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What It Means To Be A Dad

What It Means To Be A Dad
By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

A mother and a father – we all started here. We have this in common. Most of us have great memories of our parents. And an unfortunate few don’t. Regardless, there always seems to be a deep innate love for the two people that gave us life.

As Father’s Day approaches this Sunday, I’ve been a bit nostalgic. It’s been 21 years since I lost my father to a massive heart attack at the young age of 58. I think about him often, especially in June when we celebrate dads.

But now, with 3 kids of my own, Father’s Day has become more and more meaningful each year. In today’s article, “What It Means To Be A Dad,” I want to share 3 favorite memories of my Dad. I also want to share 3 favorite parts of being a dad, and then I have an action step for you. Let’s dive in.

First off, my father was an extremely gregarious man. He knew EVERYONE and everyone knew him. His presence was felt from a mile away and he genuinely cared about people. Despite his father (my grandfather) dying when my Dad was only 10 years old, my father had a lot of great ‘fatherly’ traits. He had 8 kids (yes, I have 2 brothers and 5 sisters!), and both my Mom (79 years young and living in Florida) and Dad are to be commended for the gargantuan job of raising the Durkin clan.

3 Favorite Memories of My Dad:

  • Shopping together for his birthday card. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. So we would go to the store when I was young and we would read birthday cards together. I remember laughing so hard with him. I can’t tell you how many times on February 6th (my Dad’s birthday), I have thought “Ahh, if I could only do that one more time with him…” So now I just go by myself and smile.
  • “Don’t be like an ostrich.” I used to spend a lot of time in my Dad’s 1979 blue Bonneville. He would be driving me somewhere… soccer games, football practice, basketball, baseball… you name it. And whenever he would make me laugh (he tried often), I would look out the window so that he couldn’t see me. But he still knew. And he would joke that when an ostrich sticks his head in the ground, his butt would stick straight up in the air. And I would just laugh even more until my shoulders would be moving with uncontrollable laughter. I wish I could turn my head, see him today and just smile… no need to look out the window.
  • Time. My Dad attended every single game and most every practice in high school. In college, he sent me a handwritten (yes, hand-written!) letter stuffed with newspaper articles every single day while I was away, beginning my freshman year. Every…single…day!!!

He wrote a letter every day until the day he died on Feb 19, 1992.  As a matter of fact, I received his last letter AFTER I got back to school following his funeral. And I have always found it extremely interesting that his last letter happened to talk about “how proud he would be of me in life as long as I did what I loved and did my best everyday.” A powerful message for a young man. Hence, 1% better everyday!

Fast forward to today. My wife Melanie and I have 3 kids. Luke (10), Brady (8), and McKenna (5). My first thought is always “I don’t know how my Mom and Dad had 8, because 3 is hard enough!”

And as Father’s Day 2013 approaches this weekend, here are 3 of my favorite “moments” with my kids now.

  • Morning routine. I eat breakfast with all 3 kids and take Luke and Brady to school 4x per week when I’m in town. The time spent with the 3 of them in the morning is precious and I savor every minute. We typically talk about “dreams” of the previous night and what the day is going to look like. I often have a “word of the day” or “lesson of the day” in the 7-minute drive to school. Really, it’s just about connecting and sharing. And I laugh. And I look in the rearview mirror and I see them smiling (and not looking out the window!).
  • Travel. My kids love to travel and they LOVE hotel rooms. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s the newness and adventure of going to new places. I love the look of curiosity on their faces when we arrive someplace for the first time. My hope is they continue to have this zest, zeal, and insatiable appetite for travel and adventure all through their lives. It’s an important part of our growth and development, our cultural understanding and our appreciation for others. It’s an important part of LIVING.
  • Bedtime rituals. I love hearing a “download” about their day. What they did at school, practices, dance recitals, and any other random thoughts that imaginative young minds have. I often play “our” song for McKenna (My Eyes Adored You, from The Jersey Boys), before she goes to bed. Luke and Brady and I play the “guessing” game where Daddy quizzes them about random topics from geography, spelling, history, and sports. For some reason, they always choose sports…

We say our prayers and go through our nighttime vernacular. They then say, “I’m so happy, I can do anything, and I love my Mom and Dad.” And we repeat it back to them using their names. And then we all together say, “We’re the Durkin’s and we always do our best… and we never give up.”  Rituals and routines—they work! Try them!!!

Parenting isn’t easy. And if you’re a parent, you know what I’m talking about. Parenting is undoubtedly the hardest job I’ve ever had.

And probably one of the hardest parts of parenting is PATIENCE. As a family of 2 or 5 or 10, you have to work as a team. And on any given day, someone is bound to be struggling – tired, moody, sometimes just overwhelmed with trying to grow up (and I don’t just mean the kids!). Family life is not for wimps. You set high expectations and expect things to get done.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t… So we continue to work harder to help each other grow.

Wow! You don’t need to be a parent to empathize with this. PATIENCE truly is a virtue in all aspects of life. I could be talking to teachers, coaches, businesspeople…  leaders of all kinds. Daily life tests our patience and we could all stand to improve in this area. We could be more loving. We could be more tolerant. We could be more giving. We could be more patient. What “more” could you be?

This week is Father’s Day week. And whether or not you are a parent, it’s a great time to reflect on our parents (living or deceased) and to remember special memories.

And if you are a Father, Happy Father’s Day! Keep leading, loving, and creating special moments with your kids – no matter what their ages. After all, we must “always do our best…and NEVER give up.”

One thing I learned from my Dad is that when time is up and your number is called, the most important thing you can show your children is love. And the way you spell LOVE is T.I.M.E.

Create a great week.


PS. Attention Moms and Dads:  I would love to hear your stories and rituals too. Share a favorite memory of your Dad or a favorite moment with your kids in the Comments section below (Moms welcome too!).

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