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Posts Tagged ‘father’

How Dads help raise brave women

In aging, behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, men, news, parenting, women on March 27, 2012 at 12:55 am
Sexism is a crime against humanity!

Sexism is a crime against humanity! (Photo credit: ЯAFIK ♋ BERLIN)

Loved this recent piece in Time magazine, written by two men, fathers of two daughters:

 The need for fathers to help empower daughters is clear, since we still live in a world where some powerful men throw sexual slurs at adult women and girls are being sexualized and objectified at a younger and younger age. As dads of a combined 4 daughters (ranging in age from 1 to 21,) these recent events have made us pause and reflect on how to best encourage our daughters to combat these tendencies in our society.

But how do we do this as fathers? One of the most important ways is to break down the old stereotypes that men are rational and logical while women are emotional. We can free our daughters from the burden of that myth by expressing our own feelings and by respecting the intelligence, decisions, and leadership abilities of women. When they see us opening up and talking, they learn to do the same and to not remain silent when something doesn’t feel right. A father’s influence can help a girl find her own strong voice. We also need to listen to our daughters more instead of trying to always impart a lesson. Listening paves the way for girls to discover what they want to say and the inner strength to say it.

The other big thing dads can do is treat women the way we would want a partner to treat our daughters. We wish that it went without saying that daughters need their fathers to reject treating women as objects through sexist jokes, stares and comments on the street, and pornography….

The need for fathers to help empower daughters is clear, since we still live in a world where some powerful men throw sexual slurs at adult women and girls are being sexualized and objectified at a younger and younger age. As dads of a combined 4 daughters (ranging in age from 1 to 21,) these recent events have made us pause and reflect on how to best encourage our daughters to combat these tendencies in our society.

It’s a hopeless task — and completely unfair — to ask only girls and women to defend themselves from the culturally toxic stew in which they’re raised.

Especially in the United States, where being thin/pretty/blond/materialist/popular/wealthy/famous is held up as the ultimate goal. And when legislators are ruthlessly determined to strip women of every possible reproductive right, whether access to abortion, birth control or a safe, private pregnancy; 39 states (!) have recently passed or are considering passing such laws.

It is a really lousy time to be female in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, as “America the Beautiful” so romantically opines. If there was ever a time for young women to be reminded how much their voices matter to their political and economic future, that time is now.

A seminal study was done in the 1970s of women who later went on to significant success in the corporate world. The key? Their Dads played sports with them when they were teenagers.

Seems pretty simple, but as someone who also had this experience, it’s not.

When your father very clearly values your company and you’re a young woman, he is teaching you an important lesson. His focus on your brain and your heart, your character — not just your perky figure — teaches you that these matter.

When you spend a day together skating or skiing or hiking or fishing, you learn to share skills and enjoyment with a man who’s enjoying your company, not your sexual allure.

When he consistently values your intelligence, competitiveness, physical strength, agility and stamina — just some of the attributes needed for most sports — you’re more likely to emerge from the potential hell of female adolescence, if you’re lucky, with a solid base of self-confidence.

What greater gift can a Dad can give you?

If you’re a father, how did you help your daughter(s) become self-confident?

If your Dad did a terrific job — (or a poor one) — of helping you feel great about yourself, how does that play out for you today?

Happy 82d, Dad!

In aging, behavior, children, domestic life, family, life, love, men, seniors on June 11, 2011 at 12:30 pm
A view of Galway Bay from Salthill Credit: A P...

Galway Bay -- full of mussels! Image via Wikipedia

Four score plus two — score!

His father died at 59, just after he retired, so this ripe old age — full of health and friends — is an additional gift for him.

We’d hoped to spend today together, but he’s in Toronto.

As Dads go, he’s been an interesting one. He won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962 for a documentary he made about young British rebels.

Here’s his Wikipedia entry!

A documentary film-maker, he was gone for weeks at a time when I was a teenager living with him. But he always brought home intriguing pieces of the world when he returned: Olympic badges in 1964 from Tokyo, elbow-length sealskin gloves from the Arctic and a thick caribou rug, an Afghan rifle case.

All of which ignited my own lust for global discovery and adventure, equally eager to find and tell great stories for a living.

