I was 36 years and 9 months old when I became a father. Interestingly, just a few months away from the exact age my father was when I was born.
Of course, I was the third of, eventually, four children at that time.
For me, without a kid for more than 36 years, it was quite the new experience. Mid-30s and a father for the first time.
When it happened, it exponentially changed my life. Forever. How I saw the world. How I saw myself.
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And that I had a daughter, well, it was even more life-altering.
How did my parents raise my sister? What challenges were ahead? What kind of dad will I be when she is 1, 6 or 16?
It was amazing to me how much of it came through trial-and-error and through just plain, dumb luck. Maybe that’s how my own father got through raising four of us. Certainly, he had a much tougher job than I ever will with just one kiddo.
I constantly catch myself thinking of what my dad did, would do, in any given situation. Addy won’t eat her vegetables? Do I give her a pass? My dad sure didn’t. That man could get out The Kansas City Star evening edition and wait us all out.
But more than those dinner-time lessons, I learned compassion from my father. True giving that put other people before his own needs. Compassion, from an early age, that wasn’t taught — it was shown.
I can’t speak for my other siblings, but Dad made sure to drag me to the soup kitchen in Kansas City from time to time. The lesson being twofold: help others and “this is how good you have it.”
When it came time to broaden the horizons, Dad expanded his reach beyond Kansas City and began church mission work for the poor and immigrant populations in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.
Showing us, not just telling us, about how to help others was seemingly always at the top of his list.
If I can impart even a small percent of those vital lessons on compassion onto my daughter, I will find success in raising her to be empathetic and supportive of those that are in true need of assistance, care, kindness or just someone to be a friend to.
Last week, my parents celebrated 50 years of marriage — truly the ultimate sign of cooperation and compassion.
For all the married and single dads out there raising daughters, sons, multiple kiddos, adopted or step-children, happy Father’s Day. May your children see an example in you that they can pass down to their own children someday.