One of the most powerful relationships on the planet is a dad and his daughter, despite the cultural attempt to diminish a father's influence. Children are unfiltered sponges ... soaking in every word from their parents, coaches, teachers, and culture: positive or negative. The words and corresponding emotions sink into our subconscious and lay the framework for how we see the world and interact with it. How we see ourselves determines the way we navigate relationships, carve out our core values, and handle life’s challenges.
My dad steadied me in an unsteady world. He wasn’t afraid to cry, say “I’m sorry,” or chortle with glee. Our bond was cultivated at the kitchen table and grew roots across a rotation of restaurant booths. My dad loved an audience, and his kids were his biggest fans … to the chagrin of my mom … who he loved to pester. He could take as good as he could give, and his paternal playfulness is alive and well today. My dad showed up: emotionally.
Life was not always laughter and roses. My dad was a hard-working “shoe man” during the day and a basketball ref at night. The pressure to “pay the bills” could have turned my dad into an absent father. Not him. He cheered on the sideline at my flag football games, smiled through the awful concerts of a first-year cellist, and sweated through my sweltering softball tournaments. My dad’s presence built my trust in him and bolstered my self-confidence.
In the movie, Jingle All the Way, Jamie scours the crowd wide-eyed; his face fades when he realizes his dad isn’t there. Howard Langston, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, breaks another promise and misses his son Jaime's purple belt karate ceremony. Broken promises chip away at trust and shifts the foundation under a kid’s feet, but something amazing happens when you scan the crowd and see the person who's there to see you. My dad showed up: physically.
However, none of this would have happened had my dad not shown up on July 15, 1969. My father made a terrible mistake early in my parent's marriage that nearly destroyed our family. He returned home after months of separation. On a warm summer afternoon, shouts filled the house, and my dad left … headed to the bar. He rolled up to a stop sign, turned the opposite direction, and parked in front of a church. The locked door led him across the street to an open church, and he was directed to the pastor’s home. The pastor’s wife welcomed him. She listened to the story of a broken man … and led him to the Lord. He returned home, and my mom witnessed a change in his countenance. My parents attended a Billy Graham Crusade that night, and the course of our life was changed for eternity. My dad showed up: spiritually.
“Dadship” done right has soul-altering power. Take the time to Show Up.
Crystal Van Kempen-McClanahan is the co-author of Mind Moxie: How to Help You Master What’s Mastering You. You can follow her on social media or visit her website at mymoxielife.com. Crystal loves fitness, the perks of being married to a chef, and traveling. Her mission is to inspire people to lead an awesome life.