As the mother of four and a journalist who collects funny kid stories, I am convinced that it’s not a father’s words but the words of his children that define what it is to be a father.
Fatherhood is a two-way street. (When I first typed that I made a typographical error and it came out two-say street. How true!) Fatherhood is not just the father talking to and guiding his children. It’s his children turning to him with questions, comments, observations, tears, fears and laughter. It’s not about going to Disney World. It’s about sharing your world.
Fatherhood is about strength (in the child’s eyes), learning, doing, honesty, being comfortable and setting an example. It’s about doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way… in your child’s eyes.
Young children have complete confidence in their father:
- When asked who was going to help Superman fight the bad guys, a 2-year-old from Minnesota said, “Daddy!”
- When a Florida mother told her son she didn’t have the money to buy a toy he wanted, the little boy, whose father made drawings as a surveyor, said, “Well, why doesn’t dad just draw more money?”
- Seeing his older siblings fly their kites, a 2-year-old carefully spread his kite on the ground, sat on it and said, “OK, Daddy, I ready go for ride!”
But coupled with that confidence in father’s abilities are frank observations about father’s weaknesses. For example:
- A 6-year-old said, “When Daddy takes a short cut, it always turns into a long cut.”
- When a Chicago father was having trouble fixing his daughter’s hair, she said, “That’s okay. He’s just a daddy. He’ll be a mom someday.”
- When an Arkansas father was stopped for speeding in his shiny new Mustang his 5-year-old son leaned over and exclaimed, “But officer my daddy always drives fast in the Mustang!”
Many very young children assume that as they become older their parents are becoming younger. I’ve received a number of stories similar to the one about Kyle, 4, who was told that when he grows up he would be 6 feet, 2 inches like his father. Kyle replied, “And Daddy will be small like me!”
Perhaps that view represents wishful thinking, such as when Jayden, 3, told his father, “When I get older I’m gonna be a daddy. That way when you yell at me, I can yell back!”
Then there are the wonderful stories about fathers and children working and having fun together – whether it’s making breakfast, going to the barber, fishing, golfing, tackling homework, taking a walk, gardening or doing any of the 100 other things that define fatherhood.
I like the story about the little boy in Florida who was allowed to slice hard-boiled eggs for his father when they were making breakfast. When the boy cut into the first egg he said with amazement, “I didn’t know there was cheese inside eggs!” Or the 5-year-old who was gardening with his father and spilled Miracle Gro on his finger. “Is my hand going to get bigger?” he asked.
An Indianapolis father wrote to me about when he took his 2-year-old for a walk and she saw a dead, dried up worm. The little girl squatted down and said, “That worm needs some exercise!”
Tom from Okinawa, Japan e-mailed me about when took his 4-year-old to see the airplanes at the Air Force base where he is stationed. When an airplane took off, Tom said, “Honey, that’s the sound of freedom.” A few days later Tom and Catie were outside when a plane flew overhead. Catie said, “Daddy, I like airplanes, but freedom sure is loud!”
How do you define fatherhood? These last two stories say it all:
- Mitch, 4, sternly warned his dad, “You better watch everything you say, ’cause someday I’m gonna talk just like you!”
- Or, as another pre-schooler put it, “I’m just a chip off the old pot!”