'The look' of Father's Day
With Father's Day approaching, I can't help but think of my dad and his style of raising kids. He had eight. His first few grew up in the '50s and '60s, when he had youthful energy and seemingly less to lose. The last three were more '70s kids, and he was in the 40s, exhausted from long hours and the stress of owning and running his own business.
My dad was a busy dad, with a big family and big responsibilities to it. And he wasn't one of those dads who gave his kids much individual attention. I never expected any, and I doubt my siblings did either.
I always told myself, like probably most do, that when I became a parent, I'd be much different.
Sure enough, the times alone make most of us different than our parents were.
Today's parents stress over every detail of their children's lives. We bounce between being Helicopter Parents (hovering over our kids so they don't make a mistake) to being Lawn Mower Parents (who go before their kids, clearing a path, so they couldn't possibly make a mistake or suffer a heartache).
No wonder our pre-teens just want to play videos on their Chrome books or steal our phones (if they haven't conned us into buying them one of their own yet). They may not want us out of their lives yet, but how about out of their faces?
My parents were the epitome of NOT being Helicopter or Lawn Mower parents — as I'm sure most of yours were, too ... at least those of you still reading this in paper form (God luv ya). We all survived countless bike wrecks with nary a helmet, trans-state station wagon trips without seat belts; and hours of sunscreenless summertime play interrupted only by long slugs of water straight from that worm house of a garden hose.
My dad didn't involve himself much with the details of my life, and wasn't much of a talker (to me anyway) of anything except often-told stories of his Oklahoma youth. He wasn't a corporal punishment guy (my 120-pound mom was the spanking brute). No, he "punished" with a stern, tight-faced glare, nearly a snarl. Those looks hurt worse than any paddling could. He'd follow it with some professional-quality ignoring.
But by the time I graduated high school, then college, got a job, then got a job back in the ol' hometown, my dad was completely different. Maybe all dads mellow, and moms get a little more edge, when they age. The only thing that seemed to bring that stern, clinched face in his later years was when he couldn't find a game on that damned, confusing, 180-channel cable TV. Nearly always in his later years, a satisfied smile marked his face.
Sure, I promised myself I would be different as a parent. I wouldn't give that crushing, mean look to my kid, I'd be a talker and hugger and give them more love and support than they could possibly need — an ace pilot in the Helicopter Parent Corps.
But there are days, many days, that I'm reminded how similar I am in style to him.
My dad was older than most fathers when I was born, 38. He was ancient in my eyes as I grew up. But there I was, 44, when my daughter was born. (So there, you ageist jerk.) Like he did when I was a kid, I too often come home from work tired, don't always say much, not much care or energy to do anything that might be related to fun.
When the kid says or does something not so wonderful, she'll more than likely get that same stern, near-snarl that I used to get. Recently, when I've thrown it her way, I can sense my dad, like he's telling me to stop it, as if he now knows how much I hated it, and he's trying to convince me to go ahead and jump to that mellow stage he rode for about 25 years.
We'll all think of our dads on Sunday. For me, I'll probably go visit mine up there at the memorial park, where he rests next to my mom. I'll thank him for all he did for me and for his family, think of some of the many, many happy times he provided. And I think I'll tell him that I'm going to try and retire that heart-ripping, mean glare of ours.
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