My Dad’s Formula for Being a Father

 

My dad enjoyed sharing his music with us. We knew all of his songs and sang them with him.

Born in a share-cropper’s shack, the son of a third generation Mexican American, and a descendant of Scots, Irish, British, French Moravian and Cherokee settlers, Daddy never had a formal education, was never famous and certainly wasn’t materially wealthy, but he was a huge success in one area, an area where so many of today’s men fail—he was a fantastic father. My Dad’s formula for being a father was simple:

1. Be there.

2. Feed your kids.

3. Protect your kids.

4. Guide your kids.

5. Love your kids.

BE THERE.

Daddy lived with us. He ate dinner with us every night and talked to us. I know that’s not possible for every dad but having a physical, present, adult male who is vested in you enough to come home and spend time with you makes a child feel–wanted and accepted.

When a father walks away from his kids or is never present, the child may feel devalued.  As a teacher, I’ve listened to a lot of children’s stories and I know this to be true. It is a painful thing when a child says, “My daddy doesn’t want me  anymore.” I’ve seen a lot of anger in a lot of kids, especially little boys, when they feel their dads don’t value them. Oftentimes, they have no way to release that anger and no one to show them what it means to be a man in today’s world.

That doesn’t mean that kids who grow up without fathers can’t grow up and fair well, but it’s a whole lot harder. I personally think that if your child’s father is absent, then enlist the help of a grandfather or a trusted uncle or some other stable man who can influence your child in a good way.

FEED YOUR KIDS:

Daddy worked—hard.

He brought home a paycheck, which he promptly handed over to Momma, and then he baby sat us while she got groceries. His checks weren’t always enough to meet our needs, so he also hunted, fished and foraged for edibles in the woods.

Now, I know that these days most people aren’t hunting and gathering, but the point is–a good father makes sure his kids can eat. That may be holding down a job, that may mean watching the kids so his spouse can work. It never means being a man-child, irresponsible and becoming another mouth to feed without contributing to the survival of the family.

PROTECT YOUR KIDS:

My dad stood up for each of us on multiple occasions whether it was confronting the schoolboard over equity or hunting down the pack of wild dogs that threatened our safety.

But he protected us in more subtle ways, too. It was my dad who came to pick me up when I got sick at school and who was there when the pony fell on me in the creek.  My dad burnt the motor up in a car while trying to get my brother to the hospital when he nearly cut his arm off and my sister to ER when she burned herself. And it was Daddy who chewed tobacco and put it on our bee stings, tackled a nest of hornets that had taken up residence on the porch, ensured our flu was in working order, sealed our roof from leaking, kept our vehicles running and safe. The list just goes on.

A good father lets his kids know, “I’ve got your back.”

GUIDE YOUR KIDS:

My dad  believed a person’s character was what defined them, not the shade of their skin or the amount of money in their bank account. He believed that a person should be nicer at home than in public, that family was more important than business, friends, or acquaintances. He guided me in these values by allowing me to watch him in action, by simply living what he believed.

……….RESPECT

He taught me about respect by the way he interacted with my mother. He couldn’t provide her with loads of material things, but he honored her and was kind to her and she to him. They had authentic conversations. As a child I listened as they disagreed and even argued on some things until finally, they reached a consensus.

No matter how heated the discussion got, they never belittled one another, demeaned one another, called each other names or talked trash about each other to us kids. They never triangulated us or used as manipulation tools against each other. And, no matter what, one truth remained, their love for each other and for us was more important than who was right.

When you decide to do what’s best for everyone involved, motivated by love and appreciation for each other, more than you care about who’s right, arguments tend to work themselves out without ugly drama and violence.

………IMAGINATION

Through his ability to dream and his excitement over new ideas he taught me that it’s better to attempt and fail than to never attempt at all, that it’s okay to think outside the box (or be oblivious to the box in the first place.) Daddy had big dreams and childlike excitement that was contagious.

…….ENGAGEMENT

He guided me in tangible ways, too. He taught me to bait a hook, to hunt, to scale a fish, to fertilize the soil, to ride a bike, to build a fence, to preserve meat in a smoke house or a saltbox, to store corn for the winter, to make a bridle, to ride a horse, to recognize a tree by its leaves, to forage the woods for food, to split wood and to rick it. In doing these things, he spent time with me and that communicated something else to me—he valued me.

…..DISCIPLINE & INTEGRITY

While my dad was not a strong disciplinarian, he was a consistent one. He had his moral code and he stuck to it. He didn’t impose a lot of house rules on us but he did expect us to work. We had chores. He insisted on honesty. Making a bad choice usually didn’t get us into trouble. Lying about it did. When we went somewhere he wanted us to have manners. Stealing meant we were returning it, admitting what we did and apologizing. He never punished us but he did discipline us. Even when we were “in trouble” with him, we knew he still accepted us and valued us.

