My dad was always my hero. When I was six, I got my hair tangled while I was climbing a tree, and I began to panic. I couldn’t move without pain throbbing against my scalp. So I screamed for the one person I wanted in that moment. My dad.
He ran from the garage to the apple tree so fast that I barely heard him. In three steps, he bounded up the tree to the outstretched limb where I clung. He detangled my hair and wrapped his massive arms around my tiny, shaking frame as I slowly summoned the courage to shimmy back toward the center of the tree.
I burrowed my face in my dad’s shoulder as he carried me to the house, feeling the safest I’d ever felt in my life.
Several dozen successful tree-climbing adventures later (so that puts us at last week), I was visiting my parents when my dad asked for a quick favor. As a way of surprising mom and encouraging her, he wanted each of us kids to write down the top 10 things we believe she got right as a mom.
Dad is a lover of words like me, having over 20 years of experience in pastoral ministry, and an even longer affinity for writing. I grew up in a home where the transfer of words was a gift. Don’t mistake me; it wasn’t always. However, there were many occasions when a poem was written, a song, a journal entry, a humorous anecdote (my dad’s personal favorite), a letter, or even text messages after we all grew up and moved away.
By creating this brief list for mom, it was dad’s way of saying, “I love you.” After I finished the list, I realized dad deserved one, too. So I took some time in the early morning hours of Father’s Day to write out the top 10 things my dad did right. The list could have been longer. Much longer. But, hey, 10’s a good number.
Thanks for being my hero, dad. Here’s to you.
10 Things My Dad Totally Got Right While Raising Me
- He taught me to have a strong work ethic. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom because my dad was willing to work as hard as it took to provide for the six of us. I’ve always been proud of his work ethic, especially when I saw it take shape in my three older brothers and finally myself.
- He showed me what it meant to live out one’s faith beyond Sunday. In two words: Intentional integrity. I saw it all the time. He’d talk with me as a kid about why he chose to do something or didn’t do something. He’d talk about why we had rules and the reason behind them, sometimes digging into scripture to explain fully.
- He was, and still is, a terrific counselor. Whether I wrestled with how to live my life as a Christian or how to respond to insults from classmates or what to do when I grew up, dad was so good at listening and discussing options, ultimately making sure I knew that the decision was in my hands.
- He always dares me to do greater things than I thought possible. I started playing softball even though I was almost always the smallest one on my team because my dad suggested I try out. I left home when I was 19 and attended a bible college in Ohio for a semester when I had no idea what to do with my life because my dad suggested it. I moved to Florida to take care of my terminally-ill grandmother because she wanted to live out her days at home and the family couldn’t afford an in-home nurse. So, my dad asked me. He believed I could do it. So I did.
- He loved mom. He teased her, and still does, getting a mischievous twinkle in his eye that always made me want to find a man who would love me that much. A man who would like me that much. Dad always joked when he said to us, “Your mother knows I’ll never divorce her because when we said ‘I do,’ I told her, ‘Well, you’re stuck with me!.'” Deep down, that gave me so much security as a kid, knowing that dad so intentionally believed in their marriage.
- He said the smartest thing a dad can say to his 12-year-old daughter. Dad sat me down and had that look on his face that said he was about to say something majorly important, and it could possibly make me squirm (like the talk about how to escape a rapist. ::gulp::). But, I’m glad that dad was brave enough to talk about that stuff with me. Anyway, dad told me that I was approaching an age when a lot of teens think their parents’ advice is lame and irrelevant. They think their parents are just being harsh and don’t understand. Dad simply asked me to remember that he and mom wanted what’s best for me and they “may just know a thing or two about what it’s like to be a teenager” having, in fact, lived through it themselves. As a result, we had an open, honest, and respectful season of life through my teens.
- He came to my ball games. Nothing made me want to crush the ball over the outfield’s head like seeing my dad sitting in the stands. He still comes to nearly every one of my games even though I’m approaching 30. Now, I get to see the effect it has on my nephews who are climbing the ranks of little league with grandpa (and their dad) proudly watching from the stands.
- He lives his life with open hands instead of clenched fists. Whether it’s fixing my car or helping someone financially or planning family reunions to make sure the extended family came together every year, dad never prioritized hording wealth and focused solely on using it for good.
- He knew when to be strong and when to be gentle. Sure, there were moments when he was tough with us kids. We needed that. But, he also knew when to be gentle, too. After having three boys, I think tiny, little, sensitive me probably threw him a curve ball. It worked, though, because I was totally a daddy’s girl. I always felt able to approach him about most anything. Even when I backed into his truck one icy morning before work. I was mortified. When he called my work phone a few hours later, I couldn’t even speak from crying as he told me it was fine and invited me to have lunch.
- He painted my ’96 Camaro’s engine block purple. I have a dad who cares about his kids’ dreams, no matter how fleating they may seem. I give you full permission to laugh at me for this. From the time I was five years old, I longed to have one car, and one car only: A purple Camaro. I’d point out every one of them in traffic, which I’m sure got on my family’s nerves, but I was the youngest and this is just what families are in for with us last borns. Finally, when I was 20, my uncle sold me his silver ’96 Camaro V6. Sure I was relatively mature enough to not be bothered by the color of my car, but when my dad led me into the garage one day and pointed to my freshly painted purple engine block, I laughed out loud. Dad just knew. He knew it would make me happy, so he did it. Not a bad way to live.
I love you, dad. Thanks for being you.