Healthy Father’s Day! by Maria Dorfner

Dad finds a Bocce court in Napa Valley and proceeds to give the boys from Pittsburgh a few tips.
Dad finds a Bocce court in Napa Valley and proceeds to give the boys from Pittsburgh a few tips.

 

Prior to Father’s Day, I like to reflect back to what my Dad was doing at my age. I am so grateful he was and still is involved in my life. Involved Dads make for smarter, happier kids.  I was definitely a happy kid.  I don’t know about smart.  I was a straight B+ student at Saint Ephrem’s. I only ever got an A in English, but I  wanted straight A’s like Grace, the smartest girl in class.  College had me getting a 4.0 only in English, Psych and Marketing.  Reminds me of the hilarious song in the Off-Broadway play Avenue Q called, “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?”

Meantime, while I was busy trying but failing to get straight A’s, my Dad worked a bazillion hours, yet still managed to find time to spend with us.  Dad could have been the Tim Ferriss of Fathers and written “The 4-Hour Dad Week” because he was creative in terms of maximizing the minimum amount of time he had to spend with us.  He found time, even if it was a tad early.

I can still hear him yelling, “If you girls are ready at 3 a.m. I will drive you to college!!!  If you’re not ready, the car leaves without you!!!”  You girls were myself and my best friend, Rosemarie. We lived in Brooklyn and were starting Pace University in NYC, where our Dads worked in construction.  We still laugh at how we aced early bird Marketing because we had hours to kill studying.

Our Dads drove us each morning for four years, and even opened and closed the doors for us.  Chivalry was alive and well. Being earlybirds had benefits. We got to read the newspapers first and knew what was going on in the world before the rest of the world. Plus, no trains.

I’d been riding the subway since I was a kid.  I actually loved it, especially when the Big Apple came into view.  That faded when I had to learn to read people’s faces quickly or end up robbed or who knows what.  I grew up feeling safe until the infamous Son of Sam (David Berkowitz) terrorized our neighborhood by going on a brunette killing spree. The New York Post released a sketch of the suspect and it looked like everybody I knew.  Everybody.

So Dad, where were YOU last night at 0600 hours? Huh?

So, riding the subway suddenly meant sizing someone up quickly.  Roger Ailes who wrote my favorite book on Communication called, “You Are the Message” says you make your first impression within the first 5 seconds of meeting someone. Five seconds. 1…2…3…4…BAM. I got your number.  Our Dads already had this skill, and shared lots of stories while driving over the Brooklyn Bridge.

No need to talk first. In fact, Roger and my former agent who sadly passed away, Alfred Geller turn off the volume when they watch someone on-camera. Geller did that with my tape and exclaimed I belong in the #1 market before turning up the volume on the TV monitor in his seminar.  You see someone before you hear them. It’s not about what someone looks like –it’s about their energy. Ralph Waldo Emerson said who you are speaks louder than anything you say. Same on NYC subway. Back then, it assaulted all sense of sight, smell, touch and hearing. Taste too because if you ate anything, you’d feel nauseous.

So, Rosemarie and I were OVERJOYED to plan our entire college schedules around getting a luxury, stress-free, safe ride to school.

More importantly, it was quality time with the Dads. We never knew what they would ask us, and they took an interest in our classes. They’re both funny too.  After my Dad’s construction job he returned home, removed his dirty boots outside, showered and ran out to run a restaurant.  By this time, I’d be taking a train at City Hall to head over to my job as a sales associate at Sak’s Fifth Avenue or Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue.

When my entrepreneurial Dad wasn’t working two jobs, he did not go to the gym for fitness. He didn’t run. He did not play golf. My Dad loved a TV show called, “Bowling for Dollars.” It must have inspired him to take up the sport. He excelled at it. Strikes every time.

Recently, I notice three fingers on his right hand are dented as if he is still holding a bowling ball. It’s hilarious. I ask him about it and he says it’s from all those years bowling. I’ve never seen anything like that.  He had an amazing dance and spin he did like Fred Flinstone’s twinkle toes, only on steroids.  The ball spinned soooooo incredibly fast. I loved watching that.

STRIKE!!!

He also played Bocce. Funny, it just hit me that’s bowling too. It’s bowling without pins. Dad’s favorite Bocce court was at Dyker Heights Golf Course. Lots of running from one side of the bocce court to the other, so that was his outdoor gym. After school, my cousin Josephine and I rode our bikes there to see our Dads play. If they were winning they gave us a dollar or two.

We loved Biking for Dollars. The apples do not fall far from the tree.

Our Dads always greeted us warmly. “Aaaay look who it is!!!” It was like the opening theme song to the TV Show “Cheers.” “…sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came…”

Subsequently, a study of Chinese parents finds warmth matters. It’s a father’s warmth toward his child that is the ultimate factor in predicting the child’s future academic success. Imagine that.

In fact, involving fathers from the start in children’s lives has a significant positive impact on their development, including the greater economic security of having more than one parent. They call it the “father effect.” Involved fathers are present, even when they can’t physically be there. Mothers play a role in letting kids know what their Dads are doing and when they can spend time together.

Moms can also be The Mole at times. If my Dad asked a question, I knew that he knew that I knew The Mole already told him the answer. The words, “Wait until your father gets home” were serious business. But discipline meant he was involved. And as mentioned previously, studies say “involved dads” make for smarter, happier kids.

Sunday dinners with Dad after church was when we each were excited (or scared!) to fill him in on what we were doing. It was also when he did his Rain Man thing of asking, “Quick! How much is 345 + 7890 – 4498 + 8768 – 2?”

I didn’t know he was preparing me to be a researcher on The McLaughlin Show. The host of the politically-oriented talk show, John McLaughlin would yell out, “Gut this encyclopedia and do it in two seconds!” By the time I was director of research for Roger Ailes, I was like a human Google search engine.

Turns out, I have Dad to thank for that because him being present during those dinners was healthy for my brain. Numerous studies find children growing up in a household with a father present show superior outcomes in intelligence tests. Although, I wonder if he cancelled that out with the beatings when we got home late. Ha!

Back to the IQ advantage. It’s attributed to the way fathers interact with their children. Outdoor activities and playing with kids outweigh language-based ones. So Dad showing me how to play bocce and then yelling at me to get off the court expanded my brain more than the Italian Savant quizzing me during Sunday dinners. Interesting.

According to HappyChild.com.au a recent Canadian study from Concordia University finds girls whose fathers lived with them when they were age 6 to 10 demonstrate less anxiety when they are age 9 to 13. Being present is vital to having a positive impact and raising healthy kids.

Thank you to my Dad and to all the Dads out there who are and were present.  You’re loved and appreciated more than you know.

Healthy Father’s Day! I love you, Dad.

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