The things our fathers taught us

Published 9:52am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When Sonora Smart Dodd began the push for a national holiday to recognize dads in 1910, she probably never envisioned an America in which 43 percent of children would be living in homes without one to honor.

Unfortunately, that’s today’s reality.

Knowing this should make those of us who grew up with fathers worthy of the big day thankful, and it was the beneficiaries of that type of daddy/daughter relationship that I sought out and asked a question: What did your father teach you? Responses were as varied as the women who gave them, but all underscored what the studies say – a father’s impact is inestimable.

Here’s what one daughter remembered about her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away. “My father taught me that I was important by spending time with me and joining in on my hobbies, like backpacking with me for a weekend in New Hampshire. He came to see my special events – soccer games, ski races and piano recitals – even though he traveled a lot for work.”

In a world where the work ethic is weak, a daughter lauded it in her father: “My father was, and still is, an extremely hard worker, dedicated to giving his absolute best to whatever task he is accomplishing. He taught me that whatever I am doing, I should do to the best of my ability, or else it isn’t worth doing.”

More than one daughter emphasized the blessing of having a dad with a heart for God. “Daddy taught me that it is worth any sacrifice, any struggle, any ridicule or misunderstanding to follow hard after Jesus. He went against everything he knew when the Lord saved him, and through patience, humility, and openness led our family to Truth as well, even when it was difficult,” a young woman shared.

“My times tables – that’s the one thing that always pops up every time I think of the things my dad taught me,” a busy mom told me. “I always had a great respectful fear of my dad, and to disappoint him was unthinkable. I can remember crying at the dining room table (which is now my dining room table) in front of this big Marine and giving the silliest answers, like two times two equals ten. At the time I thought I would never learn them, but to this day I may not remember a lot of math, but I know my times tables like the back of my hand.”

One grateful daughter, who described hers as a dad “that she can always depend on”, wrote out 14 specific things he taught her, including skills like how to ride a bike, drive a stick shift, change spark plugs, cut grass, unplug a drain, fish, and rearrange furniture. She concluded with something more relational, though: “When we say good bye, we always tell each other, ‘I love you.’”

Several brought up the influence of their father on their own personal management habits, like being prepared, rising early, and handling money wisely. Another put into words what most of us eventually realize: “Only as I’ve grown older have I really begun to understand the value of my dad.”

So to my dad, who instilled in me a love of newspapers by letting me read Memphis’s Commercial Appeal on his lap, and to all the rest of you dads who have taught us so much, thanks. May you be honored well this Father’s Day.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at