Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know my friend’s father through her wonderful and often hilarious stories about him. He was the man she turned to her entire life, and he was the man she turned to when she found out that she was bringing a new life into this world, alone. In the beginning, she struggled with his role of being her father and also a father figure to her son. She wondered if it would be confusing, or if her son would know the difference, and at times, this filled her with guilt. But she journeyed on with the help of her father and plethora of longtime friends. Everyone pitched in to fill in the gaps. And as Father’s Day quickly approaches, I’m reminded that this day isn’t just about celebrating the biological definition of a father, but to also honor those men and women who are filling in the gaps with unwavering dedication and unconditional love.
For our MB Collective this month, I asked our Behaviorists to share a positive quality they’ve learned from their fathers or father figures and how their fathers taught them these qualities.
I didn’t grow up with a dad. My mother and father had recently separated when my mom found out she was pregnant with me. A couple of weeks after my birth we moved across the country. Fortunately, I had incredible older siblings who helped fill the void and shared in taking care of me. However, Father’s Day was never that special of a day for me—until now. I’ve had the greatest of pleasures watching my husband become a father to our children. It’s really been the coolest part of our journey together. He’s deeply caring and connected to our kids. His young heart and ability to just be goofy produces more giggles in our house than anything else. And it helps that he doesn’t blink an eye when a diaper needs changing or someone is due for a pony ride or bedtime story. Witnessing his greatness as a father makes me miss that I didn’t have that kind of experience. However, it also makes me eternally grateful that my kids get to have him as a dad. How lucky we are!
Where do I even begin? My father has been the shining example of what it means to be a continual lifelong learner. He’s always instilled in me the need for more education, in both formal and informal settings, as a way to expand my knowledge to better uplift my community, my family, and myself. Knowing has become so vitally important to my work as an educator, activist, and person in the world. Knowing my story and myself, as well as hearing and learning other people’s histories, conditions, struggles, and joys, has pushed me to lead a life dedicated to creating a more equitable world. As I finish celebrating my five-year college reunion and begin looking into terminal degree programs, I know my father’s continual thirst for education will constantly feed and inspire me. Knowing the historical hoarding of education from Black people and the present-day violence against women and girls around the world who are pursuing education keeps me pushing forward.
One of my favorite qualities I inherited from my dad is being able to “read” people. He has this amazing grasp of the human psyche, and after speaking with someone for two minutes, I swear he knows exactly who they are. It’s pretty creepy sometimes how well he understands people. I don’t have quite that amount of understanding, but I think I got some of it. It’s why I’m driven to write and explore all facets of the human psyche through my characters. Also, my dad has a deep love and respect for nature. He’s taught my siblings and me so much about our surroundings, how they work, how we fit into them, and how we can take care of them. Some of my best memories growing up were the walks Dad and I took through the woods near our house, not following any path, just hunting for roots and observing any creatures we came upon. If I ever have children, I hope to pass this love of nature along to them.
I don’t love that he gave me his nose, but thankfully my dad has passed on much more than that to me over the years! He taught me how to be alone, not in a lonely way, but rather to find happiness and fulfillment in doing things for myself and by myself. But he also taught me to balance the pursuit of my own passions with the responsibilities of being a parent, child, employee, and more.
He has always worked long hours in a very demanding career, but as a child and even through high school, I never felt like he was absent. Looking back, his job did have to take priority many times, but he always made sure we didn’t feel that way. He may have had to arrive late and leave early, but he was at every event or special occasion cheering us on. I’ve struggled with mom-guilt and balance issues these past several years as I raise my own children while working, but I remind myself of the amazing example my dad set and try to do even half as good of a job as he did each day.
Finally, one of the most important qualities that my dad contributed to my heart is unconditional love. I most definitely went through the awkward preteen years, but I remember so vividly my dad telling me I was beautiful and meaning it. And then came the tumultuous teen years, but my dad showed patience and love through even the toughest of times. He has always been my biggest champion and my first (and forever) true love, and I’m so blessed to have learned these and countless other qualities from him!
