In a family with three daughters and no sons, my mom was the boss. She made the rules and enforced them, listened to our day-to-day problems, chauffeured us, shopped with us and helped us shape goals.
My dad, a hard-working but easy-going guy, got off the Inglewood bus at the corner of Woodhaven and Crescent every evening at 5:50, came through the front door to a (usually) cheerful greeting, took off his overcoat and (always in those days) hat and immediately sat down to dinner with five women, for my grandmother lived with us, too.
Dinner was filled with girl talk and more often than not morphed into some sort of petty argument—definitely not what anyone who has put in a hard day’s work at the office wants to hear.
One night, when we girls were maybe 7, 9 and 12, the clamor finally got to him. Dad got up from the table, put on his hat and coat and in a surprisingly gruff voice, said, “OK, I am leaving, and I am not coming back until you girls learn to get along.” He walked out the door and started slowly up the hill.
The three of us were stunned. Dad leaving? Impossible! We ran out of the house sobbing, trailing him up the street, begging, “Daddy, Daddy, please don’t leave. We promise, we’ll be good.”
Of course he came home, but that incident remains clear in my mind as a day my sisters and I realized how much we needed our dad.
Today’s dads are much more involved with their daughters than dads of past generations. They walk babies in strollers, visit the pediatrician, attend school conferences and watch the kids for entire weekends so their wives can enjoy girl time. And as Tom Hoag’s story, page 40, shows, many dads put a high priority on spending one-on-one time with their daughters regularly, some establishing special traditions that last for years.
I have no clue what it would have been like to have dinner by myself with my dad at an upscale restaurant, as Hoag and his daughter do regularly. But I do have fond memories of the infrequent times I had my dad to myself—a Brownie picnic, a trip to the television repair store (where I was shocked to hear him say “Dammit” when the TV tube, yes tube, could not be replaced), an occasional game of singles tennis on Markham’s crackly courts. Some of my best memories are of Friday mornings after I was married and he was retired, when he would stop at my house for coffee to stay out of the way of my mom’s cleaning lady.
Every girl doesn’t have a good dad, but every girl should. Happy Father’s Day to all you men who are trying to be the best fathers you can—to your daughters (and, of course, your sons)!