I’ve become my father
A celebration of dads and the ways they’ve influenced us
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
~ Umberto Echo
There is often a moment at a certain point in our lives when we suddenly realize we’re doing or saying something exactly the way our dad did. We might even catch a fleeting glimpse of him when we look into the mirror, or notice that we’re using mannerisms or gestures we saw him use all our lives. It’s funny when it happens while dad is still here, and incredibly comforting when he’s gone – as if a piece of him lives on in us.
Fathers influence our lives in the most tremendous ways. It may be because of their protective love and guiding wisdom, or it may even be because of their absence in our lives. But one way or another, they leave an impact.
Science has actually demonstrated that the role a father plays in his child’s life is an incredibly powerful one that can actually have a significant impact on his or her academic achievements and behavior.1 According to research by Valarie King, a Penn State associate professor of sociology, demography and human development and family studies, even if a father doesn’t live with his children, if he is able to spend quality time with them and stay actively involved in his children’s lives, they will still benefit tremendously from his presence.2
How to make sure you leave an impact
Busy dads (and moms) can try these simple and meaningful ways to connect with their children:
- Read to and with your child. Set aside time to read together before bed. Snuggle up and settle in with a favorite bedtime story or use Skype if you’re living apart.
- Use car time wisely. Ferrying your kids to and from lessons and practices is a chore, but you can turn it into quality time by having meaningful conversations during the ride. Ask about their day, help solve any dilemmas that might be weighing them down, talk to them about things that are happening in the news and around the world, and let them know your views and values.
- Let them help. If you’re heading off to the hardware store to pick up supplies for a home repair, take the kids with you – and let them help in whatever way they can when you get home. This is a great way to teach them important practical skills.
- Teach them what you love. Engaging in a hobby we enjoy is an important way for adults to relax and recharge. Consider teaching your child the ins and outs of woodworking, model railroading, golfing – or whatever it is you enjoy doing in your spare time. It’ll give you something meaningful to do together as your children get older, and teach them that being passionate about something you love to do is something that can give you joy all your life.
Fathers can be our first heroes, our biggest protectors, and our most loyal allies. We learn so much from their guidance and from listening to their stories and experiences – even if it takes us a while to really learn those lessons he tried to hard to teach us.
As Margaret Truman once said, “It’s only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home – it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love.”
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