by Katie Porter

“Daddy, leave me alone!” These are the words that my Father often quotes from a little four-year-old me. He remembers me, watching TV with Popsicle smeared across my face, not wanting to be bothered. He was constantly around when he wasn’t at work, giving me advice and talking to me, and I guess I had momentarily gotten tired of it. This was a strong, opinionated man who seemed to constantly be in my business. Given that I was my father’s daughter, I liked to do things on my own, and didn’t enjoy being told what to do. I even dressed myself from when I could first walk.

Later in school, I would often get in trouble for being insubordinate and talking too much. One day in fifth grade, one of the members of my ‘table group’ blamed me for us not having enough points to be rewarded with brownies at the end of the week. But it was not just my fault. I made sure that she knew that she was wrong, by telling her to leave our group if she wanted brownies so badly (I had to sit outside for a timeout after that).

He pushed me out of my comfort zone

While growing up, I had plenty more of those, “Daddy, leave me alone!” moments. In middle school and throughout high school I got very involved in sports, namely basketball. I had some natural talent at it, and my father saw that in me. I told him that I wanted to get a scholarship and play college basketball, and so he helped me with all of his power to achieve that goal. But he knew how badly I wanted to be the best, and so he often pushed me to do things that were way outside of my comfort zone.

The best basketball team in my area was comprised of all older boys, and so, naturally, my dad encouraged me to join the team. I tirelessly fought him on this, and cried before many practices. I hated him for making me do it. In another instance, I was sick before a tough exam in high school, and thought that I should just not take it. But my dad convinced me that I would feel better if I didn’t put it off. I was also annoyed whenever he asked me to help change the oil on our cars, or change a tire. Although I always loved my Father, I think he was the person that I disliked the most at times.

Both my Father and Mother encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, but my Mother was often just as uncomfortable with some of his propositions as I was. I can vividly remember her disagreeing with him about taking the exam while sick and wanting to coddle me and feed me chicken noodle soup all day instead. Her love was conveyed through making sure that I was as comfortable and happy as possible. My father’s love was also shown that way, as he is an incredibly sweet man, but it was also shown through a sometimes uncompromising attitude toward any fear that I might have towards risks.

Sometimes I cringed when I thought about the unfavorable situations that I seemed to always end up in because of my father. But I often forgot how I felt afterwards. After playing on the all-boys team for about a year, I made the high school varsity team as a freshman. As it turns out, being on a team with older boys really improved my skills.

In college, I got sick a lot my freshman year. But because I pushed through that exam while sick in high school, my grades didn’t suffer as a result.

While my roommate got stuck in the rain with a flat and had to receive help from strangers to change her tire for her, I rested easy knowing that I could do that myself.

I used to look back with frustration to my elementary school days spent as a class-act brat, but those character traits that once got me in trouble have now turned in to some of my most valuable assets. What my teachers once called being insubordinate soon turned in to the ability to debate and come up with novel ideas. Talking a lot used to get me in trouble with my teachers, but communication and people skills have led me to be a successful student government member at school.

He lifted me up and taught me to reach

While I never heard my Father explicitly state that he was conservative, the values he taught me were undoubtedly conservative values. One of the values he taught me was personal responsibility. As a self-made, successful psychologist, he knew the power within each individual to be able to attain everything they want in life. Blaming external circumstances never improved anybody’s life. If I wanted to improve a situation I was in, and I couldn’t change the other people in it, then I would have to change my own actions to make it better. My dream life was entirely up to me to grasp; all I had to do to be happy was to work hard.

Through the way he treated me, I was also educated on how to treat other people. He treated me, and all others, with a high baseline standard of respect. This respect did not change based on a person’s self-claimed ‘identity’. Everyone was treated with the utmost kindness, unless they gave him a reason to change his attitude towards them. I was given a real freedom to pursue what I wanted to, and he celebrated the fact that I’m a girl, and enjoyed what came with having a daughter, but didn’t Pidgeon-hole me in to any specific career path.

Some of the things that used to bother me about myself, and about my relationship with my Father, are now some of the aspects about my life that I am the most proud of. Strong fathers, who are close with their daughters, can teach them more than they know. The daughters they raise have a deep sense of inner strength, and conservative values that will lead them to the life that they wanted and created themselves. When I find a husband, as wonderful as he will be, I don’t think he’ll ever be able to fill the shoes of my Father.

My Mother and Father have a way of working together that has given me the best of them. My Mother took care of the cooking and cleaning, which she never felt was a burden or sacrifice. She worked a full-time job and did the housework at the same time, and showed me how you can be a dignified woman in the world and have it all. I learned how to be selfless and motherly, the way I want to be with my own family and children in the future. My Father and I often had intellectual conversations about politics and people. He taught me how to think critically and to keep trying until I’ve succeeded. Individually they had aspects that only a father and mother can bring to the table. The family is truly the most sacred unit in all of society.

To those strong fathers and daughters today on Father’s Day who find themselves at odd-ends, also try to keep in mind how the other feels. As a daughter with a strong father you may feel so frustrated that you could cry at times, but I’m certain that strong fathers who are close with their daughters do too. Consider being in college without him, where you alone have to push yourself to take risks. You’re going to wish that you had him there with you, not only to push you, but to pick you up.

So Daddy, don’t ever leave me alone.

Katie Porter is a 2017 Summer Fellow.