Doug Hensley remembering our fathers words on Father’s Day

First of all. Happy Father’s Day. I understand that even these well-meaning words do not have the same meaning for everyone. Child-parent relationships are often complicated and messy things. I also know that I appreciate my own father more and more each year, especially in light of how his health has recently declined.

For some, it may be the first Father’s Day without their dad. For others, the relationship is broken and in bad shape. I understand that I was lucky and that my experience is not that of anyone else. That’s not to say I thought my dad was always right, and looking back, I know there were times when I screwed up with my kids.

I have noticed, however, that most fathers speak a common language to their children, and I suspect many of you have heard some of these same things over the years. Likewise, some young fathers may one day look back and wonder why the words coming out of their mouths sound so familiar.

Blame it on the cycle of life as well as the truth that there is nothing new under the sun. In honor of Father’s Day, I’m giving you the short list of things we may have heard from our fathers. Maybe something here will ring a cognitive bell or maybe even trigger a small smile.

“Nothing good happens after midnight:” How many of us have heard our fathers say these words, probably as we left home with young friends? For anyone who has had problems after midnight, it is likely due to poor decision-making coupled with peer pressure. That was true 40 years ago, and it’s still true today. For some reason, it seems easier to find issues between midnight and the last call.

“You are who you drag:” Almost all of us have that friend (at least) who seemed to have a knack for getting us into trouble while avoiding his own. Dads have a built-in radar detector that rings every time that person they might consider a “bad influence” comes into our lives. They suggest doing things that seem like fun but usually have an element of risk. Logic suggests that if that person didn’t come, neither did the risk. However, that’s probably not true. It looks like there will be someone like this hanging around on a regular basis. Despite all the consternation they cause, we can’t help but love them. Fathers, however, always look at the big picture and think about 10 years or so about the long-term consequences of that person’s influence. Hopefully, as we mature, we turn to fewer thrill seekers and more mentors.

“Are you trying to cool the whole neighborhood?” It’s what dads used to ask for whenever a window, door, or even a car window was left unattended, allowing cool air to escape. At worst, it was a waste of money, always in short supply. At best, it just wasn’t about paying attention to detail, which drives dads crazy on a universal basis.

“Don’t make me stop this car:” That’s what virtually any kid of any age with siblings has heard, usually on family vacations. Don’t forget that these are the only two weeks of the year when Dad is not in the office. He has planned and he has been looking forward to this for some time. Now her peace is shattered by children arguing over who sits where or who is smarter or more popular among parents. A spat becomes a full-fledged argument over nothing, and Dad has had enough. Rare, however, is when a father has stopped. Usually, the mere possibility is enough to force better behavior. At least until…

“We’ll get there when we get there!” Short attention spans coupled with long hours locked inside a vehicle is not a winning combination. This can lead children to ask seemingly innocuous questions about the length of a trip. It’s usually okay once or twice, but when the question is repeated dozens of times over the course of several hours, a father’s patience can wear thin. Few dads want to break the demands of driving to break down the rest of the trip into miles and hours, numbers that could make matters worse.

“I know you can do better:” You may have heard this on a sports field or on a bulletin day (or both). It’s a father’s way of saying he knows you’re capable of so much more. Fathers see our potential and possibilities long before we see them in ourselves. These are words of encouragement, spoken by a father over a child. They are also a reminder that dads are cheerleaders in their own way.

“I’m so proud of you:” Words that I hope everyone has heard at some point from their father. These words mean more than we can imagine, and I hasten to add that it doesn’t matter how old we are when we hear them. My own father has told me this a few times over the past few years, and it’s hard to communicate exactly what it means. We seek affirmation from a parent, perhaps even more once we grow up with our own families. Hearing these words is an incredible blessing. If you are a father, be especially generous with this praise. And with this one…

“I love you, son/daughter:” For whatever reason, there are men who find it difficult to express this feeling to their children. There’s even an outdated school of thought that suggests it’s a sign of weakness to say those words. But it’s not. It’s a sign of strength and one of the most powerful ways for fathers to affirm their children.

No one knows how many more Father’s Days we have. Life is too short and too precious to dwell on it. Let’s not even delay telling our children how much we love them. Happy Father’s Day.

Doug Hensley is deputy regional editor and director of commentary for the Avalanche-Journal.

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