Life Lessons, Parenting

Dad’s Advice

My daddy, mildly amused by my attempted Santa costume, 1970-something.

When my husband and I married, there was an understanding: No Children. “Childless by choice,” I’d tell people, preferring that to DINKs: Double Income No Kids. My reasoning—like most things in life—was complicated.

At 14, my mother lost a fast battle with cancer. In my grief and confusion, I secretly vowed to never have kids. No way—my teenaged mind thought—would I risk the same thing happening to my own children.

And despite missing her, our lives needed to move on. I was the youngest at home. My bereaved father—whom I’d never seen do housework—was suddenly in charge. We muddled through laundry, cooking, and housekeeping tasks. I learned, for example, why wool sweaters don’t go in washers and dryers and how a little bleach goes a long way. He learned how to cook a great pot roast and that the outdoor grill still works during Minnesota’s long winter.

We did the best we could. Some of our navigating was awkward, like when he procured ridiculously large amounts of feminine products because he saw them on sale. Or when I swallowed teenaged embarrassment and attended concerts such as Maynard Ferguson and Steve Lawrence & Edie Gourmet because I didn’t want him to go alone.

It was a learning curve. Sometimes that ride elicited tears and sometimes laughter. Yet together we came to realize running a home was more than keeping a calendar and a grocery list; it was keeping track of each other.

Many years later, after college and marriage, my husband and I began looking to buy a home. At each listing we visited I heard a distant whisper. It tickled the hidden corners of my heart.

“Would this house be good for kids?”

I felt shaken. Why was this surfacing? I wrestled with it until I realized buried under the fear, I truly longed for a family. My elated husband was confident all would be well, but I couldn’t shake the worry. My stomach in knots, I called my dad. We met for a walk—something we do when we need to talk—and I shared my fears of having children and dying young. His response hit the mark.

“I can’t predict what is going to happen to you,” he said. “But I can promise you, you’ll never regret having children.”

His words blew through me. After all the grief he had experienced, the difficult years of parenting alone, the unpredictable hand life dealt him, he still had no regrets? He’d do it again?

That stirred me. For the first time, I started to glimpse the powerful love of a parent.

Three years later, on a bright September morning, I transitioned from motherless to motherhood. God gifted my husband and me with a daughter. And nearly three years after that, another beautiful daughter joined our family. The positions changed—now I was the mother—but the reestablished bonds filled places I’d never known were empty.

My father was right. I can’t know what tomorrow will bring. None of us know. But each day I look at my children and am grateful he encouraged me to risk listening to my heart rather than my fear.

Indeed, it has been my greatest lesson.



5 thoughts on “Dad’s Advice”

  1. Maureen says:

    I’m not a father but your blog was a gift to me today on Father’s Day! Thanks for warming up my heart and getting my day going with this beautiful piece . It sounds like you and your father are so lucky to have each other .

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Thank you, Maureen! Happy it started your day right!

  2. Therese says:

    Great advice. I’m amazed at how many of our decisions are based on fears, anxiety and pain of yesterday’s. I think of the joy we miss listening to only our own experiences and stories. I love your writing because it helps others (and me, me, me) to examine what is real in this moment to make authentic choices rather than fiction.

    1. Katie O'Connell says:

      Thank you, Therese. And I agree; I know I’ve missed a lot of in-the-moment joy because I was busy listening to innacurate beliefs and old, old stories. Glad my writing helps you see that!

  3. Kelly Wunderlich says:

    Katie wonderfully written! Thank you for sharing your heart!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *