The best Father’s Day lesson a Dad can give

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Photo credit:  Sergio Lopez, the nicest and best damn wedding photographer I know.

My Dad gives me the best gift any father can give a child each and every day:  he absolutely loves his work.

He is a photojournalist, and from the time I can remember, he has involved me in the process of taking pictures and writing stories.  When I was very young, he had a darkroom with chemical baths where he would use large wooden tongs to swish and dip photo paper, before hanging it on a line to dry.  I would watch in amazement as pictures would come to life from a blank white page to striking, black and white images.

As the years progressed, the technology changed from chemical baths to large photo processing machines to computers.  But we maintained our conversation about pictures and stories, about work and creativity despite the change in environments and technology.

Of the many things I am grateful to my Dad for, this is primary:  by loving his work and doing it professionally, he showed me that I can express my true self through my work.

Many fathers have the worthy and noble perspective of wanting to take care of their family’s material needs first, then attend to their own interests and passions.  There is nothing wrong with providing financial stability and support to a family; it should be commended and encouraged.

But many also use this desire to provide financial stability to their families as an excuse for not moving forward with their dreams.

“I would love to open my own business, but I have to put my kids through college, and they are only in grammar school now.”

“It would be nice to love what I do … but I have lots of bills to pay, so for now, I will sacrifice myself for my kids.”

Such statements, while very “real,” (who can argue with wanting to put your kids through college or pay bills?) mask the fact that you can choose to make changes to your livelihood while continuing to support your kids emotionally and financially.  Yes, it will involve effort and sacrifice.  Yes, it will involved risk and uncertainty.  But thousands of fathers, just like you, do it every day.

When your kids see you passionately committed to making your work life work, they pay attention.  As a daughter, and now as a Mom, I know this is true.  I stick with my dreams because I feel the unwavering support of my father and my husband every day.  My two-year old son sees the pride in my husband’s eyes as he comes home, exhausted but proud of his hard day’s work.  My husband does not grumble or complain about work.  He is grateful for his business, and pushes himself to learn and grow every day.

My own father spent 8 years of his career working in an oil refinery, because he was unable to get a full-time photographer position, and life circumstances dictated a need for a predictable income.  But in the evenings and weekends, he had his camera in hand, and continued to submit stories and photos to newspapers and magazines.  When he was able to break back into the profession full-time, he was much happier.

Sometimes you do what you need to do to take care of your family.  This is nothing to be ashamed of.  But don’t let it become a habit, or an excuse.

My wish for you fathers out there today is that you give yourself the gift of permission.  Permission to live bigger.  To pursue your creativity and passion, even if it takes a few years to see the fruits of your efforts.  And permission to discard any excuses of sticking with something you hate for the sake of anyone.

Your kids will thank you for it.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!  I love you.

And Happy Father’s Day Darryl … I couldn’t wish for a better father to my kids.

5 Responses to “The best Father’s Day lesson a Dad can give”

  1. Sue says:

    On Father’s Day when my husband was reading this article aloud, I didn’t know who wrote it. I was hanging on the charming picture of sensations I have not experienced. I was raised most of my life by a single mother; she was bread winner, confidant, nurturer, friend, and probably stretched too thin for wearing all the hats. That was in the day when unisex seemed the answer. Some times the feeling was “boys are just girls with long hair”, which they are decidedly not.

    Raising my own daughter has given me some idea of the importance of a great father-daughter relationship. I feel so lucky to have a caring man who loves me and loves and teaches his step children.

    Sometimes when I look at my life I wonder how I’ve managed to know such amazing people. The same kind of wonder was in your words. I said, “Wow, who wrote that?” Then all I could say is “See it’s no wonder”.

    Thank you for sharing some of what makes you so great. You yourself wear many of the charming things you had to say about your father. We were very moved.

  2. I read an article a few years back that said the surest way not to make it as a writer is to have a house in the suburbs, two kids, and a Volvo. I think the idea here was that responsibility trumps creative desire in most people.

    Your article is great because it demonstrates that this is all just so much hooptedoodle. You can have your cake and eat it too.

  3. Thanks for the cool Father’s Day post. I can relate to your dad. I’m working on the pursuit of my true passions in the midst of all those things you wrote about, most especially the predictable income as a necessity for the moment while still moving towards the goal of the true dream.

    I’m smiling as I type while I kick off the beginning of a great week in preparation for the next thing!

  4. Russell Perry says:

    As a father of a spunky 2 year-old, I take this post to heart, and know how much the quality of life has improved since I’ve given myself permission to step outside the boundaries traditionally followed by those in my shoes. However, as a son of a father who never followed his dream, who always lived by the permission others gave him, this post makes me a touch sad he never became the children’s book author he always wanted to be.

  5. Thank you for this post. The right post on the right day 🙂