He’s blessed with incredible energy; on our last trip around Ireland, in his 70s, he raced up the hills ahead of me, and set his usual blistering pace. On our cross-country trip when I was 15, knowing I am not a morning person, he’d pretend it was 7:00 a.m. and get me up an hour earlier. We attended pow-wows in Montana and North Dakota, finding a steak and a bag of sugar at our tent door, a gift for everyone attending — he would film and I would sketch.

We’d set up our little tent wherever looked good. One morning we awoke to find a farmer staring down at us from his tractor, as we’d picked one of his fields.

We’ve driven through rural Mexico, picked mussels in Galway Bay, skiied in Vermont, forged through rain across the Great Dismal Swamp, had a terrible shouting match at midnight in Antibes. We’re both driven, ambitious, stubborn, relentlessly curious. After the French fight, we didn’t even speak for years.

Both mad for antiques, we once stood outside two store-fronts in Wilmington, N.C. — one a diner, one an antiques store, torn between the boring need to eat and room full of possible treasures.

As always, he dresses with impeccable elegance: silk pocket square, gleaming lace-up shoes, navy blazer, ties and tattersall. His library, before he sold his house, ranged from archeology and theology to art history. He paints, sculpts, works in silver.

I wrote about him in my new book and was worried he’d be angry at the unexpected loss of privacy, but he was fine with it.

He likes the book a lot. Which, even at midlife, matters to me. Having lost too many years to anger and conflict, I now especially treasure whatever time we have to appreciate one another. It finally feels like he knows me.

For years, I could never find a boyfriend.

My late stepmother finally nailed it: “Your Dad is a hard act to follow.”

True!

Happy birthday, Dad!

For Father's Day — My Dad's 13 Gifts

In behavior, men, parenting on June 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm
My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad

Image via Wikipedia

He turned 81 this month, an age he never thought he’d see — his Dad died at 59, so he spent his life until then fearful he might not outlive him.

He’s healthy as a horse, his arthritic hip much less painful than mine, bicycles every day, takes long walks with the dog.

He’s not big on giving gifts, but here are some of them:

Badges from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He went there to make a documentary and I became aware of the Olympics and Japan, at an early age. He gave the gift of curiosity about the world.

A pair of elbow-length sealksin mitts, again from a filming trip to the Arctic. And a caribou rug, sadly untanned so it shed like mad all over my teenage bedroom. The gift of wondering about entire swaths of my enormous country.

An Afghan rifle case, from another overseas trip. How many girls had that? It sparked my love of textiles, something I’ve been collecting for years.

A drive from Toronto to Vancouver, dipping into North and South Dakota along the way to visit Indian pow-wows; he filmed, I drew and painted. We set up our tent wherever he chose, sometimes in the middle of a farmer’s field. Those are some long drives. I think we played 20 Questions about 1,000,000 times. I love road trips!

Teaching me to ski, skate, play squash and badminton and remaining active his whole life. I’ve been athletic since childhood, and hope to remain so as long as possible.

When he had a house in Ireland, we went out for long walks, picking wild watercress from the creeks and mussels from Galway Bay, which we went home and ate for dinner. Bounty is all around us if we look for it.

He has always galloped off into the world, and still does, with unquenched eagerness to explore. A passport and the means to use it is a lifelong ticket to adventures and friends we have yet to meet. Get out there!

Teaching me – inadvertently — to stand up for myself, after I flew to France on his dime when I was 20 and we had a huge fight and I walked out and went home early. We have fought bitterly over the years, but he was no tougher than some of my bosses along the way. Man up, darlin’!

The end of the day means a single-malt Scotch or a great glass of wine and a big bowl of popcorn. Pleasures come in a wide price range.

He’s always driven fun, used cars, today a black Jag. Enjoy life, affordably.

We love to prowl antiques fairs, flea markets and auctions in search of treasures. We once stood, ravenous, outside a Wilmington, NC diner — with an antiques store next to it. We had to force ourselves to eat first. Have a passion. Appreciate the beauty and utility of objects designed and made 100, 200 or 2,000 years ago but use and enjoy them. (I use the sterling silver soup ladle he gave me for measuring pancake batter.)

