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Sandy area fathers talk rewards, challenges, lessons of parenting for Father's Day

COURTESY PHOTO - Andrew Clark has two grown daughters and three grandchildren. While the COVID-19 crisis has made many things uncertain and changed a lot, not always positively, people seem to be finding some normalcy in the holiday of Father's Day. Many usually make the day primarily about spending time with loved ones, and for many, that won't be changed by the crisis.

One of the newest members of the Sandy Police force, Halali'i Ling is among those fathers planning a very family-focused Father's Day.

"We just like being together," the 32-year-old father of three said. Much of the Ling family's time together is spent playing games like Uno, practicing jiu jitsu or, when possible, going to church.

"When we have time together, we try to make the most of it," Ling added.

Ling was born in Hawaii but grew up in Olympia, Washington. While much of his career was in accounting, after moving to Sandy in 2017, Ling decided to explore other options for employment. Officer Garrett Thornton turned him on to law enforcement and Ling saw the occupation as an opportunity to help the community.

"I slowly came to the discovery that I didn't want to (be a tax accountant) for the rest of my life. Because my wife Mallory and I see our kids growing up here, I kind of wanted to make sure I contributed to the community. I see Sandy as a special place, and I want to keep it that way. I enjoy serving people. I think this is a career I can enjoy (while) also having a good impact on the community I plan on raising my family in."

Ling's children are ages 7, 5 and 2, and in raising them, he says he tends to channel lessons he learned from his own father.

"My own dad has probably been my biggest example in my life," Ling said. "I don't think anyone is really the perfect dad, I learned good things to do and also things I won't do. I think that's the whole thing with parenthood — there's no book out there to tell you exactly what to do."

COURTESY PHOTO - Halalii Ling is a police officer with the SPD and father to three children. One lesson Ling said he somewhat had to learn through experience, and he's still striving to improve upon, is how to exercise patience with children.

"I never thought I was very patient, but I thought I had a good grasp before," Ling said. "My dad was in the Air Force, so he was very strict. I think I try to force too much because I know the right way. But, generally, the short-term solution isn't the right one, so I have to have patience."

That need for patience also often extends to himself, as he navigates new challenges in parenting.

"It's definitely been difficult understanding I might not always know the answer," he admitted. "As a parent, your children look to you for all the answers. (Parenting is about) teaching them and hoping they make the right decision and letting them learn on their own, but being their parent at the same time."

Ling said he also has learned a lot from his kids that he didn't expect.

"I'm in awe (of) kids because they're so forgiving," he explained. "There are consequences, like time-out, but no matter how strict the punishment, they forgive and still love me. I feel like I hold grudges way too much, but I'm learning from my kids."

Relinquishing control and being patient, Ling said, is what leads to some of the most rewarding moments in parenting.

"When you do see the fruits of all your labor," Ling said. "When they do make the right decision or they have success, you can see in their faces that their work pays off. Parenting probably is the second hardest thing you've ever done, but definitely worth it. It's a very hard thing to do, but it'll definitely be worth it 100 times over."

COURTESY PHOTO - Andrew Clark helped support his youngest daughter when she became a mother at 15, acting as father and grandfather in the same household at one time. Parenting with respect

Andrew Clark — father of two grown daughters and grandfather to three grandchildren — has a little more experience with parenting than Ling but says there was definitely no road map that could have shown him how his children would turn out.

"As my girls got older, I believe both my children have exceeded my expectations," Clark said.

His oldest daughter, who is nearly 27, has gone into law enforcement, and his youngest, 25, despite becoming a mother at 15, has been very successful in college, which she attended on a basketball scholarship and graduated with honors. She is now pursuing a master's degree.

"We supported her 100%," Clark said of his younger daughter, Joci. "I had to be a father and a grandfather at the same time. To see where she's at now, I'm proud. We didn't let the situation diminish our lives as a family."

Clark said one of the biggest challenges of fatherhood was not needing to always be in control.

"I've been a supervisor for years," he explained, adding that he's been a transportation manager for a large produce distributer for about 27 years. On the job, he treats his workers much like how his mother treated him and his siblings — with respect.

However, he said: "In your household, you can't always take control (like when managing a team at work). You have to let children be themselves within your structure. You can't worry about the little things. Don't diminish kids' fun when they're just being kids. Know that when they're little, you get those easy hugs. Then as teenagers, they tend to pull away a bit. If they're adults and again they're giving you those easy hugs, you realize you did something right."

Clark attributes much of his early parenting knowledge to his mother, who had nine children, of which Clark was the second youngest and a twin.

