that’s my girl!
President Bill Clinton won and lost his share of battles. As chief executive of the United States, he might have flinched in the face of an occasional crisis. In his role as Chelsea’s dad, however, the president didn’t waver, as he consistently worked to ease his daughter’s passage through life. As Clinton describes it in Fathers and Daughters, “I think one of the things that has made Chelsea’s life bearable as an only child is that we have done so many things together. I have driven her to school every day since kindergarten, unless I was away. The morning is our time.”
If the father-daughter relationship can demand the daily attention of the President, it’s a safe bet Mt. Lebanon dads have undertaken similar bond-building strategies. Daughters are just that important to their dads!
As Horst Endress witnessed the birth of his daughter, Chira, he began to anticipate the task that awaited him. “A father’s job is to prepare his daughter to face the world with independence, responsibility, maturity and the ability to make appropriate decisions,” he says. “If a father is successful, his daughter will be prepared to stand on her own two feet when she leaves his care. You want to prepare your daughter to take ownership of her life, the victories, the challenges, and everything in-between.
“A father starts with unique daughter raw material. As she matures, a dad has to recognize her God-given talents as they unfold, and discover what works best to help her develop into all she can be.”
Looking back upon the experiences that he and his wife, Colleen, shared with their now 28-year-old daughter, Horst offers several pieces of advice: “Enjoy your daughter, the game-playing, the frivolous activities… Get the most out of being a dad. Don’t miss the time that you have. Adapt—don’t squash her natural enthusiasm, her bravery or zest for life. Allow your daughter to learn from her mistakes.”
Horst and Chira forged a bond based upon a passion for music. They have been attending Pittsburgh Symphony performances together for the past 26 years. “We began when Chira was 2 with the Summer Casual concerts at Heinz Hall,” says Horst. “Later, we attended the Tiny Tots performances there. When Chira was 4, we progressed to the regular six-concert series. Soon after, we expanded our involvement to the 12-concert performances. It’s been that way ever since.”
Today, you’ll still find them sitting together many Sunday afternoons at Heinz Hall, enjoying the symphony.
Always hold her hand when she’s young,” advises Dan Tucci, “because she won’t let you when she’s older. And don’t pass up an opportunity to play with your daughter. She’ll never forget the time that you spent with her. She’ll do the same for her kids—guaranteed!”
Kristin Tucci, 22, has thrived in a close relationship with a father who practiced what he preached, holding her hand when she needed strength, entertaining her when she craved companionship, and eventually guiding her into a strong, independent life.
“I always tried to give Kristin the ‘real deal,’ says Dan. “If there was something she needed to understand, I told her the truth as best I could. I know that understanding is the key to strength. She learned that she could get the truth from me, to trust me. That’s how I used our one-on-one time to point her in the right direction.”
Opportunities to spend mutually enjoyable time are sometimes elusive, even for daughters and dads who genuinely appreciate each other’s company. In this regard, Dan and his daughter hit the jackpot. “We both loved Chinese food,” says Dan. “So when we discovered Hong Kong Restaurant in Dormont, the deal was sealed.” For several years, they satisfied their cravings for wonton soup, egg rolls and various rice-embellished entrees at the West Liberty Avenue restaurant. But the tradition ended abruptly one evening when they arrived to discover a “CLOSED” sign in the window. “What now?” Kristin asked.
Connoisseurs of General Tso’s Chicken can appreciate how difficult it is to replace a favorite Chinese restaurant—it took a while to ease the pain. Dan eventually solved the problem, but it demanded a leap of faith from his skeptical daughter. “I proposed a visit to Little Tokyo. Kristin rebelled at first at the switch to Japanese food. I said, ‘Trust me.’ It’s been a tradition ever since. She had faith in me; she tried everything; now she’s hooked on sushi.”
Frequently joined by his wife, Patty, and son, Mike, Dan now shares colorful trays of raw fish with Kristin about twice a week. “I like going to Little Tokyo with my dad because it gives us an opportunity to have father-daughter time outside of the house,” Kristin says. “I love live scallops as much as I love my dad!”
John Lankford considers his relationship with 10-year-old Kendall to be a two-way street. “We’re partners,” he says. “It’s give and take. Kendall gives as much to me as I give to her. We share a view of the world through each other’s eyes.”
On the other hand, John defends his daughter’s right to her own individuality. “Let her become everything that she can and wants to be. I want to be the person she needs to help her along the way, to give her room to roam, to set her own goals.
