I was an absolute brat. From about 12 years old, I stopped showing my father any gratitude—in fact, it was the opposite. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you what I put my parents through, my dad in particular.
My journey into motherhood has taught me so much and has prompted me to look at my own upbringing from a different angle. And unexpectedly, it has opened my eyes to the impact my father had on the mother I am today. Motherhood has inspired me to give my dad the kudos that is long overdue. My dad instilled values in me and modelled qualities that I am now determined to pass on to the next generation.
The author’s father, Russell, with newborn baby sister, Kaylene, and older brother, Kevin.
I remember complaining to Dad about not having all the things that my friends had: a nice house, new clothes, the latest of whatever was trendy at the time. Our house was small, old and in poor shape. While I dreamed of living in a house like my friends’ homes, I took for granted the expansive backyard filled with all the adventures that I was so lucky to have. There was room for running, bushes to crawl through and build huts, a big playhouse that my dad set up and we affectionately named “The Humpty Dumpty” shed. So many good memories, so much positive learning, development and fresh air.
I now dream of providing my own little boy with a backyard of adventures like I had! Living the modest life, in a modest neighbourhood and interacting with people from all walks of life, my father helped to instil qualities in me that I now recognise and want to be very careful to pass on to my son: humility, acceptance, tolerance and to value what really matters—not money or material possessions.
My dad taught me to be a good bargain-hunter, which now helps me to save my own family money. I grew up with second-hand clothes and I am now an expert op-shopper, thanks to my dad. I enjoy hunting for unique and gorgeous items that attract compliments and give me a clear conscience, taking into consideration the ethical, environmental and financial benefits.
As a school teacher, my principal once said something that stuck with me: “If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.”
I can now see how the small things my dad taught me naturally cultivated and shaped my character in a huge way. It may sound gross and weird, but in my childhood home, we didn’t vacuum up spider webs and never squashed spiders, moths or any other harmless tiny creatures (living in New Zealand, spiders are usually tiny and harmless). This was my dad’s idea and an unconscious lesson on empathy, gentleness and love.
This attitude extended to larger creatures as Dad encouraged us to care for any animals in need. We ended up with a house full of stray cats, including a kitten with three legs, and I remember feeding Weet-Bix to visiting hedgehogs.
Dad is big on helping others—whether it’s his own kids, the neighbours, a stranger on the street or homeless people in the park. He has always been one to give his time to service. This has influenced me, my values and how I endeavour to spend my time. I hope that I can model this to my son and allow him to grow up in an environment where we help and serve others as a family.
One of the most important traits that I was lucky to have both of my parents model is patience. I have observed that it can be more challenging for dads to show patience at times, so I really appreciate this in my dad. I can’t recall even one instance of my dad being impatient with me, even though I was a strong-willed child and difficult teenager.
My dad’s influence in developing patience in me is something I have only begun to consider as I am raising my own son and trying to ensure that he develops this trait. My dad must have had a lot of patience because he taught me to drive—that would not have been easy! I believe that my dad’s patience has helped me to be patient with others and to persevere in many different situations in life.
The author sitting on her father’s lap, with older brother, Kevin, and younger sister, Kaylene.
If you didn’t know my dad very well, you probably wouldn’t realise that he possesses all of these character traits—he keeps them well-hidden. He is humble and he doesn’t care what other people think.
Most of all, my dad modelled unconditional love. It’s probably fair to say that my behaviour in adolescence was not deserving of this love, but it was always there and I now strive to show the same unconditional love to my son as he navigates the rollercoaster ride that is life.
The task of providing my son (and possible future children) with these same valuable life lessons is daunting. And yet when I look back, I think that both my parents did this unconsciously. My dad was simply just being himself, and I am very grateful for this now.
I know that it’s not easy to give every father kudos, and single mums, you do an absolutely amazing job as both mum and dad, instilling important values in your children—so the kudos goes to you! To you and mothers who didn’t grow up with a father, I strongly believe that you and your children have a Father in heaven who cares more deeply than any earthly father will. He is having a positive impact on your life and your children’s lives, even when you don’t realise it.
Both my parents simply taught me to love, and whether you are part of a couple or a single mum, you simply need to teach your children to love, by showing unconditional love to them.
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