My Father grew up with all brothers but had only daughters—my sister and I. He has been and continues to be fiercely protective of us and is always our biggest supporter. He believes my sister and I can accomplish anything, and even more so because we are women. He has instilled in us a sense of confidence that only a father can, and even today I still know he’s always there when I need him.
There are a great number of positive qualities my father has passed down to me, but (as hard as it was) I’ve narrowed it down to three.
- Nothing is out of reach if you work hard. My Father left New Delhi when he was seventeen and went to London to do his undergraduate and master’s degree in engineering. His parents wanted to support him, so they paid for his first year of college and planned to continue to do so. My father found an apprenticeship and worked while he was in school. After his first year, he returned to India and gave his parents all the money they’d paid that year, and he continued to put himself through school. It’s this kind of work ethic and selflessness he has instilled in my sister and me. He often tells us we can accomplish anything if we work hard enough. This quality is important to me because no matter where we are and what we’re doing, we should never forget that hard work pays off. In our world of instant gratification, we sometimes forget that there’s a process to getting where you want to be, and you have to put in the time and effort to get there.
- You should celebrate your accomplishments. This is one of my favorites! My dad was always the first one to applaud us for major accomplishments or milestones. Per my first bullet above, he believed strongly in hard work and believed even more in recognizing it. Even now, he’s still the one to tell me I’m a good mother on the days I feel like I’m not. This quality is so important because in a time when we’re overcommitted and sometimes running mindlessly from place to place (or maybe that’s just me 😉 it’s truly important to stop and recognize the things we’re doing right.
- Stand up for what you believe in. My father has always had a strong voice and character. He believes in things passionately and is never afraid to voice these beliefs. This is something I admire greatly in him. My sister is admittedly much better at this than me. The people-pleaser in me can take over at times, but I try to channel my father more, particularly when it comes to things that mean the most to me. This quality is important because I believe, deep in my heart, that standing up for what we believe in shapes so much of who we are, and how we lead our lives. It shows those around us that we have a voice, and that voice can and should be heard.
I’m incredibly thankful for my father and the lessons he’s taught and continues to teach me. I know he’ll pass these qualities on to his granddaughters, and I feel so lucky they have him as their Nanu.
My dad taught me that life is about creating opportunities and that by keeping your nose to the grindstone and putting in the time, doors will open and opportunities will present themselves. You never know what life will look like down the road or what roadblocks may come up, but if you work hard, you can flourish in the area of your choosing. I’m thankful for his work ethic, determination, and his never-quit attitude. All of which are qualities I’m thankful to have inherited. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
We didn’t have much growing up, and often times, my dad wasn’t around because he traveled a lot for work. Mom had to pick up where he left off, and the interesting thing is that it never bothered me. It was the way things were, and we were a team. We all chipped in to help out. So, what I learned from my dad was also something I witnessed from my mother. I learned that NO isn’t an option. If there’s a will, there’s a way. And when there’s more action and less complaining, things get done. When my father was laid off from work shortly after I was born, he dug ditches to pay the bills. And when my dad did finally get a job, one that required him to travel, my mom took over caring for our land. We were young, but we knew how to tend to the animals, irrigate and plow the fields, and cook, clean, and do laundry. Whenever, I start to doubt myself or complain how overwhelming life can be, I take a deep breath and get to work.
And now that I get to watch fatherhood from a different perspective, it’s been amazing to see how loving and sensitive my husband is as a father. He, on the other hand, is teaching both Darlington and I that even though you can go around the word NO, sometimes it’s the best option. It’s one thing to have determination, but it’s another thing to waste valuable time. Because of this philosophy, Darlington goes everywhere with us. Losing his father shortly after Dan turned thirty years old, he knows just how valuable time is, and we intend to keep it close to our heart.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there and the villages of people it takes to raise a child!