Recently a friend asked me to write about the role of a father for this year’s upcoming Father’s Day. As a clinical psychologist, my initial thoughts went toward statistics and facts about fathers, what they tend to do well, and places where they tend to struggle. Although this information is important and helpful, often some of the best ways we learn to be a parent are though the people who raised us. So with that in mind, I won’t bore you with psycho-babble facts about fatherhood, but instead give you some important characteristics of a father from my own experience as a daughter.
1. Good Fathers Make Time for Their Kids
As a child of a minister and school teacher, I didn’t grow up in a household that I would consider to be “wealthy” in many respects. And while growing up, that often did not mean that I had the newest car or most expensive clothes, I never felt that I went without because I had a father who showered me with time and caring. One of the most important places where he gave me time was throughout all of my grade school and high school years. It was during this time that my father routinely took me to to lunch every Friday without fail. Even through the horribly awkward junior high years when I would rather die than be seen with my parent, my dad would wait at the back corner of the school so that I could sneak off with him without a single friend knowing. But it was during this special time that I learned to express my needs, solve life problems, build self- esteem and find my way. Week in and week out, there was my dad, with a loving smile and listening ear, reminding me that I was okay. It was through this experience that I began to learn that good father’s make time for their kids, allow them the space to grow and reflect, and assist them in becoming the people they need to be.
2. Good Fathers Have Fun with Their Kids
Okay, while it seemed very developmentally appropriate for me to be embarrassed of my father while I was in junior high, I have to admit that I was probably embarrassed of him for most of my growing up years. Now being a first born, with slight perfectionistic tendencies, I took myself WAY too seriously when I was young. And my dad, being the kind hearted person that he is probably felt that the best way to break me of this was to embarrass me to the point that I not longer had any dignity or cared much at all.
And in many ways this has worked. From dropping me off at school SHOUTING from the window and laughing “Goodbye honey! Everyone look at Melissa!” to playing catch with the tampons that I had to purchase so that EVERYONE in the store would see. My dad loved to smile and laugh with us. One morning in particular was especially great when he surprised me with a day trip to Disneyland with my best friend…and still loved me when I had a complete melt down at the end of the day due to pure exhaustion.
Throughout all of these experiences, I learned that good dad’s have fun with their children and never stop playing and laughing with them. On a side note, a few weeks ago my dad broke into my house to mount a painted portrait of my lovely grandmother above my bed…so that she could “always look down on me.” Some things never change…
3. Good Fathers Are Patient With Their Kids
When I put myself in the position of my father, sometimes I wonder if I could have been so patient and gracious with a child like me. Don’t get me wrong, my dad wasn’t a pushover and there were definitely standards and rules with which we had to comply. But, I never felt like his love for me was conditional, being based what I did or mistakes I made. My dad had an incredible gift of patience. Here are a few examples:
-Not getting angry with me about my messy room until it was so bad that he fell trying to navigate through it.
-Instead of getting mad at me or raising his voice as I was having a complete adolescent melt down, he simply chose to SIT on me until I was done/too exhausted to be angry any longer.
-Staying at the church until the wee hours of the morning trying to burn down the candles that I insisted must have “that iridescent glow” for my wedding ceremony that would take place the following day.
So while I am still not sure if I will ever be able to have as much patience as my dad, I did learn that good dads must have patience…and more patience…and more patience again.
Thank you Dad for being a man who loved his family with his whole heart and his God even more. You have taught me so much about life, love and character, and for that I am forever grateful. Happy Father’s Day!
(This post was written by Dr. Melissa Estavillo. Melissa is a native Phoenician and a clinical psychologist. She is married to Danny and they lead a tribe of Jesus-followers who embrace the grace of God and radical honesty amidst their brokenness)