Growing up, watching him — as he still does today — create art in a wide array of media: silver, oil, etching, engraving, lithograph, his studio forever littered with canvases in various states of completion. Creativity comes from within, not just something you have to go out and buy. It can also bring you into community; at his 80th. , I met the much younger man who taught Dad how to work with silver.

I left home at 19, to live alone and put myself through university. He’s never given me a penny and it was always very clear I would never have the option of moving back home. No matter how much I resented it, and have struggled with debt or low income, it taught me self-reliance.


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A Woman's Toughest Relationship? The One With Her Dad

In behavior, men, parenting, women on June 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm
Dad and daughter

Image by Peter Werkman via Flickr

Interesting piece in today’s Wall Street Journal about how adult women stumble when trying to communicate with their fathers:

When Jennifer Wallace realized her marriage was over, the very first person she called was her mother. During that initial conversation—and each morning for weeks afterward as she drove to work—she poured her heart out about her anger, embarrassment and despair.

But it wasn’t until four years later (long after she had divorced, changed jobs and remarried) that she talked about the experience with her father.

In a lifetime of difficult male-female conversations, some of the toughest, surprisingly, can be the ones between fathers and adult daughters—especially when there is a problem in the daughter’s life.

Ms. Wallace, 29, an executive and personal assistant in Los Angeles, says she always knew her father loved her dearly. When she was growing up, he praised her often, ate dinner with her each night and attended every track meet, play and debate team event she participated in. These days, he is her go-to person for career advice.

Yet at the time of her divorce, she and her dad had never discussed personal problems—hers or his—and she found it impossible to bring up such a sensitive topic with him. “I felt that he would have been deeply, deeply sad,” says Ms. Wallace. “And I felt that he wouldn’t know what to do with me.”

Her dad says she is right: “I needed to protect my princess, but I failed,” says Bruce Wray, 58, a marketing manager for a bar-code company in St. Paul, Minn. “I wasn’t there being Prince Valiant, preventing her mistake.”

Why is it so hard for a grown woman to bare herself emotionally to a man she’s loved all her life? And why would a man have trouble discussing something sensitive with a woman he helped raise?

I often post on stories, and issues, that hit a chord for me personally — and this one did. It was too funny, the phone ringing with an unfamiliar number as I was reading that article.

It was my Dad calling from London, where he’s on vacation, to and from Spain. No big deal for many people, but my Dad and I went many years not talking at all, angry and bitter and frustrated. We’re both stubborn, determined and have a complicated enough family as it is, with 3 step-siblings and my late step-mother, with whom my dealings were often very strained.

So it was great to hear from him and to get the emailed photo of him with a candle-lit cupcake — he celebrated his 81st. birthday in London with his new partner.

I was hit hard by the lede of the Journal story, as I went to Ireland to visit my Dad about two months after my husband walked out of our very brief marriage, and Dad said some things I won’t ever forget and had to work hard to forgive, but I think it’s also because he has always had high hopes, if not expectations, for me and what I will accomplish and achieve. I like that he sets the bar high, for himself and others, but am also really glad it’s come down a few notches over the years. It had to!

I also know that my Dad’s Dad (who I never met) was pretty tough and frosty, and he comes from a generation of men (maybe all generations?) that wasn’t big on expressing feelings, let alone tender, private or emotional ones. So I’ve grown up in this style as well. We rarely, if ever, say “I love you” — but our actions show it, and that’s how I prefer it. At his 80th. birthday celebration last year I made a short speech and thanked him publicly for what he’d taught me: to embrace the world as a place full of adventure and possibility, to be confident, and to want to tell stories, as he did through his films.

Better to say it aloud now than at a funeral or memorial service.

How is your relationship with your adult daughter? Or with your Dad?

What Runs In Your Family?

In behavior, parenting on March 28, 2010 at 9:38 am
WUHAN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Workers place an...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Every morning I knock my Mom askew when I open the bedroom curtains.

It’s a blue and green oil painting of her, done by my father, about 5 x 7, a nude done when they were first married. There’s a red and black version of her, also by him, hanging in the dining room — neither are terribly detailed, nothing creepy or embarrassing.

