Fathering lessons from my father
This is a modified version of a column that ran June 2011 in the Fairfield Daily Republic.
As the only Wade brother who doesn’t have kids, I’ve been fortunate to be a “grandfather” to Cathi’s grandchildren, 18-year-old Lauryn (who I’ve known since she was 5 months old) and 10-year-old Kawika. Since the kids’ fathers have been in the military and/or working overseas, I’ve had a lot of time to interact with and influence them. A lot of how I am with them is due to my father.
From my dad I learned to be consistent with discipline. If my dad took off his belt, you were getting a beating. Johnnie Cochran couldn’t have talked his way out of a whupping from my dad. The most we could do is turn state’s evidence against our brothers to lessen our punishment and get them in trouble.
My father spoke in such a way that noncompliance was just not an option. I couldn’t imagine telling him, “No, I’m not doing it.” I have no idea what would’ve happened if we tried that but I suspect you wouldn’t be reading Tony or me now.
My dad was consistent with rewards, too. When we were kids living in Norfolk, Va., our dad would take us to Ocean View Amusement Park, picnics sponsored by the U.S. Navy, camping and to the park to play.
He used to teach a class at church. Tony would stay behind and help him clean up. Then my dad would take him to Burger King afterward. Tony was kind enough to tell me about it and I stayed and helped and reaped the benefits as well.
This isn’t to say it was like Oprah’s Favorite Things in our house. More often than not, my dad got his “No” out before we even finished asking the question. But I’m saying our dad came through. He wasn’t one of those dads who promised to do something and then didn’t deliver. He never left us hanging.
It’s important to play with your kids. One of the first things our dad did when we bought a house in Fairfield in 1976 was to have a basketball court installed in our backyard so he could play ball with us. Lots of fun (and aggravating) times were had on that court.
It’s amazing our table withstood my dad’s fierce domino slamming. And my dad was like Criss Angel with a deck of cards, double-dealing like crazy when we played Spades. The man loved to win and if that meant bending a few rules, that was how he rolled. No board game was too crazy for him and he continued playing with us as adults.
He was a good provider. Whether it was serving in the Navy, running a convenience store, or working for the Department of Defense, he always earned a living. He always liked to have something going on the side as well. Good dads support their families.
It’s important to be your kids’ biggest fan. Now, our dad never sugarcoated anything so he wasn’t afraid to tell us when we stank. But he was there. Whether it was being a loudmouthed fan at football or basketball games at Armijo, heckling the ump at Little League games, cheering Scott’s Scarlet Brigade performances or being the biggest supporter of my column, he was always watching. When our parents divorced and he moved to Vallejo, he was still always there supporting us.
My dad was no saint by a long shot. Dads of his generation didn’t have all of the parenting resources available to parents now. He winged it and sometimes he winged it badly. He had flaws and made mistakes my brothers and I work to avoid. As you grow older you learn to take the good, learn from the bad and use it all.
So here’s to all the dads who support and raise their kids. Happy Father’s Day.