Recently, it was the 60th anniversary of my parent’s first date. They were 15 and 16 years old and went to the cinema to see Carousel. To celebrate the occasion, my father surprised my mother with flowers, her favourite chocolates and a DVD of the movie, which they spent the afternoon enjoying together.
I was blessed to grow up enfolded in this 60 year love affair. One of my memories is of my father buying my mother an orchid flower every week for what seemed years. My mother, home cook extraordinaire, was constantly cooking his favourite everything. They never miss an opportunity to hold hands or say something wonderful about the other. I never once, to this day, have heard one of them say something degrading about the other, regardless of whether the other one was out of earshot or not.
I learnt a lot about myself as a woman and what it meant to be a wife and mother from my father. It might seem strange that I didn’t say mother there but here’s the thing – from my father I learnt my intrinsic worth and value by watching how he treated my mother. From my mother I learnt many other things but what to expect from a man, how I deserve to be treated and valued was taught by my father. He taught me that mothering was of huge importance by appreciating all my mother did in the home. He never saw her role as ‘less than’ simply because she didn’t go out to work. He never questioned ‘what she did all day’ or diminish the countless, often thankless, jobs she did to keep the household with five children just nine years apart, running smoothly. My father taught me that I could be and do anything – that gender was no barrier.
We learn so much from our fathers. And more often, we learn the things that aren’t directly said or done to us. My father never sat me down and told me how much he loved my mother or how much he appreciated her, he didn’t need to. I could see it and feel it.
Like I said, I know I had what many would describe as an idyllic childhood, although it wasn’t perfect, it was wonderful. And I know that many, many people don’t have the childhood I had; sadly, many fathers are less than ideal and some cause much more harm than good. And because of this, we often downplay the importance of fathers or father-figures in society.
So this is a shout-out to all the great fathers out there this Father’s Day. To the fathers who didn’t have great fathers to model on but are turning it around for the next generation, to the fathers who value their wives and mothers, to the fathers who are teaching their girls to fish and play soccer and letting their sons ‘do their hair’ or supporting them in the arts. To all the fathers out there who are just doing a damn fine job of doing the best they can.
You are important. You are teaching your children more than you will ever realise. And one day, they will thank you.
Dad, for my past, my present and my future – thank you. Love you longtime x