LOVE YOUR KIDS:

Daddy would often say, “If you ain’t got love, you ain’t got nothing at all.”

He never read that book on Love Languages, yet he spoke all of them fluently.

He spent quality time with us. Daddy didn’t do elaborate things with us. We couldn’t afford elaborate things. So, he ate supper with us every night. He told us stories at bedtime. He watched television with us, and we talked about the programs we watched. He went on walks in the woods with us. He planted flowers with us. He got down in the floor and wrestled with us. He told us jokes and sang to us. Daddy went exploring with us.

My father had little money, yet he managed to give gifts to us and rendered acts of appreciation/service to us. He whittled toys for my brothers and jewelry from cedar for my sisters and me. He went spelunking and brought cave rocks home. He constructed a beautiful flower garden from them for all of us to enjoy. He built a homemade swing set in the front yard out of 100 year old Maple trees, a long pole, and hemp rope.

When I was very young, he brought a chihuahua-pug home in his coat pocket. He set it in the playpen with me. I kept that dog until he died when we were both fourteen. Every year when I had my birthday, my dog had a birthday, too.

Daddy never withheld words of affirmation and touch either. He wasn’t critical, even when he was correcting me. He somehow knew that you could correct a child without demeaning the child or verbally humiliating the child.

I always knew that it was okay to hug my father. He never turned us away when we needed a hug and there was never a day that he didn’t say, “I love you,” to all of us at least once and there were seven of us kids. He would usually say it at bedtime. He’d sit at the kitchen table drinking his nightly coffee and having one last cigarette. We’d all come around and give him good-night hugs and exchange ‘I love yous’ then off to bed we’d go.

We often had cousins in the house. Years later an adult cousin said to me, “I was so jealous of you when we were kids. Because every night your daddy said he loved you. My daddy never said that to us when we were little.”

APPRECIATION FOR FATHERS:

I realize that we live in a different world now, a different time, a more ‘selfie’ kind of time. But the components of being a successful father haven’t changed. A successful father will still be present, feeding his children, guiding his children, protecting his children and loving his children.

I’m thankful to all of you who are fathers that provide, protect, guide, and love your children. Thank you. My dad would be proud of you.

 

 

 

Fortunate are the CHEERFUL Givers

Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

IN THE BOOK OF ACTS, Paul quoted Jesus as having said that it is more blessed to give than receive but how can this be? The word “blessed” here was originally “makarios,” which means to be fortunate. So Paul and Jesus were saying the giver is more fortunate than the receiver. But doesn’t it seem like that the more you have, the more “blessed” you are?

GIVERS ARE HAPPIER IN LIFE

A 2002 survey of 30,000 Americans showed that those who gave to charity, whether financially or in the form of volunteer work, were far happier than non-givers. It is almost like the more you give away cheerfully, the more you have to give away. The cheerful aspect is a HUGE component in all of this. If a person gives out of a sense of obligation and resentment, no happiness comes to them from it and they are robbed of their “blessing” or status of being fortunate.

WHEN WE ARE CHEERFUL, WE ARE ALSO COURAGEOUS

Giving is an act of courage and courage is an act of faith. Jesus told his disciples, “Be of good CHEER.” The word cheer here literally translates into ancient Greek as COURAGE. So, every time we choose to be cheerful, we demonstrate an act of courage.

The great speaker, Wayne Dyer, said that one of the secrets to having contentment in life was to want more for others than you want for yourself, to wish good on them more than you wish it upon yourself. He said that if you want peace in your life, then wish for and pray for others to have peace. If you have an addiction and want to be free of it, wish for, pray for and hope for others to be free from addiction. If you wish to be financially blessed, want others to be even more so. Living this way requires courage and brings joy.

That seems so contradictory to the “me first” mentality of greed. But if the whole world, or even 20% of the world, lived by those rules then there would be far less pain in the world, far less need. Instead of struggling to survive, people could explore and learn and there is no telling what the human mind and spirit could accomplish. It would be like the thousand years spoken of by Isaiah the Prophet where people beat their swords into plowshares and instead of killing each other, they feed each other. Instead of stealing from each other, they give to each other. Sounds like a good place to live to me. I believe greed is born of fear and giving is born of courage.

CHEEFUL GIVING IS A DEMONSTRATION OF LOVE

One could say that giving is how I Am demonstrates love toward us. Jesus, in speaking to Nicodemus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave….” He gave. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert God gave them water. God gave them food. They got fearful and greedy and tried to hoard it so it spoiled on them (because they tried to circumvent one of the spiritual laws of the universe), but nevertheless, he GAVE. Giving is the nature of God. The true nature of the Great I Am. Giving is an extension of love and according to John, God is Love. (1 John 4:8)

GIVING DEMONSTRATES CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S ABILITIES

Our willingness to give demonstrates our view of I Am’s ability to provide for us. If we hoard and are fearful of tomorrow, of not having enough, we communicate that we doubt there are enough “riches in glory” to provide for our needs. Being fearful of giving demonstrates a lack of confidence in God’s approval of and love of us, in LOVE’s identity. In demonstrate doubt in I Am’s, Jehovah Jireh’s, the Almighty Source’s, Klongliwiha, The Great Spirit’s, He Who Never Dies’, ability to provide what we need when we need it. Jesus addressed this by talking about the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields. That doesn’t mean we should never have a bank account or a savings plan, only that we not be so stingy that we can’t “share” out of our abundance.

