Monday, June 22, 2009

Thoughts on Father’s Day, a day late

I’m sure if you’re an Obama supporter like me, his reflections on fatherhood in PARADE won’t necessarily be anything new to you.

But read it anyway. Or at least this part:
“As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well—but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.

And it’s not enough to just be physically present. Too often, especially during tough economic times like these, we are emotionally absent: distracted, consumed by what’s happening in our own lives, worried about keeping our jobs and paying our bills, unsure if we’ll be able to give our kids the same opportunities we had.

Our children can tell. They know when we’re not fully there. And that disengagement sends a clear message—whether we mean it or not—about where among our priorities they fall.

So we need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what’s going on in their lives.

We need to set limits and expectations. We need to replace that video game with a book and make sure that homework gets done. We need to say to our daughters, Don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals. We need to tell our sons, Those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.

We need to realize that we are our children’s first and best teachers. When we are selfish or inconsiderate, when we mistreat our wives or girlfriends, when we cut corners or fail to control our tempers, our children learn from that—and it’s no surprise when we see those behaviors in our schools or on our streets.”Link

Amen to that. I especially love how he says, “I expect you to dream without limit and reach for your goals”—maybe because it reminds me of my own dad, who has always had that sentiment, as well as the bit about “in our house, we find glory in achievement, self-respect, and hard work.”

It’s obvious that Obama is a great father, but he’s got nothing on my pops. Each year I am increasingly aware of how lucky I am to have my dad. He’s always there for me, no matter what. He didn’t tell me I was an idiot when I announced I was quitting my job and moving to Chicago. He listens to me bitch about waiting tables, even when my stories make him uncomfortable. He shines up a bike for me then hauls it up to Chicago. Believe me, I can keep going. My dad is awesome. If you’ve met him, you know. If you haven’t met him, I’ve probably told you 15 million times. He’s awesome.

This was the first Father’s Day that I can remember that I didn’t see—or even talk—to my dad. It’s been our tradition in the last several years to go to the Indy Jazz Fest on Father’s Day weekend, and then spend time together that Sunday before I’d head back to Bloomington that evening.

This year things were a little different. The Jazz Fest will be in September this year, I’m up in Chicago working like a maniac, and my Dad and Debbie were on vacation (his first in about a million years). Since D and D were just getting home yesterday and I was working all day, I sent my dad a text message and left it at that, knowing I’d call him today.

But I woke up this morning with a big ball of guilt in my stomach. I didn’t get him a gift. I didn’t talk to him. I am the worst daughter ever. It’s official. This is what’s been going through my head all day, even though I know as soon as I talk to him, he’ll say it’s no big deal.

I’m hoping that, come September, I’ll be able to buy Papa Hamm a ticket to the Jazz Fest. It might be late, but it’ll still feel like Father’s Day to me.

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