Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

June 16, 2013

Dad’s role special for kids

— No one would argue that dads are an important part of the family, but sometimes it seems like dad is the underdog, playing second fiddle to that person we call Mom. Although Mother’s Day was officially nationally recognized in the U.S. in 1914, it would be nearly 60 years later before Father’s Day would be recognized in the same capacity.

I’m sure most dads would tell you the question they get asked most frequently is “Where’s Mom?” and our Dad wasn’t any exception. Mom cleaned up boo-boos, dealt with teachers, looked over homework and answered questions about bullies. Petitions for allowance increases usually went through Mom as did begging to go a birthday party, sleepover or have pizza for dinner.

Dad was who you called if you needed your oil changed or when your car was making a weird noise. Frankly, he still is who I call when something seems wrong with a vehicle.

Dad did get a lot of the grunt work around the house: the heavy lifting, mowing the yard, cleaning out mouse traps and relocating bugs or snakes from inside the house back into the wild. He also had the burden of working the long hours, which meant he didn’t get to spend as much time with us or watching baseball as he would have liked.

Of course, looking back Dad probably got to do more of the fun stuff while we burdened Mom with our laundry, begging for dessert before supper and asking for money. Dad did a lot of the outdoor activities with us, the gloppy science experiments in the garage and the kitchen and sometimes helped out with those more complex school projects.

From an early age, Dad was the one who got behind my involvement in little league. He was who I played catch with in the backyard and who coached by baseball teams for years. He took us to local minor league games and we often went to watch him play in church or rec leagues during the summer months.

Dad was the one who took us fishing, even from an early age. He taught us how to cast properly and how to reel our lines back in. He baited my book when I didn’t want to hurt the poor worm.

To tell the truth, I never caught anything and Dad probably could have just let me sink the bare hook in the water without me noticing, but he still baited my hook and taught me about the lures in his tackle box.

For whatever reason, Dad also put aside his sanity long enough to take us camping. Sleeping on the cold ground with me and my little brother probably wasn’t the easiest task. I’m sure we were definitely more of a hindrance than a help when it came to putting up the tent. However, Dad still grinned and bore it so he could take us out into the woods, on hikes and show us what he enjoyed about nature.

Sometimes, we didn’t make it all the way out to the parks around the area. Occasionally, the campsite was a tent in our backyard. We would light up the fire pit and make s’mores, hot dogs and other meals around the campfire. We would start out sleeping in the tent, but more than once Dad would wake up in the morning to find we had gone inside to sleep in our warm, safe beds to avoid the cold night air or possible rain.

Being an engineer, Dad also got the brunt of some of the more technical school projects. In my physical science class in high school we were charged with building a bridge out of toothpicks that could withstand a certain amount of weight. Dad probably had more fun with that one than I did.

He was also the one who got called in as we got older and our math got more advanced, though Mom sometimes would have to translate his engineering math into more simple terms we could understand.

Dad was the one we road rollercoasters with at amusement parks. In fact, it was usually him egging us on when it came to the tall rides with the big loops rather than us begging him to go with us.

He is also the reason why we were exposed to so many different cultures through food. He has always enjoyed the strange and exotic and, as a result, we often found ourselves eating at restaurants where we couldn’t pronounce the names of most of the menu items. Of course, without Dad I might not have my love for sushi, shrimp lo mein, miso soup, tandoori chicken and gulab jamun. However, the taste of squid never quite grew on me like it did my younger brother.

Just because we relied on Dad for different things than we relied on Mom for doesn’t mean we have any less of a relationship with him. In fact, it is because of these differences that I have such unique and special memories of both my parents, stories I can tell about each of them and what they mean to me.

Kate Coil is a reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at kcoil@bdtonline.com.

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