“I try my best to spend a chunk of time with my daughter daily,” says John. “We share walks in the woods near Markham School. Kendall is my ‘Pirate buddy’ during baseball season. I help coach her travel basketball team in the winter, when I get to know a lot of optimistic, positive kids. Kendall and I also love to watch the NBA together on TV, especially the Miami Heat.”
As she prepares to enter fifth grade at Washington School, Kendall carries a backpack full of memories, the result of a special father-daughter tradition—traveling together. In 2012, the two shared a shopping spree to Chicago. The previous year, they jetted to Los Angeles to explore the town and the scenic Pacific coastline. Orlando’s many attractions captured daughter and dad’s attentions on their first annual excursion. “I love to go on vacations with my dad,” says Kendall. “We get to do a lot of stuff, and we see things that we haven’t seen before.”
This summer, Kendall’s talking Paris. John is looking to his wife, Mona, who might just like to tag along on this “family” adventure.
Since she was three weeks old, Audrey Coleman has enjoyed Saturday morning rides with her father, Bruce, from their Shadowlawn Avenue home to the Party Cake and Coffee Tree Roasters shops on Beverly Road. With Bruce pushing the stroller on sunny days or behind the wheel of the car during inclement weather, he and Audrey have honored this tradition for seven years. As a toddler, Audrey loved donut sticks with jimmies. Now a second grader at St. Bernard, Audrey prefers glazed pretzels—and Bruce likes them too.
“I’m not a baby-sitter; I’m Audrey’s dad,” says Bruce. “I don’t ‘watch’ my daughter. I spend time with her. On Saturday mornings, we can discuss anything going on in the world. Audrey shares her life with me. Dads need to learn to let their daughters talk instead of badgering them. I needed to prove that men are capable of caring for young daughters, of building relationships with them.”
The weekly getaway has benefitted the Coleman family in other ways. For one, daughter and dad’s absences from the house give mom (Lisa) time to herself. And friends frequently join Bruce and Audrey on Beverly, capping off a Saturday gathering with adventures at the Lincoln School playground.
Well aware that pre-adolescence looms and the coffee-and-pretzel tradition might collapse in the face of his daughter’s social priorities, Bruce has devised an alternate role: chauffeur. “My friend advised me that if you really want to know what’s going on in your daughter’s life, listen closely to the back-seat chatter as you drive her and her friends to the movies.”
Like Horst Endress, Pat Riley tapped into the potential that music has to bring people together. When he sang his first nursery rhyme to his daughter, Theresa, he introduced her to his family’s long-standing musical tradition. “Singing was a way my parents bonded with people, an unconscious family tradition that was passed on,” he says. “My mother’s family was an old German family that really enjoyed singing.”
Pat helped raise three sons and three daughters and shared his love for music with all of them, helping to make it a part of their lives. “I loved singing around the campfires at Indian Princess gatherings with my two oldest daughters,” he recalls. “As my father did before me, I sang in the car with all of my children, grade school age and even younger. When each child reached the age that they could climb into the front seat with me, I allowed them to control the radio. This forced me to listen to the music they liked—to learn to enjoy their musical tastes and interests. Ultimately, this enabled me to relate to my kids. Now, when Theresa mentions Eminem, I know that she’s talking about a rapper, not a piece of candy.”
As a child, Pat sang for the pure joy of it. Later, he joined the college glee club. He currently is a cantor and member of the traditional choir at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carnegie. As both a committed baritone and a committed dad, Pat talked with his wife, Carol, about how their youngest daughter could share in his vocal tradition.
Theresa began voice lessons at the Center for Theater Arts in elementary school. She enjoyed the center’s annual recitals and joined in various vocal activities at Washington School. She took piano lessons and an occasional private voice class and sang in high school musicals. Her dad was especially pleased when she was accepted as a freshman into the Ashland University Choir.
“I might have been even more thrilled than she was,” says Pat. “I know that singing in a choir helps you to make friends and broadens the college experience.”
“My best friends in college and I bonded through music,” Theresa agrees. “I’ve gained friends, fulfillment, relaxation, and especially, confidence.”
When Pat travels to Ohio with Carol to Ashland to watch their daughter perform, his gratitude is twofold—for the beauty of the voices that fill the auditorium and for the lifelong bond that music has helped him forge with Theresa.
So dads, here’s a way you can make a difference in your daughters’ lives: Create traditions. You’ll be glad you did. Happy Father’s Day!
DADS AND DAUGHTERS THEN
What does it take for a father to “do it right?” Read more about this topic online at https://lebomag.com/?p=11522