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Father’s Day is always bittersweet for me. Bitter because I no longer have a father  or grandfather of my own to honour, sweet because I have the most amazing husband who is the best father ever to our two children, and a father-in-law who I love with all my heart. It is a time to reflect on the lessons learned from the fathers in my life.

Here are the top 5 things I learned from my Dad:

1. I’m beautiful and worthy of love. I mean that in the broadest sense of the word: “inside and out,” as my dad used to say. Every little girl wants their dad to comment on how pretty she looks in her tiara and dancing shoes, and my dad fulfilled that for me. When I was older and dressed to go out with friends as a teenager, he would tease me that I was “looking too good to leave the house.” We’d laugh, and I always felt pretty. He always talked about how I was better than the boys who had broken my heart, that I could and would do better. That I was a good person and deserved to enjoy life. I felt smart, strong and beautiful because of Dad.

2. Be smart with your money and your financial decisions. (Be cheap). My dad was cheap. Though near the end of his life he was starting to change the severity of his cheapness, my memories of him involve him finding ways to save money, not spending while on vacation, encouraging us to find ways to make our own money if there was something we wanted to do. (One story is when I was younger and we were on vacation at West Edmonton Mall. I was getting headaches from the sun and needed a sunhat, and the only one my dad would agree to get me was the 49 cent beanie that came with the A&W meal we had for lunch! It was so not cool but I wore it anyway!)

I don’t recommend being this cheap. I think Dad should have spent all of his money fulfilling his dreams, travelling and buying motorcycles, instead of always saving for the future that he never ended reaching. But I think he has ingrained some good money sense in my head. Lessons like: if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Simple enough. But instead of high interest payment plans, credit card balances etc, if I can’t afford something, it waits until I can. Or saving money for a rainy day. These lessons have been very valuable as we raise a family and pay for a Master’s degree.

3. When I need him, my daddy is always there. My dad told me when I was pregnant that, though he loved me, he wanted to be nowhere near the delivery room until my baby was born. Then he would take a phone call and would come when I was ready for visitors, and there was no rush. He valued personal space too, and wanted to give it to me. However, when my husband was out of town and I went into preterm labour, there was no stopping my dad. He kept calling me “Can I come help? Can I come bring something?” He thought he could stay away, but when his daughter was in trouble, he was there. I practically had to beat him away from the delivery room door! I always felt like he would help me whenever needed.

4. Fulfil your responsibilities and work hard. Dad always focussed on the importance of fulfilling your commitments – whether a newspaper route or a first job at Burger King. (Yes, these were my first jobs!) He didn’t want me switching Burger King shifts so I could go to a party. It seems today that many people think job priorities come last – after fun, personal recreation etc. Things definitely have changed since my dad was younger. Now people balance family and work lives where before work was the only commitment, and others followed. Family will always be my first priority, but after that, work commitments are next. You don’t get ahead if you aren’t willing to put in the hard work and be reliable.

Most importantly…

5. Enjoy food. And beer. And food. My dad LOVED food, and he could cook a mean meal and bake a perfect banana bread or foccacia. Our weekends at dad’s always included big Sunday morning breakfasts of sausages and thick french toast, and big barbecued meals in the backyard with homemade BBQ sauce, greasy french fries and grilled vegetables. And he loved beer. When I worked at a brew pub in Nanaimo, he would come enjoy a frosty pint of extra extra bitter beer on the patio, and I’d look over to see him smiling, with beer foam still in his moustache. This lesson has stuck with me in several ways. Though I agree with healthy eating, I think treats are great in moderation. And I think life is about “tasting” and experiencing as much as you can. When Mike and I travelled to Australia with our son a year after Dad had died, we bought a cold beer in a pub in Sydney, and sat overlooking the Sydney Harbour, with our son asleep in the backpack. We sat there in silence, enjoying the cold beer, the view, the sunshine, the moment. I thought of my dad and how he had really given me this ability to enjoy all the tastes of life.

With time spent on recognizing the loss and sadness over losing my dad, there are dads I would like to honour in my life.

 My father-in-law.

Dave has made me feel like part of the family since I first was introduced. (As my mother-in-law has too!) There will never be a replacement for my dad, but Dave is my second dad. When something goes wrong with the toilet or the car, he is the first person I want to talk to. He gets heated in some discussions and feels very passionate about several subjects, but he doesn’t fool me for a second. Inside he is the softest man I’ve met. He loves his kids, his wife, his grandkids, his daughters-in-law, and he would do absolutely anything to help us. And he has. He has driven down to Burnaby to bring back all my things when I was pregnant and on bedrest. He dances, sings, plays with the kids, and does their every bidding. He loves his grandkids. And I can’t forget that I love his flannel, tobacco-smelling hugs that remind me of hugging my dad.

When Mike and I first married, we eloped and planned a reception to include the rest of the family. At Mike’s brother’s wedding, I was dancing with my father-in-law and he told me how happy they were to welcome me into the family. It was so nice! But the truth is, I already felt welcomed and part of the family, without him even saying so.

I am so lucky to have Dave. He loves us without any judgment on our choices, our parenting, our lives.  Dave has taught me pure, unconditional love and I hope to be able to be that ever-loving, supportive mother-in-law to my kids’ partners some day.

My husband, Dad of the Year! 

Last and not least, my husband is the dad I would have picked for my children if I had a catalogue of fathers.

He is devoted to his kids and me, and loves us with an intensity I have never seen before. In a nutshell, these are the things Mike does that makes him such an incredible Dad:

He really plays with the kids: Mike plays on the playground with the kids, lets Jordyn put pretty barettes in his hair, gets dirty on the ground wrestling with Braeden, throws baseballs, and bathes dolls. At the playground one time, a little girl mentioned how her dad wouldn’t play on the playground like Braeden’s dad did. The kids know they are lucky, and have so much fun playing with Daddy.

He answers the kids questions honestly. Braeden asks some hard questions. Where do babies come from? What if a tornado comes here? Why did my Pop die when other kids have two grandpas? Will you and mom die before me? Mike always answers the questions honestly (though age appropriately) and Braeden knows if he has a question that he will get a fair answer.

He treats the kids with respect. When talking to the kids, Mike treats them with respect. He considers their feelings, and he asks their opinions. He can admit when he’s wrong. Watching Mike talk to Braeden always makes my heart happy. He gets down to his level, he hugs him, he explains his expectations and sometimes how he could have reacted better. It takes a great parent to be able to admit that they are learning too.

He hugs them, kisses them, cuddles them. The kids see that a big strong man can still be loving. They feel loved. And they are.

My favourite reason is summed up in this quote:

“The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”  John Wooden

Mike is teaching our son how to be a great husband, partner, person. Jordyn is learning how she deserves to be treated. My husband dances with me in the kitchen, compliments dinner every night, always gives massages when asked, and has his own special ways of making me feel loved. When I walk into a room, he lights up and makes me feel like he is so thankful to have me there. And I know my kids notice that love, that respect. I am a lucky girl.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who are, or have been in my life. I am so thankful for you all. ❤