They are the silent yet reliable fixtures in our lives, the families’ pillars of strength, and the mothers’ steady but often underrecognized and unsung partners in raising and nurturing their children. They are our discreet cheerleaders, the steadfast shoulders we can cry on, and the proud fans who inconspicuously carry their family’s photos around like a badge of honor.
They are our fathers.
Today that we celebrate them and their daily acts of quiet heroism, let us push them out of the sidelines where they are most comfortable in, and into the limelight that is their rightful place. Together, let us count the things that our fathers are best at.
- They are best at waiting. Have you seen the McDonald’s Fathers’ Day tribute video? Fathers are known to wait for their children – sometimes wearily and self-consciously but, oftentimes, patiently. He waited for your arrival outside the delivery room, at the daycare center while you were chatting with your new friends, at the kiddie party while you were playing and dancing with the mascots, at the bookstore while you were reading some fairytale books, at the amusement park while you were enjoying your favorite rides, at the field while you were taking a shower after a game, at the corner of a boutique while you were shopping for some dresses and shoes, at the car while you were attending your prom or some friend’s party, at the steps of the building while you were taking your college entrance exam, at the bus terminal after your fieldtrip or out-of-town excursion, and at the living room for your arrival after a date.
They know that they are not yet done with the waiting but they are not complaining – as long as they have their mobile data at hand.
- They are best at worrying. Fathers are certified worriers. Do you remember the first time you rode your bike? Your first day in school? The first time you were hospitalized? Your first recital? Your first inter-school competition? Your first speech before a big crowd? Your first unchaperoned date? Your first time behind the wheel? Your first job interview?
Your fathers are always there with you – anxiously pacing back and forth, nail biting, hair-pulling, hyperventilating. He learned how to pray the rosary because of you.
- They are best at hiding their most intense emotions. Culture dictates that men are supposed to be strong, that they should never surrender, that they don’t shed tears. However, when you ran to him to have your scraped knee kissed after you fell off the stairs, when you gave him an impulsive hug in exchange for some McDonald’s kiddie toys, when you handed him your medals after the recognition ceremony, and then during your teenage years, when you would repeatedly lie to him to cover up for your friends, when you gave him your first eye roll, when you chose to watch his favorite movie with a girl than with the family, when you forgot to greet him on his birthday – he had always put on a brave face.
Your fathers want you to believe that they are unaffected, when, deep inside, their hearts are ripped into small pieces with your every action.
- They are best at dishing out words of wisdom. While mothers are normally the naggers in the house, fathers are the source of succinct yet profound and penetrating statements that stay with you long after you have become a parent yourself. Sometimes, though, fathers can convey their message more effectively with a deafening silence coupled with a simple pointed look or a tilt of the head or a raised eyebrow.
- They are best at teaching. With all the things that your mothers are too busy to teach you, the fathers are just too eager to take charge. Who taught you the rules of ball games? How to fly a kite? How to swim? How to play the guitar? How to pitch the tent? How to cook over an open fire? How to use basic tools? How to ride a bike? How to dress like a gentleman? How to defend yourself? How to treat girls right? How to drive? How to change a flat tire? Who taught you that it is okay for both boys and girls to cry?
- They are best at protecting. When our firstborn was just a toddler, he nearly drowned in a swimming pool. My husband didn’t know how to swim but, without a moment’s hesitation, he jumped in — shoes, wallet, cellphone, and all! When our second child, as a small boy with a big voice, was bullied by his classmates and locked up by his own adviser in a tiny storage room for not talking in class, my husband, livid with rage, marched to the principal’s office and demanded that the incident (and the concerned teacher) be investigated, asap! When our youngest child was hospitalized, and a newbie nurse who didn’t know how to find a vein made a needle cushion out of our daughter’s arms, my husband furiously berated the nurse’s superior for letting loose an untrained nurse to attend to some unsuspecting patient.
My husband is normally level-headed, but you dare touch any of our children and you’d find yourself in big trouble. A mother-grizzly-bear kind of trouble! I bet most fathers are just as protective with their own children.
- They are best at giving. Fathers know their children’s needs and try to address these the best way they know how. They can be relied upon to give words of comfort when you are down, of encouragement when you are having a crappy day, of assurance and confidence when you are doubting yourself, of praises when you achieve something you worked hard for, of caution when you tend to be impulsive and careless, of inspiration and motivation when you are about to embark on a new adventure, of challenge when you are lulled into a false sense of complacency, of guidance when you are drifting away from your personal goals, of gratitude when you become exceptionally generous to your siblings, and of faith when you are on the verge of giving up hope.
They also provide you with their precious time, happy memories, an ideal home, and a good education. And your allowance (and something extra that your mother knows nothing about), of course!
- They are best at listening and observing. Your fathers have been your captive audience ever since you flashed them your very first smile when you were just an infant. From your senseless babbling and mumbling to your excited squeals during a game of peekaboo, from your first pitiful attempts at singing to your incoherent story-telling, from your nervous giggles each time you would see your crush pass by to your oohs and aahs at the sight of a pretty dress on the mannequin, from your annoying aghhhs and eeews to your exasperating duhs and whatevers, from your loud chatters to your happy humming along with the music, from your silent sobs due to heartaches to your heart-wrenching wailing when your dog died — your fathers have heard them all.
Do you know what they miss hearing from you, though? A whispered “I love you” to remind them that you appreciate them somehow.
- They are best at learning. Since your fathers are, basically, observers, they learn tons of things from you. They learn, for instance, that when there are babies in the house, sleep and rest become things of the past. They learn that, when the babies start to crawl, they need to be as fast as The Flash to be able to keep up. They learn that, when the little ones start to walk, they need a weekly massage for those back pains from too much hunching over. They learn that, when the terrible twos come around, nothing is safe from being destroyed, eaten, peed on, climbed on, and jumped off. They learn that, when the toddlers turn into threenagers, they are given a sneak peek at the horrors they would face ten years down the line. They learn that “why” can be the most loathsome word in the world. They learn that, no matter how much they love you, there are days when they wish they just bought dogs rather than have babies.
And, then, the kids grow into despicable teens. That entails a different set of horrible realizations altogether.
- They are best at setting an excellent example. To be effective role models for you, fathers have mastered the art of walking the talk. They know that no amount of flowery words could ever compensate for broken promises, loveless marriage, or a gloomy future. And so, they exert enormous effort to make sure that your home and family will be conducive to raising children who are happy, hardworking, respectful, loving, strong, confident, empowered, appreciative, kind, and prayerful by being all those things himself.
Despite all these, however, don’t place them on a pedestal.
They may seem to know it all, but most of the time, they are terrified that they are doing it all wrong. They may look strong and steady when all they want to do is slump in the corner and cry. They may appear self-assured and dependable when they are secretly longing for the heavy burden to be lifted off their shoulders even just for a little while.
Yes, they have their shortcomings and misgivings. They have fears, doubts and regrets. They commit mistakes. They falter and fall.
But don’t get disappointed. Don’t be annoyed. Don’t be enraged. Instead, give them your sweetest smile and say, “I understand you, take a much-needed break. I do not love you any less just because you are showing me your weakness.” With those words, you might just prove to your fathers that all those years of sacrifices and compromises have not been for naught. That they have managed to raise wonderful kids. That they have not failed in the most important role that they are playing…that of fatherhood.