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How my dad convinced me that going to Disneyland was a bad idea, and other things to thank him for this Father’s Day.

Someone asked me a curious question last year: if my parents were parents from a television show or movie, which ones would they most resemble? After thinking about it for a while, my reply was the Penderghasts from the film Easy A. Like them, my parents have always been supportive, honest, playful, and attentive. They’ve always let me get enough of the noose around my neck so I’m warned off by the rope burn, but not enough that I struggle for breath. I’ve never felt pressure from them to live my life in a certain way or go into a certain profession. I know, without a doubt, wherever I go in life and whatever I do, as long as I am happy and healthy and good to those around me, my parents will be proud. And it’s only since I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that isn’t everyone’s reality.

At 27, I can safely say my childhood was idyllic. Growing up I would’ve disagreed, simply because my parents were really strict on television, only let us eat dessert once a week, and made me play netball.  Plus, whenever I got upset that something didn’t go my way? My dad would start singing ‘You can’t always get what you want’ by ‘The Rolling Stones’ as a way of ending the conversation. Hard life, hey?

I’m not saying my childhood was perfect, or that my parents are perfect parents. I’ve definitely had rough patches with the two of them, and I might again. But because today is Father’s Day, it had me thinking about how grateful I am to have been given the father I have.

There are two stories I love to tell about my father:

The first is the Disneyland Debacle.  For whatever reason, my dad thought it would be a great idea for me to watch Aliens 3 with him… when I was seven. I found it horrifically scary and very wisely took myself to my bedroom. Later, I asked him what happened to the little girl in the movie. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Daddy, what happened to the little girl in the movie?

Dad: She died. One of the aliens ripped out of her belly.

Me:  Oh….but…in real life, the little girl is okay, right?

Dad: No, she really had to die for them to film it. How else would have they done it?

Sensing I’m upset

Dad: Oh, darling. It’s okay. They took her to Disneyland first.

I think this was actually his ploy so I would stop asking him to take me to Disneyland. Well played, Papa.

The second is The Burger King Incident.  When I was eight, my father accused me of only wanting the toy from the Burger King’s Kids Meal (he clued in because I would only have two bites of the burger before throwing it away), and I adamantly told him I didn’t care about the toy (I lied). The next time he took me to Burger King he told the drive-through attendant to not give me the toy because ‘she says she doesn’t want it.’  Oh, plastic tumbler with a Aladdin-Arabian-nights motif on it that changed colour when a liquid was put into it, I still think of you often.

Despite his inability to control his sarcasm and desperate need to prove a point, even when I was little, I loved being around him.  He taught me how to fish, use a hammer, play backgammon, and build a fire from scratch. He took me to action movies, and would always be sure to explain afterwards why it really wasn’t possible for a bus full of people to sail like that through the air AND land safely on the road again. He made my sisters and I a two-story cubby house with a sandpit underneath. He would make up stories about the purple elephants and green zebras he would encounter on his morning runs. He invented “the crab-crab”, a claw-like hand creature that attacks your stomach – and the threat of it still has me running to my mother’s lap.

And even though I’ve “grown up” and have flown away from the nest, I appreciate him for so many other things. Like how he can tell in the first ten seconds of speaking to me if something’s wrong, and he actually asks me about it (none of this awkward ‘…uh, should I get your mother?’).  And how after getting me to taste a myriad of beers at mirco-breweries with him, he made me my own beer. Oh, and my favourite? He still gets Santa to send us presents every year just so we can enjoy a little Christmas magic.

There are so many other things I can say about him as a person, but I think my favourite thing about him is how he genuinely takes pride in everyone else’s victories. I’ll never forget the moment one of my close friends got some amazing news and asked me, ‘Will you tell your Dad? I think he’ll act more proud of me than my own dad will.’

One of my favourite pieces of advice from my father came from when I was seven. I had climbed on top of a really high piece of play equipment at a park, and started to get scared. I didn’t want to climb back down, I wanted him to lift me down. I remember screaming out to him, and he very calmly came over and said, ‘Freya, if you can climb up, you can get down again.’ And even though I hated him for it at the time and never climbed that horrid thing again, I managed to get myself back down (granted, with a lot of tears). But I always remember that when I get myself into a tricky situation: if there’s a way in, there’s a way out.

So, to my dad, on this Father’s Day: thank you. Even though you call me ‘segoundo’, and tell me I’m lucky that you let me sleep inside since I’m only a middle child, thank you. Thank you for walking me through what to do when I short-circuit my apartment,  for giving me advice for what to do in moral situations that are filled with grey, for being good to my mother, and thank you for teaching me – against my former protests – that even though I can’t always get want I want, if I try sometimes, I just might find, I’ll get what I need.


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