It’s been nearly 27 years since I had my first tea party with my dad, but I remember it well. He would spread out the old blue picnic blanket on the living room floor, while I gathered my dolls Stacey, Melissa, Kissy-Baby, and Mona Lisa from my room. We would mix up chocolate milkshakes with my miniature plastic shake maker and settle in for a Saturday with Dad and “his girls.”
But now that I’m 33, I can look back and see that I’ve carried much more away from those tea parties than just the tea (or the milkshake). Those parties gave me an avenue to share with my dad the part of my life that was so important to me at the age of 6…7…9…11…It was the conversation that I was able to engage in with my dad–the meaningful giving and receiving of ideas, dreams, challenges, and counsel–that I believe has enabled me to be the expressive person I am today. Whether it was the new alphabet letter I learned in kindergarten that day, a new math concept, or that I could finally play the “G” chord on the piano, he took the time to listen.
And, he still does.
My father read to my brother and me from birth until I was in sixth grade. I absolutely loved those evening together. I would curl up in my bed, my brother would sit beside me, and my dad would sit in the floor. I remember my favorite books being The Borrowers and A Wrinkle in Time. My brother and I would live the characters as my dad read the lines from the pages of The Borrowers. I would become the thumb-high Arietty. As dad leaned against my bedroom wall turning the pages, I would be washing my hair in a thimble and drying it with a cotton ball, or running beneath the floorboards, playing tag with my brother. Even though the years have passed and my brother and I are grown, the empowerment that my father and mother have given us through words is still evident. My brother is a nurse and is obsessed with reading research and health related reading materials which enhance his job related skills, and I am a teacher and writer–reading and studying everything I can get my fingers on.
Whenever I had something to share, my father (as well as my mother) would always put an interested look on his face, look me in the eye, and say, “Tell me about it.” I can’t begin to express how that affected my growing up. Those four words gave me power. I had my father’s attention. What I was saying was important to him. My dad showed me that conversing as well as being a good listener, helps to form the basis for successful relationships.
I am truly thankful for the gift of communication that my father has given me. I am able to unwrap my gift and use it each and every day in every aspect of my life. The gift has helped me verbalize my moral and religious beliefs, cope with the stresses of my career, communicate concerns to parents, train my own child, and express my view and dreams for the future. I am truly thankful for the person I have become. But…sometimes it would be nice to sit cross-legged on that old blue blanket with Dad and “the girls” and just sip tea.