Importance of a father

At first this week’s column seemed easy. Topic? Father’s Day, of course. Generally, that’s the hardest part, but for me it wasn’t so cut and dried. The reason why? I’ve never really been a big fan of opening up, and I need to for this one.

You see, I have two dads, my biological father, who always made every effort to be a part of my life, and my stepfather, who has been in my life since third grade. I know that I would have been lucky enough to have two men in my life who have always been there for me, to teach me and guide me.

Daddy, or as you may know him, Terry, was that dad who liked to pose me as a child. When Mama went to state Junior Miss pageants in the summer, he would be at home with my sister and me. There’s a picture of me when I was younger, maybe a year old, reading from Mama’s college physics textbook (to quash any questions, no, it did not help when I took physics in high school).

After my parents’ divorce, I did see less of my dad, but quite a bit more than most people do in similar situations. My parents’ split the time 50/50, so we’d spend one week at my mom’s and then a week at my dad’s. Even though it was hard at times and it was certainly not something I missed when I moved to Starkville, it was the best that could be accomplished in that situation.

For a while my dad lived in a two-bedroom apartment on South Cleveland. Between four people, the one bathroom sometimes caused a problem, particularly after road trips. The one thing that always brought us together was TV. Most nights, we could be seen gathered around to watch CSI, NCIS or Burn Notice. The older we get, the harder it is for moments like that to happen. My brother, Taylor, tends to be the most upset when we watch a show without him, to the point he threatened to cryogenically freeze us every time he leaves.

In many ways, I’m like my dad. We both like to be right. We both like to have a plethora of tidbit information. We both like to use words like “plethora.” My stepdad, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different.

Richard Reeves is an outdoors, work-with-your-hands, grow-your-own-garden type of man. Growing up, we had our issues. Sometimes it would be tense, partly because we were both hard-headed and mostly because I was a know-it-all.

I learned completely different lessons from Richard. I learned how to work in the garden. I learned how to cut grass with a push mower. And Lord knows, I learned how to pick blueberries. I helped him build a fence around the seven acres in front of the house.

And the food. Richard can cook.

But it was more than that. I learned to deal with situations that I didn’t like because I didn’t like the outside. I was happier reading a book than jumping on the trampoline.

The older I get, the more I see the quiet sacrifices he made because it couldn’t have been easy to take in three children.

But the thing both Daddy and Richard did for me, along with my grandfathers, is the confidence they’ve endowed me with. I once read a study, I can’t tell you when or where, that said girls who grow up with male role models who tell them they’re pretty have a better self-image. There’s a special source of self-esteem that comes from positive reinforcements from father figures that is different from feedback from mother figures, and I am thankful to have had that from more than just one source. I am thankful that no matter what, I have people I can lean on when I need to.

Julia V. Pendley is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at or mail a letter to her at Julia V. Pendley, Lifestyles Editor, P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602-0551.