By: Emma Johnston
The other day as I was out with my family pottering in my yard I saw a father and daughter team working in theirs. I watched them dig in the gardens together, mulching, weeding, pulling out overgrown bushes and replacing them with fresh more manageable growth. For hours, as I came and went, the two of them continued. I watched him drive a tractor over, I watched her dig out the back of a truck. I watched him cut branches, I watched her rake. This parent/child team worked tirelessly, and I couldn’t help but be moved. What was most beautiful about this scene was the fact that both of them were adults. Long ago were the days when this daughter lived at her parents’ home and would have needed her father’s watchful care, but clearly the years that have passed have not diminished the relationship the two of them share.
Dads, good dads, attentive, loving, engaged dads, if you are lucky enough to have one or strong enough to be one, are without a doubt one of the greatest blessings ever to wander the earth.
I am one of those lucky few who, in fact, has two incredible fathers. One biological, one step, but both who love me and who are such important elements in my life that I feel I can claim to be an expert on some of the aspects of great ‘dadship’.
My two dads are both fabulously different in looks, personality, career, hobbies, preferences, vices and even sense of humour. Their wildly varied characters have given me a better appreciation and perspective on what it means to be a good father.
In honor of the fast approaching Father’s Day, and based on my research as a daughter with two amazing dads, and on my experience of watching my husband pour every ounce of energy into being a great father, I have provided a list of characteristics that I believe make up a really great dad!
1. A great dad loves their kids. This might seem obvious, but I have seen a few too many parents who ‘say’ they love their children and then neglect to ‘show’ it through their actions. A great dad, even when their children are annoying or ridiculous, even when they make bad decisions or do something they disagree with, love their children and show it. Every dad might show their love differently, some with quality time spent together, some with meaningful gifts, some with affirming words and engagement, some with digging in a garden, every person is different. Some are prone to physical attention, some are not. Some live close and can be there, some cannot. But regardless of their personality or situation, a good dad loves their kids and their kids know it! I have never doubted my dads’ love for me. I’ve questioned their rules, their decisions, their advice, but never their love.
2. A great dad shows up. Showing up looks different based on age of children, ability and location. Showing up might mean going to the soccer field, watching the dance recital, clapping as they sing you an Ed Sheeran cover in your living room. Showing up might mean checking out Universities with your kids, or picking them up from a party where
there’s been alcohol. Showing up might mean graduation ceremonies, weddings, births, Thesis’ defenses, art shows or important auditions. But showing up might just mean being there for family dinners, engaging while you eat a meal together, turning off the TV or putting down your phone while you talk to your people. It can look different to everyone, but the important part, is showing up! I say this as my husband spends his 15th hour at the baseball diamond in the past two days and is running on less than 4 hours sleep, yes, we know the sacrifice it takes to ‘show up!’
3. A great dad forgives and seeks forgiveness. Turns out we’re all human. Dads make mistakes, they say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, think the wrong thing. They’re just people, they aren’t perfect. A good dad isn’t afraid to own their mistakes and if they have given the example of what forgiveness looks like, then they can trust that they too will be forgiven. A good dad knows their kids aren’t perfect either, and they don’t expect them to be. They know that their children will also make mistakes, do the wrong thing, say, think or be part of something that their parents may not agree with, but a good dad will remember the humanity of their children, whether they’re five and just coloured over the walls with marker or they’re 35 and forgot your birthday – Dads forgive and they seek forgiveness, it’s our shared humanity that makes us stronger.
4. Finally, A great dad teaches. My husband once read a series of articles that talked about the importance of fathers sharing wisdom with their children. Within these articles a list was provided of some of the most important things a dad can teach their kid. Things like, how to throw a punch without breaking your thumb, how to write a resume, how to ride their bike, how to throw a football, etc. But growing up with two very different fathers, I argue that it doesn’t really matter what you’re into, whether you fish or read, whether you bike or lead political debates. Whether you’re a business owner or a factory worker or a doctor, sharing your wisdom, imparting your knowledge is just one more way you can set your children up for success. If you can pass on just one more piece of knowledge, one more shred of understanding, it can help. From my dads I’ve learned the importance of reading, I’ve learned how to care for my car, I’ve learned how to present myself professionally, I’ve learned how to use a saw, I’ve learned how to swim, how to wrap a present, how to write an academic paper. I’ve learned how to hitch a trailer, how to run a rototiller, how to edge a room when you paint, I’ve learned about wine pairings, the best speakers for optimal sound, the best place to buy area rugs. I’ve learned so much from my fathers, a father who teaches passes on a generation of knowledge that I can vouch, comes in very handy at times! A good dad doesn’t keep everything he knows to himself, he shares, he passes along wisdom, he teaches.
Maybe you have a different list, no two dads are alike. They might be biological fathers, step fathers or grandfathers. They might be teen dads or have been a dad for the past 70 years. They might have one child or ten, variety is good, different experiences and families and demographics are good, but every dad can be like my dads in that they can choose to be great.
Dads aren’t great by accident. Dad’s aren’t just given a child and automatically become fabulous fathers, a good dad is intentional. I had two intentional dads, that despite their humanity have filled my life with so much joy and love and adventure, I am deeply grateful to them.
To every great dad out there, to my dads, to my husband, the father of my children, to every great father, -your love, attention, forgiveness and wisdom is deeply appreciated. Happy Father’s Day!