17 Ways I Know I’ve Done Okay as a Dad

stormtrooper disc golf catcher

You might have come to conclusion I’m kind of proud of my girls.

It’s not all about athletic accomplishments, although that’s part of it. Their character emerges all the time, in moments especially when no one else can see. I’m most proud in those moments.

Those moments are by no means proof of parenting perfected, of course.

The book List Your Self For Parents (Andrews McMeel Publishing, by Ilene Segalove, Paul Bob Velick and Garreth Esersky) includes 90+ prompts for lists parents compile for a series of snapshots of life with kids. I’ve held a copy for years.

I started last night, and will write about each list as I make them – and also invite you to offer an item or three from your list in comments (or feel free to grab the idea for a post of your own.)

I chose (at random, of course) a list from the section How Am I Doing?

The question: List what your child does or says that makes you know you’ve done a good job parenting.

My job parenting is far from over, but there are a few results in.

The most okayest parenting

1. They stand up for themselves, each other and others.

A boy in a bounce house years ago targeted Camdyn with some rough play and intimidation. I didn’t have to say a word. She had two big sisters who loomed large with bounces in his direction until he reconsidered his actions. You go, girls.

2. They show compassion.

It’s easy to feel compassion for a puppy or a cute baby. But what about seeing a sister among brothers who feels out of place, and wants to play differently? I’ve seen my girls take this child by the hand and share the gift of attention and validation.

How many times do we avoid helping those we should feel compassionate about, because it’s an inconvenience?

Or worse, join in the forces that harm those, out of peer pressure, or the thought that it would distance us further from also becoming a victim? For these girls, compassion is never a question. Mostly they’ll help someone help themselves.

11 11 four

3. They show restraint.

Maybe not so much with Goldfish crackers and snickerdoodles.

But they police themselves pretty well. Maybe not with Dance Moms binging or staying up late. They don’t often lash out, though, and have never let an opponent’s heated play knock them off their game. Like, ever.

4. They share.

I didn’t know this until recently, but when one child was a baby, her big sister would give her the cheese corners from her McDonald’s cheeseburger. How sweet is that? Today, it’s not uncommon to see one sister wearing another’s shirt, sneakers or headbands.

5. They aren’t afraid to argue.

Strong-willed girls use their words as jabs, too. It’s not always for evil. They challenge me, on treatment of others, politics, my means of doing things. I know in my heart they’d argue my points even if they agreed with them. It’s mental sparring, and I love it.

6. They show loyalty.

I had a chance to coach for the big, hated soccer club in town. Rather than show the I’d rather plummet into the depths of Cloud City as Luke Skywalker did when Darth Vader made a similar offer, I mulled it. I’ll never play for them, Hayden said. It was settled.

We stayed loyal to our club.


7. They have inner strength – and outer.

Outer strength without inner serves only as a shell that will crack and reveal more weakness. Madison, as a preschooler, showed inner strength the day she wouldn’t quit trying to conquer an inflatable obstacle course, no matter how many times she failed.

It was just a kid and an over-sized balloon, essentially – but it inspired me.

8. They believe in themselves.

One kid talked about the Olympics like she’d be on the USWNT for it. No dreamy aspect to it. Matter of fact. They enter every audition, every tryout, every grappling battle with a sibling or sled race in the snow with the same thought: I will come out on top.

9. They can tease and be teased.

The sparks that fly around here. I once mused to the girls during a particularly dad-infused, not-a-lot-of-rules to follow day, mean and funny go hand in hand. I’m thankful they turn the nozzle down when dealing with those not of their own sisterhood.

friends 1
The outlets, with Hayden and Camdyn.

10. They’re patient.

Maybe not with dad coming home with pizza on a Friday night, but in other things. A team’s development. A sister in the shower. (Mostly.) Saving up for a prized pair of cleats. They’re resolute, and not whiney. Unless they’re hungry. That’s why we snack.

11. They don’t crave attention or drama.

They often find themselves in the limelight, but don’t seem to value it too much.

It’s in the moment, never contrived. I’ve watched them drift from friends who’d begun to develop dramatic tendencies. And toward friends who like to keep things tranquil without much social bling.

12. They have a great capacity to forgive.

They will tease about it. But they’ll forgive, and move on. For a blind-side body slam, intentional destruction of a toy, unintentional loss of a jacket someone borrowed. The only grudges are in a general sense. Geared usually toward rival schools and clubs.

sisters 2

13. They will compete furiously but let it go afterward.

Tooth and nail doesn’t begin to describe it. You’re going to get the full fury of my girls’ competitive hearts, (mostly) contained in the confines of the rules and fair play. They push each other to greater heights.

One girl once was sent off in a battle with a rival girl during school soccer training. Whoever brings this ball back wins, her school coach declared, and punted a ball into the void. The girls tore off after it, and engaged mano a mano for several minutes.

My girl came back with the ball, hair tussled, scratches here and there and a flushed face. No animosity, though. Later, she would get in trouble at school for helping this other girl, for whom no love was lost, by giving her answers during a test.

14. They have an energetic desire to improve.

During Camdyn’s final game with her former club, a mom asked me, How did she get so good? Private trainer? That wasn’t it at all. When Camdyn’s tired or frustrated, she’ll put on her cleats and work in the backyard. Not just shooting, but everything.