The Tao Te Ching talks about how the wise person, the person of virtue, gives out of his or her abundance or excess. If I have two coats, I can afford to give one away without being fearful of life without that extra coat because I might “need it someday.” The key to being fortunate, in all areas of life, according to Jesus, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Lao Tzu, Apostle Paul, Saint John, Saint Francis, Wayne Dyer, the Dali Lama and every other spiritually attuned deity, person or teacher, is to cast fortune on others. They can’t ALL be wrong!

GIVING IS CONTAGIOUS

I love the movie, Pay it Forward, where the little boy comes up with the idea of doing good deeds for others with “pay back” being “paying forward.” I give to you and you don’t pay me back, you give to someone else. I do good to you and you do good for someone else.

So many people give but secretly, subconsciously, keep score and hidden contracts with the thought somewhere in the back of their minds, “I’ve done this for him (or her) now he will do things my way.” That’s not giving. That’s bartering. I’ve heard so many people say, “I can’t believe he’d do that after ALL I’VE DONE FOR HIM.” Or “Can you believe she said that to me after how nice I’VE BEEN TO HER?” These are hidden contracts. If you give expecting performance, you’ve already missed the boat. Giving should be for the soul purpose of making another’s life a little better. If you don’t WANT to give for the pure joy of doing it, then you’re better off not to give at all. Paul said to give cheerfully, no begrudgingly. Expect nothing in return and receive everything from a Source far greater than you can imagine.

SOMETHINGS ARE SO EASY TO GIVE

A smile, the touch of a hand, a word of encouragement, a note, a card, a smiley face, a cup of coffee, a piece of fruit, a moment of laughter, a joke. It merely takes an act of courage, of getting outside ourselves, and being a cheerful giver.

***MY SHAMELESS PROMOTION CAMPAIGN—I’ve written a new novel and I want to GIVE it to others, so I’ve made it available online here: https://walkabouthenovel.wordpress.com The ONLY thing I want in return is for YOU to read it and enjoy it:) Oh, and if you want to share it with others, that’s okay, too. Every writer wants readers, every painter wants viewers, every cook wants people with appetites…when you do what you love and love what you do, you just want to share it.

Remembering Lisa

Lisa was 97 years old when I worked at the center for the elderly. She always sat in the chair by the door with a romance novel in her lap. I commented on her love of romance one day and she said, “I’m old, but I’m still human.”

I squatted beside her chair; her eyes sparkled. “When you grow old,” she said, “you don’t stop being human. You don’t stop having feelings or having dreams.” She shrugged, “I’m nearly a hundred, but as long as I am in this world, I have hopes.”

She then spoke of what it was like to have people look at her as if she weren’t in her right mind, because she was elderly and what it was like to have others think she needed someone to make decisions for her. She told me of how it wounded her pride to be treated like she was senile when she wasn’t, of how people just assumed that because she was old, she had somehow stopped having any pride or emotions or feelings of self-worth or that she deserved pretty things. Then spoke of how she had served as a nurse in WWII and how she had paid her dues for her country. She was a veteran. She told me of how she had come from the Choctaw Nation and she was an American of all Americans.

She asked me for hot cocoa and told me the special way she liked it. I went in the kitchen to make it and the young worker in there said, “You making chocolate for Lisa? She won’t like it. She’ll send you back. That old bitty can’t be satisfied.”

But I made it exactly as Lisa had told me to make it and if she had asked me to redo it, I would have done so. I sat beside her and listened to more stories until I had to go attend to another matter. Daily, I listened to Lisa’s stories and I read manuscripts from 80 year olds with dreams of becoming writers and I discovered something that I hope every 30 year-old will soon discover, age is nothing. Our spirits, the real us, are ageless, eternal.

Lisa at 97 was the same Lisa who had done all of those amazing things in her 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s. Lisa, at 97, was more mentally clear and intelligent than that 30 year-old who called her an old bitty. It is a foolish person who writes someone off because of age or appearance. She wasn’t any more demanding than I would have been in her shoes. Who wants to eat tasteless food and drink watered down hot cocoa? She wasn’t hard to please, she just wanted to be treated with dignity and respect. I don’t know what ever happened to Lisa. I’m sure she’s gone by now or else she is 115 years old, which isn’t impossible, but I doubt she’s still with us. Still, at 97, she taught me a thing or two about life and I am forever grateful for the two summers I spent working at the center and the insights I gained into human nature.