My dad’s been sick, and for the first time, on Father’s Day, I had to feed him. A spoonful of soup, a bite of chicken, then a sip or two of water. It was the worst Father’s Day I can ever remember. Of course, you can imagine I was heartbroken, but when two different friends said, “I’d fall apart if I had to do that — but you’re strong.” I started to wonder why some women label themselves as weak and what made me seem strong.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided that although mothers play an important role in raising strong daughters, Fathers are also an essential part of the journey. Sitting next to his bed, I realized my Dad was the one who taught me to be confident. I’ve always felt sorry for women who constantly seek approval or think criticizing other women’s bodies, clothing or other personal qualities will make them feel better about themselves and wonder if somehow a shaky bond with their dad amplified their insecurities.
My Dad taught me my identity comes from God, not my job, education, husband or house. The key to my confidence is that Daddy taught me how to do a job — but refused to do it for me.
Once I learned the correct procedures, maintaining my car, painting furniture, asking for a raise, and speaking to the waiter who brought me the wrong order were all my responsibility. “Do it yourself” wasn’t a punishment. It was a challenge.
My parents never offered, nor did I ask them to help me move to a new apartment in college when I could handle it myself. Trading favors with friends to load up boxes was actually fun and was another lesson in independence for all of us.
Daddy only had brothers and out of 62 first cousins (wow), the overwhelming majority were male. Girls were strange to the point he had a little freak-out episode when he saw my mother wearing curlers in her hair for the first time. His mother always went to the beauty parlor, so he didn’t know such things existed. He’d never been around dolls, tea sets or ruffled lace socks.
One of the few times I ever saw Daddy cry outside of a funeral, was when I told him someone I loved had been cruel and broken my heart. He dabbed his eyes with his handkerchief, and when he finally spoke, made a plan to kill the guy. Well, not really, but it was seriously implied.
Our family has always been on the thin side, and the teenagers in Daddy’s youth group at church gave him a hard time about being slim. I truly thought they were being sarcastic, because to me, he had the personality of a giant.
With Goliath ready to kill for me, I was secure in taking risks.
Like other women who have been taught to stand on their own, I don’t worry too much when trouble comes. I’ve taken care of the details after being hit by a drunk driver in college. I’ve stood up to bullies for myself and others who were weak and kept my wits about me while I rushed my son to the emergency room with an arm that was bending in four places. I’ve stared down a group of inner-city drug dealers (another story for another day) and have been able to do all of this because my Dad modeled — then expected great calm in stressful situations.
Parents who run to the aid of their daughters every time they sneeze are raising women who are in danger of doubting themselves and falling apart in times of stress, and as I’m learning, that may be the exact time their parents need them the most.
The man who didn’t know anything about girls ended up raising a confident, happy woman. I was taught to take risks under the watchful eye of a giant whether he was standing behind me or watching with his soft blue eyes from bed as I fed him his lunch, teaching me yet one more lesson in strength.
I love your stories. I was so glad to read that your Dad is doing beteter. Like you, I was raised to be strong.n I was in the Youth Choir from 1968-1971. We met at a recent reunion. We have much in common. I have taken care of both of my parents during their final illnesses, and it was hard, but I was so glad that I could do it. God gives us the strength we need when we need it. When people tell me or “compliment” me and say they admire how I take care of my son who has Muscular Dystrophy or how I could take care of my parents, it always strikes me strangely. How could I not be there for them when they needed me the most? I even closed my law practicde to take care of them. Financially, it has been tough, but I just could not imagine not being there for them! It is always comforting to be assured that God always rises to meet our needs.
Marsha, So great to hear from you and your encouraging story of dedication! Knowing what is important in life is difficult for some people, but you seem to have a firm grasp on the things that really matter. Thanks so much for commenting and I hope to hear from you again someday!
Oh Leslie Anne, what a beautiful written post about your dad.
He taught you well, and you have such a sweet, sweet, spirit I just love reading your articles.
Thank you Sue, and especially for the “Sweet sweet spirit” comment. More appropriate than you know!
Leslie Anne, what a beautiful story about your Daddy! My sister and I helped take care of our dad in his declining health. You never forget that look in their eye when they though we were hurt. Like you, heaven help anyone who hurt his girls. I’m so glad your dad is better. Your sons are lucky you are there for them in a fierce way. Like you, they will always remember. You’ve been doing a lot and going through a lot this summer. You deserve a break………..Take care, hope to see you return soon.
Thank you Emily. You and your sister are great people and I’m glad you were able to be there for your dad!
Beautiful piece. Your point is spot on. My father was rather baffled by me, I think, but not because I was a girl. He very gamely taught me many of the same things he taught my brother, like how to bait a fish hook with a worm, etc., but he never understood why I couldn’t just do what he told me, follow the path he laid out and stay out of trouble! You are a wonderful woman, a real testament to what a great father he obviously was/is.
Thanks Ellen. You are indeed a strong woman with a mind of her own — a rare thing these days!
Wonderful tribute to your sweet dad, Leslieanne. I had the privilege of meeting him when I was on the robe committee for our church and he was the rep we worked with. I remember him saying he loved a reason to come to Fairhope so he could spend time with his grandsons. He sounds so much like my dad. Daddy had no brothers so he knew about girls from his 3 sisters which, no doubt, made him a good father to girls only. Father-Daughter relationships are special and you and I were blessed with Christian fathers who gave us wings.
So glad your dad is doing better and I’m sure he is very proud of you.
So good to get your note Sue. Glad you know firsthand how a great Dad can be a good influence!
My dad, sigh and sniffle sniffle…yes, my dad taught me confidence too, and independence for which I am forever grateful…you must be able to handle things for yourself…I taught all 3 of my children early on to take responsibility, take dirty clothes to laundry room, pick up clean clothes and put away, change sheets and clean rooms every Saturday etc. And by the time they went to college they knew how to do laundry and cooking basics. When my son married, we were all shocked to learn his wife did not know how to even turn on a washing machine! She didn’t cook or clean either. He had to do everything including walking the dog and going to work, she didn’t even have a job! Needless to say, the marriage was short lived! Sorry to go off on a tangent, but it’s a hot button issue with me! I am so glad you were able to care for your Dad and I pray that his health continues to improve and he will be with you for a long time. Please take care of yourself in the meantime, I worry about you doing to much ❤️
Thanks Jenna. Those are all great lessons every child needs to know. I’m still amazed there are kids going to college that can’t handle the little things. A friend just told me her college bound daughter needed to learn how to do laundry! Yikes! Congrats on your good Mom-ness!
I’m happy your daddy is doing better. These photos are priceless. This column should be reprinted nation-wide.
Thanks sweet Rachel!
Your father sounds extraordinary and I’m so glad to hear that he’s feeling better. I think my father didn’t really have a clue about raising a first daughter, me, and it was left mostly to my mother. But by the time my 3rd little sister came along he was an old hand at it. I sure do miss him, he’s been gone since 2001 but I’ll see him again someday.
Such a great tribute! Glad you had a wonderful dad!
I am playing catch up here… But, now I am crying. Such wonderful sentiments.
Oh, thanks Lori!