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Saturday, June 20, 2015

The understated importance of dads

How My Dad Nurtured My Self-Esteem

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Although I've already done a post for this week, I felt compelled to write something for all the dads out there (note that I didn't say "fathers", for obvious reasons). Though it's understandable that people typically don't go as far out to celebrate Father's Day as they do for moms, the fact is that there are many dads who are dedicated to their kids and do pull their weight in the family (my husband included). I believe this is truer today than ever before, as gender roles slowly become redefined and our men grow in enlightenment.

My dad did a terrific job. In fact, one of my fondest childhood memories involves our morning runs to kindergarten. My mom taught high school, so Dad would drop her off first and then take us to kindergarten. It was me, my older brother Kevin and his twin Camille. My two oldest sisters took the school bus.

After Mom got out we would play this game. First one of us would say, "Daddy, are we little angels?" to which Dad would reply, "Yes, you are little angels." Then the next child would chime in, "Daddy, are we sweetie-pies?" "Yes, you are sweetie-pies." was the reply. Finally, the last of us would ask, "Daddy, are we little sugar plums?" Right on queue we'd hear the smiling reply, "Yes, you are little sugar plums." Sometimes we'd get so eager to play the game that we'd start even before Mom could close the car door! She'd just smile, shake her head and blow kisses to all of us.

We did this over and over, 5 days a week for about 2 years... and Dad always played along - cheerfully. Mind you, he was about 40 years old at the time. That's the kind of dad he was.

It didn't seem like much at the time, but that daily dose of reassurance and selfless attention had a profound effect on me as I grew up - without even realizing it. Whether it was not wallowing in self-pity after not getting picked as a cheerleader or for the starring role in a school play, having confidence that a nice boy would ask me out to the school dance or that I would get that call for a follow-up date with a really cute guy - all of the self-esteem, self-confidence and assertiveness essential for coping with these growing pains had been instilled in me years earlier by a grown man who was humble and selfless enough to indulge me in a silly kid's game.

In late 2010 my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It hit our family like a rock! I mean, he was a brilliant, well-published senior professor and PhD, truly a major authority in his field. Yet there he was, making absolutely no sense, looking at us like we were new acquaintances instead of family. It really hurt - we felt like we'd lost him.

So now, even though he can no longer remember those cherished school mornings, it doesn't matter because I remember them for him - as do my brother and sister - each time we see him.

Happy Father's Day to all dads, whether biological or surrogate, male or female. Know that you too have a special place in our hearts and are truly worthy of our love and praise.

Here's to you, Dad!

(from your favorite "little angel")

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