Missing Dad’s Wisdom More than Ever

[This is a guest post from my friend Christian Toto. The sentiment is definitely one I share too.]

christian toto and his father
Christian and his wife Julie, with Frank in the middle.

Not a day goes by where I don’t do or say something exactly as my father might.

I make weird, grunting sounds when I pick something up just like Dad, and my hand gestures mirror his so completely it’s like I’m Frank Caliendo 2.0.

But am I as good a dad as my Father was to me?

My Dad passed away three years ago after a long, debilitating illness. Those final months were rough, but since his passing I’ve let them slide away in favor of the other, more positive memories. My brain teems with them, an endless supply of father-son moments that make his loss hurt a little bit less.

What stings on a daily basis, though, is not being able to ask Dad what he would do in my shoes.

My wife once asked me what it felt like to be a dad. Our second child was still pretty young at the time, and our oldest was barely three. I didn’t have an answer for her. Taking care of very young children isn’t being a father to me, at least not in the “Leave It to Beaver” sense. I wasn’t giving broad speeches about being kind to one another or answering tough questions about schoolyard taunts. I was changing diapers, cleaning up spills and making sure the boys didn’t melt down in public.

Dad was still alive then, but I had little need to ask him for parenting advice. Pretty sure 40-plus years ago he would have had some great diaper rash remedies, but I assumed they faded from memory.

Now, I’m a father, no questions asked. My sons look to me for everything, and what they don’t ask me about I cover by my behavior. What would Dad recommend when they fight, and fight, over, well, everything? How should I handle it when they refuse to eat their veggies? Would Dad raise his voice, like I sadly do, when the boys bicker nonstop on a road trip?

Dad didn’t go to college, nor was he the type to read a Dr. Spock book cover to cover. He just knew things, instinctually, a gift that helped him in life, at work and certainly as a parent.

I wish I could tap into that wisdom now or at least let him know what I was going through. Did he feel the same way about fatherhood? Was his parenting journey – he also raised two boys – similar to mine?

Today I’ve got a solid group of savvy dad friends on Facebook who offer their advice at the click of a mouse. And a quick web search reveals reams of information from every family expert one could imagine.

I’d trade all of that, no questions asked, for a phone call with Dad when the parenting hits the fan.​

Christian Toto is a nationally recognized film critic, founder of HollywoodInToto.com and daddy blogger at Daddylibrium.com

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