full of earth, which I then stuck in my closet, the coldest part of my room. When I needed to feed the snake, I hauled out the bucket and dug up a worm.

I didn’t realize until adulthood just what cool parents I had, to let me keep a bucket of worms in my closet.

My dad also taught me, in one incident I still clearly remember, the power of the parental apology. He had borrowed a neighbour’s step-ladder for some reason and told us children not to touch it. When it came time to return the ladder, he discovered it broken. He sat us all down and demanded to know which of us had broken it, but none of us fessed up, so he took the money out of all our piggy banks to buy the neighbour a new ladder.

You can probably all see what is coming. He returned the ladder with an offer to buy a new one, only to discover that it had already been damaged before the neighbour had lent it to my father. None of us were at fault. So he sat us all back down again and apologized sincerely, and returned all our money.

It was the apology I remember. Parents don’t have to apologize to their kids. For that matter, he could have just let us continue to think that one of us had broken it, as we knew he was completely right to do what he did if that were the case. But he didn’t. He came back to his kids and he told us he’d been wrong and that he was sorry for not believing us.

That one really stuck, and I am always conscious of apologizing to my kids when I screw up, which usually comes in the form of being crabby and impatient with them and snapping at them when the don’t deserve it.

My dad wasn’t perfect, of course. What parent is? But since I managed to emerge from my childhood with mostly good memories. It’s taken me a long time to realize it, but I’m actually really lucky to be able to say that.

Thanks, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

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