Becoming a fatherMay 24, 2021 02:57PM ● By Lois Greene Stone
My dad learned how to be a great father even though he had none
When there’s no role model, how does a man decide what kind of father he’d like to be, and actually become that?
I learned from my mother how to set a formal table with porcelain and sterling, transforming eating into dining. With my own children, I was always home after school to either listen or give them alone time, as my mom did with me.
I learned how to be a mother by imitation. My dad was 5 when his father died. So, how did he learn?
My boys learned how to shave by watching my husband. He instructed them on how to throw a baseball and held their bicycle handlebars as they learned to ride. But who taught my dad?
But it’s more than that. My dad almost never showed annoyance with me. One time, I surprised him by washing his car. I accidentally scratched the hood, and he simply thanked me for the surprise. He didn’t seem upset about the scratches.
He was also thoughtful. When he took me shopping for a dress, he seemed to just know what I liked. Every interest, talent and dream was encouraged.
No matter how difficult or long his days were, he stayed awake to pick me up after an evening club meeting or a late-night dance. When he drove my friends home, he waited until each was safely inside the house before driving away. Who taught him to do that?
Or, during my dating years, I’d decide at midnight that a boy had a long trip back to the other side of town. Then, while I went to sleep, my father drove the boy home. At the time, I didn’t consider the long drive my father had—30 miles each way—and that he might be tired, but he never complained.
Dad was active in the community. He helped out during World War II by being an air-raid warden on his street (a medical condition prevented him from being drafted). He silently financially supported his brothers and brother-in-law, not wanting recognition or praise.
Honesty, fairness, caring and tenderness were automatic for him. He showed my mother love, affection, understanding and encouragement. He was a gentleman, a quiet provider. But he never saw a man in the role of husband, so where did he learn to behave this way? Who showed him this side of manhood so he could copy it?
At age 45, my dad passed away. It’s taken me getting old to be able to answer the question that’s rambled in my head for decades: How did he learn to be a father when he had none growing up?
Now, I believe he became the kind of father he would’ve liked as his own role model. The kind of father he wanted to be for his daughters.