Being a father brings lots of lessons

biking, Holmes Co. OH trail
A family bike ride.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Years ago a small army of children caused a raucous in a restaurant. My only son leaned in, and half in jest asked, “Why do couples bother to have kids?”

I saw my chance and took it. “I’ve wondered that a few times myself,” I retorted. A wry smile was the only evidence that my adult son got my point.

My wife and I felt fortunate to raise two beautiful children, a girl, and a boy. Like any other kids, they caused us grief and moments of angst of course. But in the bigger and better picture, they were both great kids. I’ll relinquish bragging rights to simply say I have immensely enjoyed being their father.

As young adults in our late 20s, Neva and I were raw at parenting. We didn’t have the infinite resources parents do today. We did have a strong support team. Besides our parents, siblings and friends who were also raising children helped steer us in the right direction.

be nice to people
Like the sign says.
Our own parents served as our most positive role models. They taught us to be polite, respectful, truthful, and fair. We tried to do the same with Carrie and Nathan. Not that what we did or said was perfect or absolutist in approach. We just believed in letting our children explore the world, allowing them to make mistakes as long as their actions didn’t endanger themselves or others.

We loved and love our daughter and son. We wanted the best for them. But we were realistic, too. Living on teacher salaries, we weren’t rich. But we weren’t poor either. Our wealth came not in dollars and cents or stocks and bonds but in enjoying as many life experiences together as we could. Often that meant relating to other human beings and to nature. We traveled, worked, worshiped, and played together.

We tried to teach our son and daughter the essential elements required for a successful life. We emphasized the formula of our parents. Develop a strong work ethic, be actively engaged in the community, participate in a faith family, and embrace the family circle no matter how crazy. To that end, we stressed being kind, generous, considerate, curious, questioning, creative, helpful, compassionate, mindful, and honest.

That being said, I’m pretty sure my own children have taught me more than I actually taught them, however. As adults, both son and daughter now offer unsolicited advice for personal improvement. I weigh their opinions seriously. Do I have any other choice?

infant, grandfather, grandchild
Holding a grandchild for the first time was just as rewarding as cuddling your own child.
Fatherhood has taught me to be patient with others and myself. It has taught me to laugh at the silliest mistakes and move on. It has taught me to always part with an “I love you.”

Fatherhood has taught me to celebrate both the joys and disappointments that life brings. The good Lord knows there are plenty of both. The pleasures of parenthood go far beyond the first time holding your newborn baby. The sorrows speak for themselves.

I know I wasn’t the perfect father. Neither was my dad or any father for that matter. But mistakes and all, I just tried to do my very best to guide my children from birth into adulthood.

That is the purpose of being a parent. Raise your children to be interdependent adults who productively contribute to society. Isn’t that all a father should really expect as a measure of parental success?

muskie fishing
I never caught a fish this big. My son was one happy camper.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

In honor of two very friendly fathers

By Bruce Stambaugh

My late father and late father-in-law were clearly different men. But they had a lot in common, too.

Both my father and my father-in-law, Wayne, were genuinely friendly to everyone they met. They each set an example on how to interact and connect with others.

Stambaughs, Millers
Marian and Dick Stambaugh (L) and Wayne and Esther Miller. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Dad was lanky and gregarious. Though skinny as well, Wayne was of average height. Dad was a Type A talker. Wayne was more laid back, but could easily carry his own in any conversation.

That was especially true when it came to sports. Both men were like little kids if baseball, football or basketball were the topics of conversation. They had a love-hate relationship with all teams Cleveland.

They didn’t just talk athletics either. Dad played three sports in high school and perused his enthusiasm for games well into adulthood. Wayne bowled and played church league softball.

Both found those activities as a means to an end. They got to play, and they thrived on the conversational interplay before, during and after the games.

Of all their commonalities, friendliness was at the top of the list for both Dad and Wayne. In fact, they became good friends, in part because they knew many of the same people.

farm tractor
Where my late father-in-law felt most comfortable. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Wayne was a farmer, and Dad loved farms, but for different reasons. Farming was Wayne’s livelihood. Dad made friends with farmers near and far because he liked to hunt and fish. He also found their various stories fascinating.

Wayne and Dad got along famously. In fact, once Neva and I set our wedding date, both men started to invite folks to the ceremony that knew both families. Unfortunately, some of those people weren’t on our invitation list. Is it any wonder we had 400 guests?