She’ll push herself through footwork and running, then finish with punishing blows to a wooden-slat shooting wall we put up in the backyard. Her sisters do similar things, taking it upon themselves to sharpen footwork or learn to shoot with their left foot.

15. They want to be part of something bigger.

They’ve never really fussed over uniform numbers, never asked for those names with stickers on the back of some soccer family cars. They work hard on the teams they have, even when those teams struggle. Especially when those teams struggle.

feed me

16. They value nostalgia, but don’t hoard it.

They’ve never been so bound to a beloved toy we couldn’t leave home without it. No binkies, daboos or doodads. No need to hold onto ticket stubs. Instead, they will bring up stories of things we did and places we went. The heart has plenty of storage.

17. They know their self-worth, but don’t think they’re the center of the universe.

This is so important, and a tough balance at times. They’re our everything. But they have to wait their turn. They understand they’re part of a whole – a beloved, cherished, and beautiful part. And the way they react with the world around them means everything.

swindoll quote parenting

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      1. You’re the best. But don’t forgive me for not having been to your page lately. That’s unforgiveable. But it’ll happen.

      1. I can’t believe I hadn’t responded to these wonderful comments! So great to see you. I’ve been keeping up with you on Instagram.

  1. You’ve done purrrfectly well as a dad, Eli! Your three girls are beautiful and they have grown up with the best qualities any parent could wish for their children.

  2. this is a beautiful list, eli. i’m quite sure there is even more and look forward to reading it. i’ve always felt that my girls (and now my grandies), are my wonderful legacy that i will one day leave behind but that the world will continue to enjoy.

  3. Definitely most okayest and this is proof. These are just little reminders that you’re getting right. Even during the times you doubt yourself. Awesome compliation.

    1. I’ll take it, Eric. Reminders that they’re good on their own, too. We can’t always get it right, but they know that, too. Thanks for being here!

  4. I’d say you’ve done much better than okay, buddy 🙂

    You have raised some very beautiful, strong, resilient, fierce, loyal, smart, compassionate girls. And for that, you should be extremely proud. And every part of you should realize this is not by mistake–but by design. We mimic our parents’ actions so whatever you did has made an impact 🙂

    Also I died with the cheeseburger cheese corners. HOW SWEET is that?!

    1. Thanks, Charlotte. They do embody those traits, and I’m humbled and awed by that. I’m relieved to send out good humans into the world. My best doesn’t often feel good enough, but it is, isn’t it? They definitely watch more than they listen.

      That cheese thing – right??

  5. Aw, this is so wonderful! I always wish I had a sister or sisters to share this kind of bond with. I have one older brother. I love that she gave her cheese corners and that the sisters got defensive in the bounce house. Yup, I’d say you’re doing a great job as a dad!

    1. Thanks, Steph! You’d have made an excellent middle sister, I think. I love that they have each other’s back, and trust each other! Your blog’s on my reading list. Looking foward to it!

    1. Thanks, C. I feel happy about my fatherness. I do know how you feel about that, and it makes me even happier for it. *fist bump* *jivy handshake*

  6. I think you are a great dad just in how many things you could find to put in this post. You have some amazing young ladies. And they’ve got a great dad.

  7. If the definition of “okay” actually means “amazing,” then I am okay with this list, Eli.

    Your girls embody the type of girl that I want my daughter to become, and given that I see so much of you (at least the you that I’ve come to know and adore) in them, it makes me realize just how much I am integral in shaping who Zoey becomes.

    The world would be a much better place if all the dads were like you.

    Oh, and I think you forgot one:

    18. They are reflections of you. <— And that's a very, very okay (a.k.a. amazing) thing.

    1. It’s been a group effort, Core, and they bring a lot to the table, too. Zoey is already incredible and I feel honored to be able to see her grow up through you. And a lot of your amazingness in her. Your words humble me! Just know that’s how I feel about that mothering you’re doing over there. Amazing.

  8. Damn. These girls sound amazing!!!!! You have obviously done an A+ job with them. They sound humble, gritty, and kind – exactly the attributes to help one get ahead in life with grace and compassion. What a great list!

    1. haha. Thanks! As I said, they have something to do with it, too. I love how you described them – humble, gritty and kind. They lead with the grit, but the humble and kind aren’t far behind.

  9. Not only are you raising your girls to be amazing human beings, you are sending them out into the great big world where they will spread kindness and compassion and act as shining examples of the importance of believing in yourself. Well done!

  10. Love this so much! Beautiful things to see in your girls.

    I love those rare moments with my son when he’ll say something so wise, it will catch me off guard. Just after my father died, one day, my son (10 yrs old back then) said, “Ya know Mom, life is change. We’re born, we live, we die. It’s all a cycle.” Sure, I might have told it to him at some point, but who knew he actually heard me, and remembered?

    1. Thank you! I do see wonderful things in these kids every day.

      Our kids’ minds and souls are growing, so when they stumble upon profundity, it should surprise no one!

      Quite insightful and contemplative, your son’s comment about life. They see us living the life we tell them about, and what could be more real than that?

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