My Dad has been gone for over two years now, and all I have are memories. Like all dads, he did some things right and made some mistakes. In fact, he made a lot of mistakes, but my dad did one absolutely wonderful thing completely the right way. He took his girls on Daddy/Daughter dates, which he referred to as “Day out with Dad.”
Day out with Dad
Dad never complained about having all girls. He loved to be outdoors, and invited us to do anything he would have done with boys– hiking, camping, and backpacking. As we got older, complications with his business took him away from us most of the week, and he was only home from Friday night to Monday morning. Sometime around that time, he instituted “Day out with Dad.”
One Saturday a month, Dad would clear his schedule for an entire day and the daughter whose turn it was would plan a day for the two of them. We got to do whatever we wanted, and our days out with Dad were as varied as our personalities. I might choose a tour of our local city followed by a nice, sit-down dinner in a restaurant; one of my sisters would choose bowling and burgers. We all remember horseback riding on the beach! The point was, it was OUR day, not his day. He drove and paid for everything, and thoroughly enjoyed the time with us. He delighted in being with just the one daughter for a whole day.
Driving and chatting
Each Day out with Dad started the same way. I remember climbing into his pickup truck and fastening my seatbelt. Dad would start the motor, then casually remark, “You might want to check the glove box and see if there’s anything in there.” I would open the glove box and peer inside, where a variety of candy bars awaited me. I always chose the one with the most chocolate and handed him one, too. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but our love of chocolate is another story for another day.)
I usually chose something to do that required a bit of a drive, which gave me plenty of time to talk with Dad. He would ask questions or just listen to me ramble on. I had his focused attention the entire time. He took care of any business calls after we got home, and the entire day was all about me and him.
Making Day out with Dad happen no matter what
I graduated high school and went on to college– first an hour away; later across the country. Dad never used this as an excuse to avoid spending time with me; in fact, he took it more seriously than ever. When I was home on a break, he would schedule our day out as if it was of utmost importance.
By the way, our family struggled financially most of the time, but Day out with Dad was a priority. He found ways to make it happen.
The last one I remember
I had been married for years, and had moved out of state. Dad had remarried. I was visiting home, and he wanted to take me out again. There wasn’t time for an entire day, so we just went to breakfast at a popular local restaurant. I enjoyed just sitting there with him, drinking coffee and talking. I could tell he enjoyed being in my presence, even if just for a short time.
Sometime later, he wrote me a letter (my sisters each got one, too). In that letter, he listed the things he admired about me and told me what a good job I was doing as a wife and mother, and what a fantastic woman I was. The next year, he had a massive stroke from which he never recovered.
To all present and future dads
As a daughter, if I could implore you to do one thing, it would be to prioritize spending time with your children, one-on-one, away from the rest of the family. I am so proud of my husband for continuing this tradition with our girls, and I know it has contributed to the relationship he has with each one.
My dad could have just told me he loved me, or assumed I knew. But he took the time to show interest in me and get to know me better. I know he loved me, largely because of those Days out with Dad.