Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Letter to "Big Daddy" for Father's Day....

It is Father’s Day on Sunday (June 19th, 2011). I know how my husband, who I so lovingly refer to as "Big Daddy" (his real name is Tom) hates to read long letters (books are another story altogether...he loves that!), but I felt reflective on the dad that he has been to our children and the role of great importance he holds in our family.

Simply having a child doesn’t make someone a father any more than buying a hamburger makes someone a chef. It is being there for your kids and working hard at raising them that creates Daddy's. There is so much time, frustration, stress and sacrifice involved in being a parent. It takes a special man to fill those shoes and dedicate themselves to being a parent.

My husband Tom has been that special daddy to our children. He is a role model as a parent for myself as well. He is an encouragement to all of us. He gives us unconditional love, he gives respect. For our children, he gives as much freedom and responsibility as they can handle. He encourages them to do things for themselves, making their way… Learning by experience. But Tom is always a willing teacher, giving guidance. Children will stretch themselves when challenged. But Tom has always been there to encourage them and to make sure they can succeed.

He doesn’t set such high standards that they might ultimately fail and lose confidence. He has always expected a great deal from our children… expecting that they will rise to the occasion. He allows them to follow their own path in life, being there to support them in whatever they choose, rather than pushing them into following his footsteps. He has always been one to realize that our children have their own desires and interests. As a father, Tom’s job is to help them discover their gifts and not disparage them for anything that he perceived as beyond them. He has always challenged and encouraged our children with compassion, but at the same time without promoting mediocrity. It’s not something our children have recognized, and certainly not in those terms, but they know his expectations.

The song, Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin has always been one to tug at my heartstrings. Its not a father, but a DAD who realizes that always BEING there and living in the moment with children. It’s spending some quality time with them in the evening after work. Sharing at least one meal a day together. This is the glue that keeps our family together…the glue is TOM. He places a high value on spending one-on-one time with our children. No money can ever buy what children really want… their father’s time and undivided attention. And Tom has always been available to our children.

He believes in living simply. He IS a simple man. He believes in not too busy to enjoy the important and essential things in life. The things that money cannot buy. He believes in his family and practices those principals. He takes the time to listen to what is behind the words and thoughts of our children (he has always been a great organizer!). They might tell you he is a master interrogator, he will play judge and jury. But he does try and “Hear” what our children are really saying. This requires patience, perseverence and focus. Part of listening and responding is to be able to say “no” when appropriate. He recognizes those times wth ease, as if he went to a parental bootcamp. It is for this reason, often when I question my own judgments, I will turn to him for his opinion or direction. There is so much stuff out there for children these days and sometimes you have to decide just what is appropriate for them. It is usually better for children to learn discipline, self-control, and how to delay gratification, when they are told no by their parents. Tom recognizes this.
He walks the walk.
He doesn’t just talk the talk.
Tom sets a noble example and does it with integrity. By this, I mean he makes sure his thoughts, words, feelings and actions are all in agreement. He often thinks before he speaks.

He’s very honest with our children. As a father, he is always certain to treat me well. He is about partnership in this marriage. It’s a word that is often used within our marriage. As a stay at home mother, I often struggle with the thoughts of “I am not contributing financially or as much as Tom”. Its a role that has its advantges and disadvantages.  But Tom is always so wonderful in his honesty to explain that my role as a stay at home mother is one we both wanted  and agreed upon for our children… A 24/7 availibility to our children. It was something I was blessed with and wanted for my children, something my husband didn't have and wanted and needed.  We wanted to be certain that our own morals and values were a constant in the lives of our children. To know what our children are doing, , where they are all at all times, who their friends are… “This is more valuable to our family than any monetary amount, Tom will remind me, " Your role at home is invaluable to this family and makes it run! It’s worth more than a dollar amount.” It takes a strong man to recognize that, and more importantly to remind his wife of her value. It is through this that I believe our children recognize the importance of the roles of relationships. I’m not saying that a stay at home mom is better than a working mom. It’s a luxury that Tom’s hard work has afforded us. It’s not ever been a question of “I do this more”, etc…its always a matter of what WE do together.

“The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love and respect their mother” (source unknown).

One of the greatest things you can instill in a child is a sense of what is right and what is not. Tom has taught our children a sense of duty, responsibility and good morals. Like it or not, one day they will be walking their own path and we will no longer be there to catch them or protect them. Tom is a protector of our children, but don’t smother them.

Tom knows how to laugh. He is childlike (mostly at appropriate times). Like the Jimmy Buffett song that preaches of “Growing older but not Up”. Life is fun! Tom looks for the humor and shares moments of the joy of life with our children. Life is too short and children will have grown up and left you before you know it , so it’s wonderful that he can remember to have fun together along the way. He NEVER takes himself or things to seriously.


Tom is good about acknowledging and celebrating our children’s accomplishments, but does not make their achievements the basis of his love and attention.
With Tom, there is always a poetic balance of that. I am forever grateful to God for allowing Tom Bratina into my life and for being a Father and more importantly, a DAD to our children.

He truly LOVES his children and his family. With him there is no favoritism. He appreciates all of our individual uniqueness.

He is man enough to not only “allow” but encourage me to be me. He encourages me to spend time with my family and friends. He respects that I am not “just” a mother, but that God created Leigh as a person, not a role. He has always encouraged my free spirit . He realizes that this too is true for our children. At the end of the day everyone of our children needs love above more than anything else and as a father he has bestowed this gift on our children.
While I know all three of our children love their dad more than anything and each have a unique relationship with him, I am certain that it will not be until they themselves are parents will they realize the great importance he has been in their life and the man their father truly is. And it will be then, that they will be even more grateful and appreciative.

Happy Father’s Day to a man among men…Tom Bratina.

I love you "MTA"!

“Not every successful man is a good father. But every good father is a successful man” (R. Duvall)

“I talk and talk and talk, and I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week” (Mario Cuomo)


Grammy Goodwill said...

What a wonderful tribute you've written to your husband. I hope he reads it.

4thelove! said...

Got to love that man! ;) HM

Lilly said...

Truly a man, father and husband to be proud of.

the cape on the corner said...

what a great and sweet and thoughtful post! i completely agree qith the quote about how important it is for children to see how their father treats their mother.

Kat @ Justabeachkat said...

WOW! What a beautifully written post! You are a lucky wife and your children are blessed.



Leigh, that was one of the best posts I have ever read from anyone. It was honest and heartfelt. Tom Bratina is some kind of man and is very lucky to have you as his help-mate. Thank you for sharing this with your readers and I am glad I stopped in and read it. I am blessed for it.

Carolyn said...

Thanks for sharing. What great role models you both are for your children.