COLUMNS

Bless you dads for being there and doing stuff

Candace Cooksey Fulton-ccfulton2002@yahoo.com
CANDACE COOKSEY FULTON

I didn’t learn everything I know about fatherhood from my dad, though I learned a lot of good stuff from him. I learned a lot of very important stuff – you know stuff that matters even though a lot of people try to act like it doesn’t really – from my sons, who are fathers. Good ones, I think.

The Number 1 primary important thing a father should do? He should be there. Show up. Act like there isn’t a place in the universe he would rather be. He shouldn’t be impatient, check his phone for the time and announce he there is someplace else he to go, because that gives the impression he would rather be someplace else. And it he’s going to do that, he might as well not be there.

But he should especially – especially – be there if his child’s friends’, teammates’ or classmates’ dads are going to be there. A dad who shows up for games, school events, birthdays and holidays (major and minor), even if he doesn’t do much more than that, gets points for the future. And, children do keep score.

Children also need – really, absolutely need – their fathers’ presence. They need to see it, feel it, depend on it and should be able to expect it.

A father needs a basic “all occasion” list of fatherly things to say, most of which will be a question and several of which don’t make much sense.

Among my dad’s frequently used sayings were, “I can stop this car” and “What did I just tell you?” My son, I’ve noticed, uses, “Hey, slow down,” “I want to know what you think you’re doing” and “I thought I told you to …”

The best thing a dad can tell his child? “It’s OK.” And he needs to repeat it often and for random situations. He needs to say it like he means it and like he believes it, even if he doesn’t and can’t, because somehow, someway, someday, it will be OK, and all anyone is trying to do at the moment when things aren’t OK is get to the moment when they will be.

Children need to believe there is an OK after the struggle, after the fall, after the loss and after the heartbreak and for some reason dads are better convincers (I think) of the “will be OK” than moms or other stand-ins.

Now, there are times when “It’s OK,” isn’t a smart thing to say. Oh, yeah, in the grand scheme of things, everything will be OK, but in the moment, losing the game isn’t OK, because heart and soul went into trying to win, and that didn’t work out that time, this game. So there’s no reason to say something inane like, “It’s OK” because nothing is.

So, dads need to know to wait before saying it. This is a dad trick, and I can’t do it. But I’ve seen my son stand with my granddaughter when the game’s over, and he doesn’t say anything. But he’s there and he understands, and they don’t say anything until she gets her bag and her gear, and head for the truck.

Pickup rides with dads and their daughters can make up for a world of temporary hurts. Guess it sort of falls into the “be there” category.

Dads need to know how to hug and not afraid to do it.

Dads need to know when to buy, and have the funds for, two scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone. Well technically, I guess it should be four scoops of ice cream and two waffle cones. No, I don’t mean for every day, but they need to make ice cream dates and celebrations enough of a ritual that their offspring know it’s a possibility for happening any day. Then without logic any day can become special, and bad days can get turned around.

Dads need to know how to fix stuff and do things. Basic dad abilities should include but not be limited to putting bicycle chains back on, throwing (and catching) baseballs and footballs. They need to know how to fish, for their own pleasure, and so they can pass on that pleasure to their children, and someday, their children can teach their children to fish.

Well, fishing’s a metaphor here. My dad wasn’t a fisherman, but he did things he enjoyed and we kids got to tag along. We may not have loved the activity, but we loved the time spent together.

That’s what I’m talking about. Being there. Bless you dads everywhere who are there for their children. Happy Fathers’ Day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Candace Cooksey Fulton is a freelance writer, formerly of Brownwood, living now in San Angelo. She can be reached at ccfulton2002@yahoo.com .