I learned early on that Dad liked to meet new people. He’d take us kids along on his excursions exploring farms all over eastern Ohio.

Wayne Miller
Wayne Miller at our daughters wedding in 1998. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
After he retired and stumbled onto the hobby of Indian artifact collecting, Dad’s interests in farms had a new twist. Again, Dad’s high-spirited enthusiasm carried over to his children and grandchildren, who he coaxed into accompanying him on his relic gleaning excursions. It was his version of hands on lessons in history, geography, and conversation.

I knew Wayne liked me right away. On my first visit to the Miller farm, he took me straight to the barn to see the pigs. My wife said it normally took other guys two or three visits. I was honored, and our relationship blossomed from there. He treated his other son-in-law with equal love and respect.

Dad and Mom with our daughter, her son, and me. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
Dad would use the arrowhead hunting excuse to visit Wayne and Esther’s farm, along with neighboring fields. Their real friendship was just part of the formula that successfully melded our two families together.

Even in death, Wayne and Dad connected. Wayne died on Dec. 22, 2001. Dad died on Dec. 21 eight years later.

It is no wonder that even today people that knew Dad and Wayne describe them both with the same fondness. They use similar complimentary terms to reflect on each man. Both were sociable people, easy to like and admire, they say.

Of course, both Wayne and Dad were human. They each expressed themselves in less than articulate ways at times. But to those who knew them, or maybe only once met either of them, the conclusion was the same.

People remember the genuine congeniality of both Dad and Wayne. That’s a legacy we’d all like to leave.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

I am my father’s son

By Bruce Stambaugh

My son has been trying not so subtly to tell me this for a long time. I am my father’s son.

What he means of course is that I act just like my late father did. Out of principle, I deny it of course, or at least I did. I didn’t think I was like my father at all, especially not his bad points.

Stambaugh men by Bruce Stambaugh
My older brother, Craig, our late father, Richard "Dick", and myself at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I could clearly see that both my older and younger brothers each had many of Dad’s characteristics. The older is outgoing and antsy. The younger most physically resembles Dad, and is an avid sportsman.

But me be like Dad. No way. Dad wasn’t the best driver. I was once a certified driver education teacher. Dad was consistently late. I like being early. I wasn’t like my father at all, or so I thought.

As I have aged, I have humbly swallowed my pride. I realize that my son is right, although I probably don’t exactly see the resemblances that he sees.

I love some of the same things my late father did: nature, history, geography, travel, sports, antiques, community involvement, a sense of humor, and family. Dad poured his entire being into activities and organizations that revolved around those topics. That was especially true after he retired.

Dad helped found, foster and lead a private sportsmen’s club. He served on a regional planning board for 36 years. I wonder how much Dad’s involvement influenced my own participation in the organizations and institutions with which I affiliated over the years.

Dad’s love of travel took our family on many day trips to art and history museums, parks and other points of interest around the state. We got to know Ohio well.

That desire to explore and learn rubbed off onto me. My wife and I traveled with our two children, and like my own youthful experiences, many of our jaunts were day trips throughout the Buckeye State.

Dad wasn’t afraid to venture beyond Ohio’s boundaries either. He would travel with our mother when she attended out of state art classes. While Mom painted, Dad scoured field after field for Native America artifacts, one of his favorite pastimes.

In the evening, when it was time to share what each artist had accomplished, Dad was invited to show what he had found. Of course, he had to expound on the exact type of artifact, how it was used, and made. Dad knew a lot, much of it self-taught.

Storm clouds by Bruce Stambaugh
The backside of a severe thunderstorm.

My special hobby is the weather, especially extreme weather. I enjoy watching storms, and telling others about them. When people’s eyes start to glaze over, I realize it’s time to quit. That never bothered my father, however.

Dad taught me the value of preserving the old things, especially if the items happened to have been in the family. He and Mom gave my wife and I several well worn but personally valuable antique pieces that go back three family generations.

Dad’s handwriting was hardly legible. Mine is worse. Dad often mispronounced words. He always exchanged a “l’ for the “n” in chimney. When I catch myself garbling words, or more likely, when my son catches me doing that, my thoughts happily connect to Dad.

There it is. I gladly acknowledge that for better or for worse, I am my father’s son. I wonder if my son realizes he is, too.

Siblings by Bruce Stambaugh
The Stambaughs, Craig, Claudia Yarnell, Jim, Elaine Barkan, our mother Marian, and me.
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