Editor’s Note: Doug Ernst took the opportunity to contribute to the Wall of Fathers, using video interviews of his daughters. For you fathers who wish to contribute, click HERE.
Doug Ernst Staff Writer
Only when they started raising kids of their own did I give any thought to what kind of example I might have set as a parent.
“Did they learn that from me?” I often asked myself or my wife while watching my kids raise their kids.
Recently, thanks to the MDI Wall of Fathers project, I finally worked up the nerve to ask three of my four adult daughters if they might let me interview them about their dad.
Thankfully, they agreed, and the result was a revelation for me. I was impressed by how straightforward they were, how happy they seemed to be and how great we all felt after the interviews. If nothing else, we all have a lasting cyber-memento of our time on earth together. But more than that, we confirmed with each other that our relationships have stood the test of time.
I used my iPhone for the four-minute videos, which were conducted separately in my home office. (Note to fathers: shoot horizontally, not vertically).
I asked each of them the same six questions, which I did not show them ahead of time.
When I asked, “How would you introduce your dad?” Katherine said she can’t go out with me in public without being introduced to people I know in the community. The phrase she used is, “I’m always meeting a new friend.” She called me fun-loving and well-liked.
When I asked, “Imitate something your father would say,” Rebecca said I tend to sing and hum a lot. One of my ditties, sung to the tune of “O, Canada,” is a tribute to the kids’ mother, Carolyn: “O, Carolyn, our home and native land….”
When I asked, “What valuable lesson did your father teach you?” Rachelle said, “As a parent, always being there for your kids.”
When I asked them to finish the sentence, “I remember a time when my father and I….” Rebecca and Rachelle came up with the same memory — driving to a fish farm on a day when it was closed, getting ice cream instead and coming home with store-bought fish to cook.
I asked them to finish the sentence, “I wish my father had…..” Katie said “hugged me more,” Rebecca said, “taught me how to work on cars,” and Rachelle said, “the ability to live forever,” which made me choke up.
Finally I asked, “What would you want to say to your dad?”
“You’re everything to me,” said Rebecca. “I love you. I’m really happy that you’re my dad.”
“I’m a daddy’s girl,” said Katherine, fighting back tears. “A big part of who I am is because of him.”
“Thank you,” said Rachelle. “I don’t think you can say much more than that.”
Fathers who take the time to ask their kids to share memories and give some feedback could help their kids talk about their upbringing. That might help them think about setting examples for their own kids.
For me, the videos brought out the positive impacts I had on my kids and cleared up some of lingering doubts about my shortcomings, mistakes or miscalculations as a dad.
Interviewing my kids was well worth the risk.
I hope other fathers take it.