It's Father's Day.
For a couple of months I have been mentally planning what I might say to mark this occasion. How great of a father my husband is, an anecdote about the lessons I learned from my own father...
And yet, the kids needed dropped off and then picked up, I got behind on the laundry and van needed servicing. I volunteered at school, we had a rummage sale and we went on vacation.
It's always something. The big, momentous and perfect plans we make, get swept away by the reality of living.
And in the end, I guess that's how father's do what they do too. I mean, sure, there are bright spots and well executed events and all, but in the end, it's how a dad handles the day-to-day stuff that makes him great.
For an example, take my own dad. One of the best things about my dad is not something you could identify within a 24 hours time-span. Or 36, or 48. It is a pattern he established over years and years of consistent behavior.
My dad was always interested in education, so he was always learning, always reading, always reaching for something. As if that example weren't enough, my dad would come up with these little one-liners that he would repeat to us over and over throughout the years. We joke about it sometimes, but in fact, this is such an effective teaching tool! These lines he taught are ingrained in us, hidden in our memories and therefore constantly at our disposal, even so many years later.
My dad was a big boxing fan and he told me to "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee"; a quote from The Champ, Muhammad Ali. He said this line many times over the years, but it didn't occur to me until I was older what perfectly wonderful advice this was for a dad to give to his only daughter.
My dad used to stand in front of the mirror, partly joking, and shout: "I feel healthy, I feel happy, I feel terrific!" I can't remember who started that one, but it was probably a Ali or Zig Ziglar, another one of my dads mentors. Of course this is great stuff for teens to roll their eyes at, but really, what a message!
My dad gave us quotes from books like Pulling Your Own Strings, Acres of Diamonds, The Richest Man in Babylon, See You at the Top, How to Win Friends and Influence People and The Bible, over and over... lather, rinse, repeat. Seriously, though, I could write for days about just this one way my dad "fathered" us.
The point is that it was never one big defining moment that made him our dad. It was the little things. It was the special "tea" he made us when we were sick and the Willie Nelson tunes he would belt out while driving his great big Lincoln down the streets of our town. It was the quotes he repeated and the gift of family he gave us, with his 7 brothers and sisters who were pretty much always around.
As I watch my own husband, I won't pretend to always understand or agree with the choices he makes, but I see him weaving a pattern, teaching his methods, slowly and yet deliberately; passing on his knowledge in the same way my dad did, and his dad probably did.
My husband is manly and masculine and he pushes the boys further than I am comfortable with. He teaches them things I don't really want them to know, like how to open a pocket knife safely and how to shoot a bow and arrow. He never worries that he hasn't packed enough juice pouches, or goldfish crackers or bandaids. He thinks it's perfectly fine to "wing it" once in a while (while I tremble in the corner because we don't have a plan). He doesn't mind letting them stay up late and run in the yard in the summer, even if they will be tired in the morning. If a log fell across the creek in our back yard, he would encourage them to walk across it and he might even laugh if they fell and took a swim in the creek and then congratulate them on their bravery, whereas I would probably fret about the danger of it all and the mud on their clothes and scold them for being foolish. He's not much of a mommy, but he is a great dad.
I don't always understand why he does the things he does, and I 'm not sure which of these things the kids will look back on fondly in years to come. At some point, though, I just have to let go and let him "father them". Our roles are different, but both significant. And even though there may never be one great big "aha" moment that we all look and say That's it! That's the one thing that makes you a great dad!, the moments still exist; quietly, consistently, they are there. He is achieving greatness, one day at a time, just like my dad did.