They divorced when I was six, so evidence of their initial love is as comforting to me as loving the beauty of the images as the fact they’re both well-done and of/by people I love.

Our apartment is filled with art and photos: by us, of us, by our parents or friends, alive or dead. My Dad, a former maker of documentaries and news television series, does just about anything creative well, usually with no training: engravings, lithographs, etchings, silver, oils. My sweetie recently took some great photos of Dad, standing at his easel in his bathrobe, working on a still life in his studio.

My mom was a radio and television and film and print journalist. She never attended college, marrying my Canadian Dad at 17 and following him from Manhattan to Vancouver, where I was born. Living there, they started an art gallery, representing terrific painters like David Milne. She modeled for the local newspaper. Creative fearlessless seemed part of their DNA.

I grew up taking all this for granted. Being creative, taking risks, trying stuff without — oh, yeah, training or education or official certification — having an idea and putting it out there for (gulp) mass public judgment and, one hopes, some decent pay, is just what Kellys do.

My partner grew up the son of a Baptist minister and a kindergarten teacher, of Hispanic heritage, born and raised in New Mexico. He’s the guy who told me — almost a deal-breaker when we were dating — that my closets were messy. (Um, they’re closets.) In his own loving/annoying way, he’s very much a PK, a preacher’s kid. They’re said to share fairly universal characteristics: kind, ethical, empathetic, good around adults, obedient to authority. I swear his gravestone will  carry the words, “Be careful.” In his excessively bossy moments, I call him Hall Monitor Boy. I hate rules!

But I love his ferocious work ethic, his joy in teaching and mentoring, his ability to handle any situation with grace and humility and the right degree of gravitas. When he was little, he was routinely sent out to show visiting preachers the local tourist sights, so he’s at ease with strangers and making people feel comfortable.

We don’t have kids, so whatever we are, or do, doesn’t play out within our own offspring.

What skills or beliefs or characteristics do you carry from your Mom or Dad or grandparents?

What of yourself do you see in your kids?

Does it make you cringe, or smile?

Getting To Know Dad

In men, parenting on October 25, 2009 at 11:48 am
A father and daughter walk

Image by Solmaz Zohdi via Flickr

There were years, plural, we simply didn’t speak to one another, locked by anger and hurt into our comforting cages. I still remember, and wish I didn’t, a screaming fight in an outdoor parking lot in Antibes at midnight when I was 19. An argument on a crowded public street in Toronto. My college graduation neither parent attended as I tried to dance around their mutual rancor.

Many times over the decades I’ve come to the very precipice of walking away for good from my father, a complicated, proud man with more talent, energy and creativity than a dozen men combined. An award-winning filmmaker, he wears me out with his energy, at 80. We went to an antiques fair this week and reveled in handling objects, like the 6,000-year-old oil lamp in the shape of a dog or a fine piece of Georgian silver, chatting to the dealers and reminiscing fondly about the Egyptian basalt fragment of a lion’s head we saw at the last show we attended here in 1996. That’s typical of us, both obsessive about beauty and history.

“Your Dad’s a hard act to follow,” my late step-mother once said, and it was true. It took me many years to find a partner who offered my Dad’s best qualities (insatiable curiosity about the world, a well-worn passport and the desire to use it frequently, work he’s passionate about and does well that combines ideas and advocacy, a roaring laugh, stylish elegance) without his tougher bits.

We’ve just put put him in his car, a black Jag, and hugged goodbye as he drives to his home from ours, north from New York to Toronto, about 10 hours. This morning we took a gorgeous photo of him and posted it, with his headline and profile, on match.com, hoping to help him find a good woman to enjoy life with.

My sweetie lost his father when he was only 26 so he enjoys borrowing my Dad whenever he can. They’re very different people in some ways, so it’s sometimes lovely and sometimes I need a stiff drink to cope with their misunderstandings and clashes. They’re both strong-minded guys with specific worldviews, so it’s bound to happen. We really need this time to get to know Dad, because the past few years were an ugly and terrifying marathon that began, in March 2005, when his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer; she died two years ago on my sweetie’s birthday, which we celebrated this week.

When your Dad is 80, even in blessedly robust health, you might still have decades or you might have days. I’m lucky to have whatever time we’ve got.

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