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The Lessons of a Dad

Holding you is awkward, your trust enthralls me, my inadequacy frightens me. from The Arrival 1998

If you want to learn a trade, you take courses, you complete training and finish with a degree or certificate but where does a man learn how to be a dad? From the day I was handed my one day old son in the hospital room, after a brief lesson in swaddling, my wife took a shower and I was on my own. It was just a few moments but suddenly you’re a dad to this tiny perfect being that completely depends on you.

It is a daunting moment of realization and a privilege I wouldn’t trade for anything. To tell the story though I need to go back to where the lessons began. Teachers come in all shapes and forms and my training came long before I was even born.

The Legacy Begins

My mom’s dad was what  you would call a gentleman, a renaissance man. I never met him but I think of him as the strong quiet type with a wonderful passionate lust for life and a sense of humor that would fill a house with laughter. He was a painter, a handsome cab driver and he died at an early age.

My mom and her mom carried on. In the midst of overwhelming change they kept going and they succeeded. Sometimes half of the battle is just showing up, to keep moving.

My grandma was pragmatic, being one of 16 children she chose function and duty over affection. She cared for people, she cleaned and cooked selflessly. She raised a strong daughter.

Dreams of My Mom and Dad

I think my mom’s goals were simple in this day and age. She wanted to be a mom, to have a family and she succeeded. My dad was strong and yet my mom kept our lives together. She showed up, she maintained all the while raising two sons alone.

My dad died at a very young age. All his dreams for his family still live on, he wanted us to travel, to see things. My brother and I both have instilled this in our families both of us filled with a wanderlust that have taken us to many places in the country.

Again, my mom showed up, in the midst of the tragedy of losing my dad, she never faltered. Instead of looking back on those days, a child of ten losing his dad, I remember it fondly. She kept the family moving, we were okay because she was.

A Step Father

My stepfather was the last person to welcome being a dad. He didn’t like kids and yet the title fit him more than he likes to admit. What followed was years of travel, fishing, hunting and scuba diving.

The wonderful things I learned made for a lifetime of memories for my whole family. He’s the type that’s full of passion for living, food, travel and outdoor activities. He bought us fishing rods, he taught me to scuba dive.

We had favorite places to eat and I remember the great moments he made of even the most uneventful dinner. We’re going for prime rib just because or we’re getting some lobster or bugs as he called them.

Even more than the fun, lessons and insights he shared, he taught me what a stepfather could look like. It was a beautiful thing and something I think I learned for a reason.

A Ready-Made Family

One thing I feared the most when I met my ex-wife was not so much the two year old son she was raising but instead meeting the ex-husband in public. I was afraid of suddenly being an outsider, the third wheel. It never happened, in fact we met after I was introduced over the phone by a completely innocent child introducing his future step dad to his dad.

How frightening it is to take on the reins of someone else’s son. Everyone around you watches your every move with best intentions for the interest of the child. The position I took was not only going to change my life but give me a gift I would never thought possible.

We were immediately bonded. He kept me exploring, going on travels, enjoying food, travels and outdoor fun. I was living what a stepdad looked like to me and it was beautiful. Our relationship was such that when we a second child was thought of, not only did I not see the need but I wanted a daughter because I already had my son.

Little did I know the gift my ex-wife would give me would even make my life more vital. We don’t get what we want, we always seem to get what we need.

My life has changed, I don’t want the old one back. from The Arrival 1998

A Son

I became a reluctant dad, all of the lessons I had learned from raising a two year old went out the window. I was in the midst of the most frightening and incredible moment. I was a dad.

God gave me exactly what I needed and we built a life for ourselves of travel, food and outdoor fun. From the age of five to now eighteen, I’m not sure who has learned more. He tests me and teaches me every day. So many lessons about control, humility and understanding, I learned from being a dad. I wouldn’t trade a single tear, a sleepless night or a moment of frustration for anything.

Part Two…Fire Drills, Travels, and the Perfect Vacation: Tales of a Dad


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Written by stevelinebaugh

Oil painter and pastel artist, writer, photographer, graphic designer,
originally from New Jersey


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