Fathers have immense influence over the lives of their children. They help their sons learn what it is to be a man. They teach little girls, among other things, how they should be treated by men. For better or worse, our fathers shape and mold us into the people we become.
My parents’ divorce had a big impact on my childhood, but my dad remained my very best friend when I was a little girl. My mom and I had a tumultuous relationship anytime we were living under the same roof, so there was nothing I looked forward to more than my weekends and holidays with my dad. I’d be lying if I said the Nintendo and boxed mac ‘n cheese weren’t part of my love for our time together. But they were not the substance of it.
We have good memories of our time together, but we were always very different people. He has never lived more than five miles from the house his parents brought him home to from the hospital. I left our hometown as soon possible after high school graduation and never looked back. His decisions tend to be measured, while I am more carefree. His concern for physical safety is high, while I am often more daring.
I am quite sure at times he has thought that I’ve lost my mind given the life I’ve chosen. Yet never once have I felt unsupported by him. Challenged? Yes. Questioned? Yes. But unsupported? No. For example, several months ago I shared an article on Facebook which seemed to expressed some of the same racial justice concerns I often write about on my blog. In hindsight, it was foolish because I didn’t thoroughly research the claims or the site that published the article. I reacted to an event and the status updates of others, letting my emotions get the best of me. A classic social media faux pas.
Later that night, an email from my dad appeared in my inbox. In the first line, he wrote: “You are in a very influential position. And your circle of influence is growing. I am so proud of you.”
My dad went on to share some basic facts related to the incident the article referred to and how the writer got them all wrong. His tone was gracious and caring—not an ounce of judgement could be read between the lines. He encouraged me to “always, always, always seek the truth. It doesn’t matter if the truth proves your position or not. It doesn’t matter where it came from. The people that follow you will have even more respect for you and you will have even more influence. You must be strong enough to state the truth even when it may not be the outcome you desire. I’m very proud of you as a person, my daughter, a mother, and a wife.”
My dad has always found a way to both challenge and encourage me, this message was no exception. He is largely responsible for teaching me what unconditional love, civil debate, and respectful relationships look and feel like. Even though our relationship hasn’t always been perfect, that incident reminded me just how important my father has been in my life. It’s true my dad and I do not always see eye-to-eye but I could not have asked for a more kind, understanding, supportive man to embolden me as a woman. As his daughter my voice has always been heard, my experience validated, and my opinion valued. His care for me as a young girl propelled me to be the woman I am today. And that is the truth.