"She also treated each one of us differently as (fit our) personalities, but equally," he said. "My mother worked a full-time job while also raising all of us. My father was an old-school parent and listened after the fact. My mother would listen and not react."

From his mother's actions and experience, Clark also acquired a penchant for non-reactionary parenting.

"I learned in the beginning that I would react to situations," Clark said. "You have to be patient as a parent. Being patient makes a huge difference. Kids read off of you — they remember those things. You have to have structure but also have grace. If you don't have both, your relationship will be very different in the future."

When his daughters were young, Clark said he also tried to be as present as possible, acting as coach for their basketball teams, working with the Boys & Girls Club, and more.

"I did it just so they would have parent participation," Clark explained. Even now, with both daughters grown and with children of their own, Clark said they try to do a lot of activities, like visiting the family beach house or cabin, together.

"I don't feel like I'm 53," Clark said. "I'm young at heart. You've got to be there and be part of (their) journeys. Show unconditional love, too. Whatever they go through, it doesn't mean you stop loving them."

COURTESY PHOTO - Jay Kuhn is father to Jackson, 11, and works for Liberty Mutual. Making concessions

One of the biggest lessons father Jay Kuhn said he had to learn upon becoming a father was that your kids aren't always going to have the same interests as you.

"Jackson just is who he is," Kuhn said of his 11-year-old son. "You kind of think when you have kids that they'll share your interests and if they don't, you embrace what they enjoy and be grateful they have things they like even if they aren't the same."

Jackson was diagnosed with autism at age 2, which also has presented parents Jay and Tamie with more than a few challenges. But, Kuhn noted, as with any child, you just push forward and try to make sure your child has the best life possible with everything they need to make that happen.

"With Jackson and his autism, one of the biggest challenges is making sure he's getting all the necessary help he needs (in terms of school and therapies)," Kuhn explained.

Conversely, Kuhn added, one of the greatest rewards of parenting is "when Jackson does something he didn't think he could do."

"It's rewarding seeing that huge smile on his face and his confidence," Kuhn said. "It's pretty cool to see that."

As a family, the Kuhns can often be found around various fire stations in the community, because Jackson loves everything to do with firefighting.

"As a family, we also like to play games and do family movie nights," Kuhn said, adding that these activities and probably a nice lunch are the likely Father's Day agenda.

"(Overall), as a parent, you just have to take it all in and enjoy the time you have with your kid," Kuhn said. "Love on them and enjoy every moment."

COURTESY PHOTO - Adam Gomes, father of five, plans to teach his daughters everything he knows so they can be strong, independent women. Part father, part teacher

A great deal of the quality time father Adam Gomes spends with his children, he says, is taking the time to teach them life skills.

Gomes' father was a definite role model for him, and both of his parents taught him to be very self-sufficient and hands-on from a young age.

"My father has been a huge example for me," Gomes said. "He's worked really hard and somehow, he really made time for us. A lot of times in life, people ask me 'Where'd you learn that?' and it was from my dad. He really showed me not just how to take care of a family, but how to be a good man."

Gomes is a full-time finance director for a Tonkin dealership and part-time, he's working to create his own construction company. However, he still makes time to play with, bake with and teach his five children, who are ages 16, 15, 5, 4 and 12 months. Woodworking has been one of many lessons Gomes has worked on with his daughters, who are 5 and 4.

"It's the cutest thing to see," Gomes said. "If it's not freezing outside, my daughters are with me. They're my little sidekicks. Teaching them that is kind of magical, not just because they're children, but because they're girls. I want them to be as well-rounded as possible."

Gomes, 34, has always aimed to be a father but says he couldn't have anticipated all the rewards parenting has to offer.

"It's surreal," Gomes explained. "I've always wanted kids, but there's this unbreakable bond that's mind-blowing. To have your own kids, who are dependent on you, is a motivator. To watch their first steps, their first actions — it's crazy to watch the time go by. It's a great joy. It's the purpose of life — not to say without kids I wouldn't have purpose — but it's an immediate representation of purpose. If anything was going wrong in life, I'd still know I needed to be a good dad."

As a father to three daughters, Gomes said discipline can often be one of the biggest challenges for him.

"My wife gives me crap because I'm a softy when it comes to my daughters," Gomes explained. "Especially now, having three daughters, all I want to do is spoil them. They're my babies."

Similar to Ling, Clark and Kuhn, Gomes said one of the most important aspects of parenting is "patience."

"Have patience with your kids, and have patience with your spouse," Gomes said. "Parenting is stressful. I give huge accolades to my wife. It's a teamwork. I know people raise kids on their own, but I don't think that's the ideal. Parenting is the most challenging joy in life."

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