“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
As cliché as it may sound, I truly believe that “any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad.” Being a part of American Humane Association’s Fatherhood Initiative, which helps connect children involved with the child welfare system with their dads and paternal kin, reinforces for me this distinction and the great influence my Dad has in my life.
I feel beyond fortunate to have two very loving and supportive parents — and even more aunts, uncles, grandparents, and close family friends who have provided additional encouragement and love to me throughout the years. Yet, there is something special about the “daddy-daughter” relationship, as we know that dads contribute in unique ways to the development of their children. So, in honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the influence my Dad has on me by sharing some of the life lessons I’ve learned from him.
Work hard, play hard — but work hard first. This lesson was instilled in me by my Dad and my paternal grandfather. Commitment and dedication to education and professional pursuits are important values in our family, yet just as important is taking time out from those pursuits to “play hard.” My Dad has modeled this for my brother and me and is quick to remind us that vacation days are meant to be taken.
Find a way to connect to what you feel passionate about on a daily basis. At every major turning point in my life, I can remember talking with my parents for guidance about what decision to make or path to head down. In each conversation with my Dad (some lasting hours on end), he never “gives me the answer” or tells me what to do. Instead, he asks me just the right questions to help me see the choice or decision that is best for me and that allows me to connect with what I feel most passionate about.
Don’t be afraid to show your emotions. Through family “meetings” and conversations, my brother and I were encouraged as kids to openly share our feelings related to whatever was facing our family at the time. My Dad models this by being open with us about his own feelings and emotions, including telling us how much he loves us at every opportunity. As an adult, I realize that having had this type of relationship with my Dad has empowered me to speak up for myself and my beliefs in all parts of my life.
Get dirty. On the softball field as a young kid, my Dad used to yell this to me as my cue to slide into a base to avoid getting tagged out. But, I liked having a clean uniform, so I just tried to run faster to keep it that way. I realize now that my Dad just wanted me to live in the moment and enjoy being in the Great Outdoors. It’s no wonder that’s where I spend most of my free time now and why I chose to move to Colorado.
Be there for your family and friends. I cannot remember a single time when I needed my Dad and he wasn’t there for me. Whether in person or on the other end of the phone line, he models for me what it means to love your family and friends unconditionally — through the good times and the bad — and to be there for each other, no matter what.
Believe in your worth and pursue your dreams. When life brings challenges, I can hear my Dad’s voice in the back of my mind — echoing sentiments he has told me over the years about my worth in the world and to others. Whatever they have been (even if it has meant moving hundreds or thousands of miles away), my Dad has always supported me to pursue my dreams. He has encouraged me to dream big, set my eye on the prize, and go for it.
These lessons, and many more, have shaped me into the woman I have become today. Continuing to reap the benefits of a strong “daddy-daughter” relationship even as an adult, I know how special the love, support and encouragement of a dad can be. Each child deserves this type of relationship, and I’m proud to be part of the work of American Humane Association in making that possible for children across America.